What happened to Freddie Prinze Jr., the 90s heart-throb and winner of multiple Teen Choice Awards? For a brief moment in time, he appeared to be a viable romantic comedy star, but then disappeared from the big screen as the social media era began.
In the mid-’90s, Prinze Jr. graduated high school in New Mexico, relocated to Los Angeles (where he was born), and pursued a career in Hollywood like his father – the late Freddie Prinze Sr., star of the ’70s NBC sitcom Chico and the Man. After landing a handful of minor television and film roles, Prinze Jr. delivered a breakthrough performance in the 1997 slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer, alongside up-and-comers such as Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. I Know What You Did Last Summer became a cultural phenomenon and Prinze Jr. became a familiar name amongst teenage moviegoers. When the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer released the following year, he emerged as Young Hollywood’s response to English actor Hugh Grant; the quintessential rom-com star of the time.
During the late ’90s and early 2000s, three high-profile romantic comedies earned Prinze Jr. a large fanbase amongst high school and college students. With She’s All That (1999), he landed another commercial hit, large in part to the on-screen chemistry with co-star Rachel Leigh Cook. Together, Zack Siler and Laney Boggs become the movie couple to emulate for many young moviegoers, and Miramax attempted to capitalize upon that buzz by pairing Prinze Jr. with Julia Stiles for Down to You (2000). Unfortunately, Kris Isacsson’s film flopped at the box office, along with Prinze Jr.’s next three films: Boys and Girls (2000), Head Over Heels (2001), and Summer Catch (2001) co-starring Jessica Biel. Despite a notable TV appearance on Friends, Prinze Jr. had simply lost career momentum. He also starred in the sitcom titled Freddie, which was loosely inspired by Prinze Jr. himself, but the show wasn’t renewed due to poor ratings.
Looking back, Prinze Jr.’s career trajectory connects directly to his personal and professional relationship with the aforementioned Gellar. By 2002, the couple had married and experienced the ups and down of the industry together. Prinze Jr. made a brief comeback by co-starring with his wife in Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, both of which were huge hits and cemented the pair’s legacy in film. Since then, Prinze Jr. has essentially traded his movie career for family time (Gellar gave birth to a daughter in 2009 and a son in 2012), as he hasn’t appeared on the big screen since 2008.
Still, Prinze Jr. hasn’t given up working in Hollywood but has rather shifted his priorities, evidenced by a prominent role as Cole Ortiz in season 8 of 24 and a voice acting gig as Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars Rebels. In 2018, Prinze Jr. spoke about meeting Gellar on the set of I Know What You Did Last Summer, and reveals that it wasn’t an immediate love connection: “We were just friends, man… we were night and day. She was born and raised Manhattan, I was – you know – born in California and sort of raised all over.” As for acting, Prinze Jr. states “I love being a full-time father. To remove myself from that equation would not be a good thing. I’m basically retired.”
Since he’s “basically retired,” he has the luxury of choosing work base on his own passions. He worked with WWE as a director and producer and other roles on and off from 2008-2012, he’s reprised his role as Fred several times when the Scooby Gang appears on Robot Chicken, and has voiced a few video games Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. He also got a small voice cameo as Kanan in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
More recently, he signed on for NBC’s Punky Brewster re-boot, portraying the title character’s ex-husband, Travis. On Twitter, Freddie Prinze Jr. has been promoting his new comedy-themed YouTube channel GEGGHEAD, and he’s also the executive producer for DC Universe All Star Games.
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