“I took my kid to Jiu-jitsu five days in a row. It was like summer break. I literally was just like, ‘This is like the greatest week of my life. I just watched my girl choke out a seven-year-old boy!’” From discovering the truth behind his father’s suicide in 1976 and falling off the rails in the 1980s to becoming a teen idol in the 1990s, Freddie Prinze Jr. has proven that even tragedy can create the most beautiful of stories. Just months after he made his grand entrance into the world on March 8, 1976 in Los Angeles, California, Prinze suffered a great loss when his father, famed actor and comedian Freddie Prinze, committed suicide when his only son was just 10 months old. With no other ties to Hollywood, Prinze’s mother, a realtor named Kathy, moved the family to Albuquerque, New Mexico where Prinze later learned the truth about his father’s death.
“I was 11 years old and this dude who lived on my street came up to me and said, ‘Your dad’s gone ‘cause he killed himself! He shot himself in the head!’” Prinze recalled. Completely shaken by the news, the young Prinze returned home and grabbed the only gun in the house when his mother caught him on the way out the door. “Had my mom not seen me on my way out of the house, there’s no way that boy would be here today,” Prinze said. “I was just not myself. And that was when my mom was like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to work this out.’ She sent me back to California… I was 12 and I lost it. I got into a lot of fights at school. I would seek out the biggest, toughest guy and punch him until he would cry because I wanted him to feel what I was feeling. It took a long time for me to work that out. I was 18 when I started trying to work on being a better human being rather than an angry one.”
While in California, Prinze lived with his godfather, martial arts trainer Bob Wall, and followed in his father’s footsteps by training with Wall until he graduated from high school and moved back to Los Angeles where he was determined to carry on his father’s legacy, this time without having to throw any punches. In 1995, he made his acting debut on television in an episode of Family Matters, which he followed up with an ABC Afterschool Special and the 1996 film, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. Then, in 1997, he starred in The House of Yes opposite Parker Posey, a young actress who Prinze now admits was his first crush. “I worshipped the girl,” he said. “I wanted her to be my sister, my girlfriend or my mother, whatever one she would give me.”
Although romance wasn’t in the air for Prinze and Posey, stardom certainly was as Prinze went on to star in I Know What You Did Last Summer in 1997, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in 1998, and She’s All That in 1999, the latter of which earned him status as a Hollywood heartthrob after grossing over $60 million at box offices across the country. On the heels of this early success, he followed up with credits in Wing Commander, Down to You, Head Over Heels and Summer Catch before making a huge comeback in 2002 when he was cast as Fred Jones alongside his longtime girlfriend and former I Know What You Did Last Summer costar, Sarah Michelle Gellar, in Scooby-Doo.
Tying the knot with Gellar in 2002, Prinze reprised his role as Fred in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in 2004 and found the perfect way to share his father’s legacy when he created, produced and starred in the television sitcom, Freddie. Although the series was canceled after its first season, it gave Prinze the closure he needed with every episode ending with his father’s voice saying, “Looking good!” “Nobody in my family could deal with how my father’s legacy ended, so I had to at least write one more chapter that was positive,” Prinze said. “I felt like I accomplished everything I went to LA to accomplish,” he said after the series.
After Freddie, Prinze snagged a recurring role on Boston Legal and turned to voice acting where he lent his voice to characters like Pisces “Pi” in Shark Bait and as Rick in Happily N’Ever After. Then, another opportunity of a lifetime fell into Prinze’s lap when, after years of sitting in the audience watching wrestling matches hosted by World Wrestling Entertainment, he was invited to join the WWE’s creative staff. He worked as a writer, promoter and director with on-screen credits in two episodes of WWE Raw and even collaborated with the SmackDown brand before leaving the company in 2009 to return to television where he landed a regular role on the eighth season of 24. Months later, he returned as a guest host on an episode of WWE Raw and was involved in a juicy storyline after he was attacked by WWE Champion Randy Orton.
Promoted to a producer and director with the WWE in 2010, Prinze continued to dabble as a voice actor in Hollywood with credits in films like Delgo, in television series like Robot Chicken, and in video games like Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Disney Infinity 3.0. In 2014, he saw another dream come true when the longtime Star Wars fan was invited to voice the character of Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars Rebels, a role he continues to work on even today. Beyond that, the 41-year-old is perfectly content spending the rest of his time at home with Gellar and their two kids where he’s rekindled his love of cooking and adds to his fortune by collecting rare comic books and working with the video game platform, Twitch, both of which give him even more free time to spend with his kids.
“Even with all my flaws, they still think I’m a Jedi master,” Prinze says of his children. “When you don’t have a dad, it’s all you think about. You start fantasizing things that you wish you could get. So, Father’s Day is a great day at my house, but it’s more about the kids. Like for my birthday, we go to Disneyland because I want to see the kids. Whatever the kids want to do, we’ll do.” Go ahead, add “World’s Greatest Dad” to the list of Prinze’s many talents!