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Cree Summer Francks (born July 7, 1969) is an American actress, voice actress, comedian and singer.

She is known for playing Winifred "Freddie" Brooks on the NBC sitcom A Different World. In animation, Summer was the original voice of Penny in the 1983 cartoon Inspector Gadget. Her other voice roles include Princess Kneesaa in Ewoks, Elmyra Duff in Tiny Toon Adventures and Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, Susie Carmichael in Rugrats and All Grown Up!, Numbuh 5 and Cree Lincoln in Codename: Kids Next Door, Cleo the Poodle in Clifford the Big Red Dog, Princess Kida in the franchise of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom, Rayna Cartflight in The Buzz on Maggie, Beast Girl in Teen Titans Go!, Priscilla Skunk in Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Maxine "Max" Gibson in Batman Beyond, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Magma in X-Men Legends, Yvonne and Gordon in Mrs. Munger's Class, Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy and Witch Haggar in Voltron: Legendary Defender. She also voiced the character Mo in the Horrible Histories. She also voiced Kermit's Mom, Star and Pilgrim in Kermit's Swamp Years.

Early life


Summer was born in Los Angeles, California, on July 7, 1969,[1] and grew up on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan. She is the daughter of Don Francks, a Canadian actor and musician, and Lili Clark from North Richmond, California, an adopted member of the Plains Cree First Nations. She and her family also traveled and lived around British Columbia during her childhood, and she started public school at the age of nine in Toronto.[2] Her brother, Rainbow Sun Francks, is a former MuchMusic VJ.

Career


Summer's acting career began in 1983 when she was cast as Penny in the original version of Inspector Gadget. Her unique, throaty voice was instantly recognizable to viewers, as well as casting agents, who began frequently casting her in animated programs. Many of these were part of cult franchises, like The Care Bears Movie (1985) and Ewoks (1985, part of the Star Wars franchise).

In 1988, Summer was cast as the freespirited Winifred "Freddie" Brooks in The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World.[3] She remained a regular cast member of the show from 1988 through its end in 1993.

During the run of A Different World, Summer continued working in voice acting. She was cast in the short-lived television series Sweet Justice in 1994 until its cancellation in 1995. In the fall of that same year, Summer and her A Different World co-star Jenifer Lewis starred in the primetime drama Courthouse, which was cancelled two months after it premiered.[4] Apart from guest appearances on other live-action television shows such as Living Single and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Summer's professional work since has been limited to voice acting.

At the start of the third season of A Different World in 1988, the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters episodes were expanded from their original half-hour format to an hour. The show was changed to be more youthful. Episodes had a lighter tone designed to be less serious and frightening. In these lighter episodes, Cree voiced the sweet and helpful Chilly Cooper, the neighborhood ice-cream woman and innocent love interest of Slimer.

Summer voiced over 101 animated characters between 1983 and 2006. These have spanned video games, cartoon television series, animated films and commercials. Among her most famous roles was in Inspector Gadget (Season 1) as Penny (a role she reprised in the Robot Chicken episode "Adoption's an Option"), WB's Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) as Elmyra Duff (which she reprised for Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain) and Mary Melody, Aka Pella in WB's Histeria!, Susie Carmichael in Nickelodeon's Rugrats and its spin-off All Grown Up!, Cleo the Poodle in PBS Kids' Clifford the Big Red Dog, Miranda from Nickelodeon's As Told by Ginger, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Dulcy the Dragon in Sonic the Hedgehog, Princess 'Kida' Kidagakash for the franchise of Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Nickelodeon's Danny Phantom, Numbuh 5 in Cartoon Network's Codename: Kids Next Door, Penelope in Barbie As Rapunzel, octogenarian villain Granny May on WordGirl, Tiff from Nickelodeon's My Life as a Teenage Robot, and Blackarachnia in Transformers: Animated.

In December 2016, Summer reprised her role as Penny from Inspector Gadget in an episode of the web-series, Nostalgia Critic.

Summer is a frequent co-star of Canadian-American actor Tara Strong; the two are childhood friends, both having grown up in Toronto, Ontario.[5]

She performed voice over for the games Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and BLACK. She voiced Tandi in Fallout and First Citizen Lynette in Fallout 2, was the voice of Tatjana in Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits; she voiced Auriel in Diablo 3, as well as Lady Belgemine, Young Tidus and additional voice-overs in Final Fantasy X; Lenne/Calli in Final Fantasy X-2; Storm in Marvel Super Hero Squad; Cynder in The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and Magma in X-Men Legends, and the voice of Catalina Thorn, the leader of the Cell in Crackdown 2. She had a small role in Mass Effect. She voices Medusa in the game Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. She voiced the Inca Princess Micay in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. She also did miscellaneous voices in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. She reprised her voice of She-Hulk in Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet. She also voiced Kit Brinny in the MMO introduction video for the Massive Multiplayer Game Wildstar. She provides the voice of vampire skater Roller Brawl in the Skylanders series. She has also voiced Professor Penelope Young, a minor character original in "Batman: Arkham Asylum".

Summer has sung since an early age and joined her first band at 13. In 1985, she recorded the theme song for OWL/TV. In 1990, she sang background vocals on two tracks for fellow A Different World cast member Jasmine Guy's self-titled LP. In 1993 she released an album (as lead singer) with her band Subject to Change. Capitol Records did not officially release the album because of creative differences; the records that were produced were distributed as promotions and are considered a rarity. The band, with an aggressive political message and rock-soul fusion sound, remained popular as a co-headlining act with other performers. In 1999, Summer released her solo album Street Faërie produced by and featuring guest artist (and friend) Lenny Kravitz, with the album a moderate success. Although Summer toured as Kravitz's opening act, her label dropped her and a planned spot with Lilith Fair was canceled. The label continued to promote the album, however, sending out a four-track sampler to radio and issuing remix singles of the track "Revelation Sunshine" in Europe, with a special single specifically for Austria.

Summer recorded a song titled "Savior Self" for which she directed a music video co-starring Zoë Kravitz, daughter of actor Lisa Bonet and rocker Lenny Kravitz. The video was screened online, but the track was never made available commercially, nor was it distributed to the radio.

A number of Summer's portrayed characters (animated or otherwise) are singers or sing songs within the soundtrack of a show. The character of Susie in All Grown Up! was portrayed as a singer with real talent, allowing Summer to sing in the role.[6] Summer also sings the opening theme song for All Grown Up!. The character of Foxxy Love in Drawn Together was a singer, with songs like "La-La-La-La-Labia" and "Crashy Smashy", Numbuh 5 from Codename: Kids Next Door sang a lullaby to lull babies to sleep. Elmyra Duff sang many times on Tiny Toon Adventures. She co-performed lead vocals in the song "Cool Kitty" with Tara Strong, which accompanied a cartoon called Class of 3000, directed and written for Cartoon Network by André 3000. She provided the voice of a recurring pomegranate singer in The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange, who usually sung during montage sequences. Her character Priscilla on Sheriff Callie's Wild West sings many times, as well.

In 2008, Summer appeared on The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAAA Birthday Bundle, performing a cover of Zappa's song "Dirty Love" with Dweezil Zappa on guitar and backup vocals by Ahmet Zappa, produced by Linda Perry.

Summer's musical influences include Frank Zappa,[7][8] Al Green[8] and Dinah Washington.[8]

Filmography


Discography


  • "Revelation Sunshine"
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