Freddie Prinze Jr. Talks Starring Role in Netflix Holiday Film, How His Daughter Inspired Thirst for Acting

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter

Don’t call it a comeback, because Freddie Prinze Jr. has been here for years. However, there’s something new on his resume that hasn’t been there since the aughts.

Last month, Netflix confirmed that Prinze Jr. would star opposite Aimee Garcia for director Gabriela Tagliavini in an as-yet-untitled project, marking his return to a top billed acting role, and in a holiday romantic comedy at that. When news broke, fans went wild because it had been years since Prinze Jr. signed on for such a starry role after building an impressive resume early in his career with I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, Head Over Heels, Summer Catch and others.

Aside from voiceover work in the Star Wars franchise and a supporting role opposite Soleil Moon Frye in the Punky Brewster reboot, Prinze Jr. has kept a relatively low-profile over the past decade, focusing on family with two children, Charlotte and Rocky, with wife Sarah Michelle Gellar , while also flexing his creativity as a writer and a chef with a cookbook Back to the Kitchen . In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter to support a partnership with Heluva Good! Dips, the 45-year-old opens up about why he took the part, his new wrestling podcast and whether or not he’ll team with Gellar again on the big screen.

Why did you say yes to partnering with Heluva Good! Dips?

I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and the French onion dip got all of us through high school and college. I didn’t go to college but all my friends did and all their refrigerators had one flavor — French onion. We dipped everything in it and the one rule was, if you dip your chips, those chips couldn’t be flavored. It had to be a regular salted potato chip. [Our friend] Kyle Campbell — I’m throwing him under the bus right there — he tried to put a sour cream and onion chip into French onion dip and he was not allowed to have any French onion dip ever again. [Laughs]

When Heluva Good! Dips came to me, I made the connection that it was the same brand that did the French onion dips and my manager confirmed. I said, “Oh, hell yeah. That’s what got me through La Cueva High School in 1994.” It was an easy yes. You can go to any dairy aisle in the grocery store and get it. It makes life a lot easier rather than spending 45-minutes making your own dip. They also have buttermilk ranch dip which is appropriate for pizza crust. In L.A. and New Mexico, all the girls were dipping their crusts into French onion for whatever reason and that always seemed like a cardinal sin to me but apparently, I was in the minority there.

I’m assuming then that French onion is your favorite Heluva Good! Dips flavor?

That’s the OG, right? The ’90s were weird. That period introduced a lot of cool things that are still strong today. We, obviously, didn’t create French onion but we certainly built the foundation of love that it’s celebrated upon today. I do want to remind people that if you want your own dip, you don’t have to buy it because you can enter to win from Dec. 1-10. There’s French onion and a lot more flavors.

Perfect for holiday parties which is the season we’re in right now. Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?

Yeah, we used to be the straggler house, hosting anybody who couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sarah and I would always throw these big holiday dinners and sometimes we would be 20-25 people deep sometimes. Because of the pandemic, we’ve not been able to do that. We didn’t have any stragglers on Thanksgiving and it’s looking like the same for Christmas. That was our main tradition and it’s been taken from us. I guess maybe it’ll be time to start a couple of new ones, but yeah, I’m hoping that comes back soon. I like having friends in the house. When you’re a parent, your life is different because it’s all about your kids and you need your friends to remind you that you exist every once in a while.

And have some adult conversations…

Although I’m good at juvenile conversations.

A lot of people have been talking about you lately. So many fans are excited to see you back in the romantic comedy genre after signing on to star in a new holiday film for Netflix. It feels like a significant return after some time away from toplining a film in the genre. Why did you say yes?

After taking a long break, I wanted to be creative again and when the pandemic started, it began with writing. Writing eventually turned into wanting to act again which got my daughter very excited. All of a sudden, I wanted to show her what her dad could do. When this project came my way, it was exciting because I don’t often get to play Latinos unless I write them and usually if I played a Latino, they changed the last name after they hired me because they are like, “Oh, Freddy’s like the safe Latino.” This [project] also offers an opportunity to be a Latino father. Growing up without one, it was an opportunity to show what I always wanted, what I wished for and what I fantasized about.

There are a couple of scenes I was really nervous about, scenes that, as an actor, you tend to build yourself up to fail. The scenes didn’t come until the end of filming so it made that building-up part feel ten times worse than it was. But [director Gabriela Tagliavini] and my co-stars and producers made everything so comfortable on set that I am crazy proud of the work. I don’t know why I drove myself nuts beyond that’s just what people do to themselves for no reason. I couldn’t be happier with the experience. They made it a great project for me to put my foot back in and do something I love and show my passion and skill for. I’m really grateful for it and I was so very nervous going in. Very nervous.

That’s so interesting because you have such a long filmography that I wouldn’t expect you to be so nervous. What caused the nerves? Was it the scenes you mentioned?

I hate compliments and I love insults. Insults motivate me, insults make me want to show you how wrong you are and make you have to live with that every time you see me. So, I think I try to self-sabotage and make things trickier or harder than they need to be so that I have a hill to climb. Because nobody was saying anything mean to me, everybody was really nice on the set and really supportive and amazing. So, I think maybe I create a lot of that myself so that I can have an opponent in there. I like having adversity. It makes me better. That’s not for everybody, but it certainly works for me.

Going back to what you mentioned about writing. What kind of writing were you doing?

If you’re a nerd, you’re going to think this is awesome but if you’re not, you’re going to think, what the hell? There’s a YouTube channel UpUpDownDown , which is WWE star Xavier Woods’ game channel. They asked me to be their Season 3 Dungeon Master for their Dungeons & Dragons game. I wrote them a custom game and I really fell in love with being a game master so I started writing my own kind of custom one for the last year and a half where I’ve written out every single element. My maps are getting built right now by this wonderful map maker that I met on social media. She’s from England and she’s making me these beautiful maps and I have a bunch of other cool of surprises in there. It’s something I’ve been putting my heart, soul and money into for the last year and a half. I’m looking forward to putting it out there and letting people see it for free.

I just learned that you are a big wrestling fan and you have a new wrestling podcast, Wrestling With Freddie , that just launched. Who are your dream guests?

The cool thing is everyone has said yes so far. I have the Bella Twins coming on and they really helped build the foundation that women’s wrestling exists on today. When I worked there, women were getting five minutes to do a match and two minutes of that was an entrance. Then the Bella Twins went from the reality shows Total Divas to their own show, The Bella Twins, and I think [WWE CEO Vince McMahon] saw the ratings of their show and realized how well they were doing so he upped the matches from five minutes to nine minutes and later to matches with a commercial break. From that, it went to matches in the final hour to now they are doing 60-minute match headlining matches at WrestleMania with Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and all these other wrestlers who can now showcase their skills, athletic ability and acting skills. Not all of that has to do with the Bellas but they were instrumental in helping to build that success. They were dream guests of mine and they’re doing the show next week.

Back to acting. You had a role opposite Soleil Moon Frye on the Punky Brewster reboot on Peacock which didn’t get picked up for a second season. How hard was that cancelation on you?

I’ve been in the business a long time, man, and I’ve been on a show that’s been canceled. Anytime a show gets canceled it hits you. Working on [Punky] was me putting my foot back in the door and I was the fifth lead. I was able to be home in time to cook dinner, not just eat dinner but cook dinner with my family because it was a sitcom. I loved the kids and everyone I worked with. But this one didn’t hit me as hard as it did when I was in my 30s. The longer you’re in the business, the stronger you’re understanding of it is. Like I said, I prefer insults so it’s more motivating for me now rather than depressing because I like to prove people wrong.

You mentioned wanting to show your daughter what you could do. Would you be interested in showing her what you and your wife could do together on screen again? I know you had that Cascade commercial that got millions of views but do you ever talk about doing something in TV or film together again?

No. We don’t have any interest in doing that. The odds are the movie we would do together would be a romantic comedy and it wouldn’t be very exciting for us to pretend to struggle to be together for 96 minutes when we go home together every night. You know what I mean? Acting, for me, is much more about doing something that I want to do than it is doing something what everyone else wants. I’m an only child, man. My mom didn’t raise me to please everyone. She raised me the opposite. She’s like, “Look, somebody’s always going to get mad at you so do what you love and don’t apologize for it.” It’s not something Sarah and I have ever really thought strongly about or it would’ve happened. There’ve been plenty of opportunities, but it is just not something we’re interested in unless it’s something funny and silly and small like a cameo or the Cascade thing, which was really funny. We’re not looking to be the next Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, that wouldn’t be exciting for us. Freddie Prinze Jr. worked with wife Sarah Michelle Gellar on I Know What You Did Last Summer and the live-action Scooby-Doo franchise, seen above.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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