A little over twenty years ago The Disney Channel launched one of its first ever animated original series: The Proud Family. It featured an African American family with tween Penny as the main character. It ran from 2001 to 2005.
On February 23, 2022, Disney + picks up the story of the Proud family only this time “Louder and Prouder.”
Penny Proud (voiced by Kyla Pratt) is now 14 and is very smart, sassy (in a good way), who wants to begin going to dances and to be a normal teen, but her paranoid father Oscar (voiced by Tommy Davidson) is extremely protective. The scene in the premiere episode of hm imagining his daughter in medieval armor to protect her from ever having sex evokes thoughts of a chastity belt. Trudy (voiced by Paula Jai Parker) is Penny’s mom and a veterinarian and is the level-headed one in the family.
LaCienega Boulevardez (a very funny name if you know Los Angeles; voiced by Alicia Reyes), is Penny’s Latina frenemy. She tries to come off as virtuous but she’s just the opposite.
There are many other characters that fill out the world of the Proud family, including an interracial gay couple Barry and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins (voiced by Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter) who are the adopted parents to Maya (voiced by Keke Palmer), a 14-year-old high school activist.
I had the opportunity to speak with two key actresses the series, Paula Jai Parker and Alicia Reyes as well as Richard Farquhar, co-creator of The Proud Family then and now. Farquhar explained that he never wanted to do animation. But when he watched “Teletubbies” with his granddaughter back in the day he just didn’t get it. So, he accepted Bruce W. Smith’s invitation to write the series and resolved to make it something he could watch with his granddaughter. When Disney came back to Farquhar and Smith to revive the series, they asked that the series be for ages 6 – 60. Farquhar also shared that two of the series’ directors are African American women, something that is rare in animated productions. There are also African and Latino members of the writing staff as well that gives the series its authenticity.
Paula Jai Parker as mom Trudy told me that she was named for the Apostle Paul and is proud of it! She initially wanted the role Suga Mama (voiced by Jo Marie Payton), Oscar’s mother and Penny’s grandmother but realized “you just have to allow yourself to be blessed” with a part and God had a plan for her as mom Trudy. Although 15 years have passed since the original series ended, it’s only three years in the life of the Proud’s. “Now as a mom of a 13-year-old I can relate and I get to talk about topics that may be hard for families to talk about. I love it that the relationships are so real and authentic in the show.”
From day one Alicia Reyes, said that having been part of the original cast makes her feel blessed to have the opportunity to re-launch the show in 2022. “The story was appealing for me from the beginning because I’m a born and raised New Yorker who is of Irish Italian-Dominican descent. The minute I picked up the script I loved that it was filled with diversity, morals, principles, and lessons along with cultural aspects that you’re able to share.”
The series is a celebration of inclusivity and diversity, “a reflection of life today from both Penny’s perspective as a teen and the parents’ point of view,” according to Farquhar. “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” is entertaining (even if you don’t care for animation!) and filled with moments that all family members can relate to and entry points to what may be challenging conversations for some families.