Cree Summer Francks (born July 7, 1969), best known as Cree Summer, is an African-Canadian Aboriginal actress, musician and voice actress. She is perhaps best known for her role as college student Winifred "Freddie" Brooks on the NBC sitcom A Different World.
Cree was born in Los Angeles, California, but was raised and grew up on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is the daughter of Don Francks, a White Canadian actor and musician, and Lili Red Eagle, an African American from North Richmond, California, and adopted member of the Plains Cree First Nations. She and her family also traveled and lived around British Columbia during her childhood, and started public school at the age of nine in Toronto. Her brother, Rainbow Sun Francks, is a former MuchMusic VJ.
In 1988, Summer was cast as the freespirited Winifred "Freddie" Brooks in The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. 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. Apart from guest appearances on other live-action television shows such as the FOX Network's Living Single and NBC-TV's 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.
As a voice actress Summer is best known for voicing Penny in the Inspector Gadget cartoon series during its first season, Elmyra Duff in Tiny Toon Adventures, Susie Carmichael on Rugrats and All Grown Up, Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Numbuh 5, Cree Lincoln in Codename: Kids Next Door, Cleo the Dog in Clifford the Big Red Dog and Kitana in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.
Cree 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 and close friend 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.