Holly Robinson Peete
Peete, Holly Robinson 1965–
Holly Robinson Peete 1965–
Though Holly Robinson added the “Peete” to her professional name when she wed Philadelphia Eagles player Rodney Peete in 1995, her marriage and the arrival of twin babies in 1997 did little to derail her career or outlook on the future. Peete has found success on such shows as Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper and For Your Love, and hopes to return one day to a singing career.
Peete, born in 1965, grew up in both Philadelphia and Malibu, California. Her mother, Dolores Robinson, has professionally managed the careers of a number of entertainment figures, including LeVar Burton and Sinbad. Her father is a television producer and onetime actor who originated the “Gordon” character on the children’s television show Sesame Street when his daughter was still a toddler. Later he became a producer on The Cosby Show Though Peete began acting professionally as a child, she remained clearheaded about the future. “From my parents, I learned that there are highs and lows in this business, and that’s the nature of the business,” Peete told Aldore Collier in Ebony in 1993.
A talented performer and looking toward a career in show business, Peete earned a degree in theater from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. A fellow classmate was Robin Givens, and the two future stars got into a fight one day that Peete admitted to Collier “was a legendary brawl,” and this bit of gossip would follow them well into their careers. Peete got her big break when she was cast as a rock singer in a much-ballyhooed, but critically lambasted 1986 film called Howard the Duck. She sang several tracks both on screen and for the soundtrack album. In the meantime, she considered pursuing a graduate degree in French, and was spending some time at her mother’s Malibu home. To earn extra money for school, she went on a few auditions—and landed a regular role in what would become the popular Fox series 21 Jump Street.
On the hit show which made Johnny Depp a star, Peete played Officer Judy Hoffs, one of several young-looking detectives who went undercover among high-schoolers
At a Glance…
Born September 18, 1965, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Matthew Robinson Jr. (a television producer) and Dolores Robinson (a show business manager); married Rodney Peete (professional football player), June 10, 1995; children: Rodney Jackson, Ryan Elizabeth (twins). Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1985.
Career: Actress. First movie role in the television film Dummy, 1979; appeared as K.C. in Howard the Duck, 1984; cast in Fox television series 21 Jump Street, 1986; played Vanessa Russell in Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, 1992–96, ABC-TV; played Malena Ellis in For Your Love, 1998, NBC-TV, WB-TV.
Addresses: Office —c/o Warner/Sister Lee Productions, 4000 Warner Blvd., Building 140, Room 204, Burbank, CA 91522.
to solve crimes. Peete would also appear on its spin-off series, Booker, twice. “I didn’t write any of these parts for a black woman, but I felt she had the most energy,” the show’s creator and executive producer, Patrick Hasbrough, told Patricia Brennan in the Washington Post “She has done a great job.” Her work on 21 Jump Street helped her win a record contract—graduate school was forever put on hold—and Peete was signed to Atlantic Records from 1988 to 1990. She cut tracks in a studio, but was unhappy with the finished product, and negotiated a release from her contract.
After the cancellation of 21 Jump Street, Peete was unable to find steady work; during a period of almost two years, her only noteworthy role came as Diana Ross in a 1992 television movie about the Jackson family. But in 1992 she was cast in a new ABC television sitcom, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and her career took off again. Described as a black Three’s Company —the hit roommate sitcom of the 1970s—the show featured comedian Mark Curry in the title role of a pro athlete hopeful and part-time schoolteacher. On the show, Cooper shares an Oakland, California apartment with an old platonic friend, Dawnn Lewis (once of A Different World), and Peete, who was cast as Vanessa Russell, an airheaded secretary on whom Cooper has a secret crush.
The following year, Peete’s life changed in earnest when she met pro football player, Rodney Peete. The two were introduced at the Roxy, a popular Los Angeles concert venue, by mutual friend Lela Rochon. Initially, Holly was decidedly uninterested—though she later admitted she was attracted to him at first glance—since the popular gridiron star’s reputation as a heartbreaker and commitment-phobe had well preceded him. She did, however, accept an invitation to a barbecue at his home two months later, where she noticed that the other guests seemed to be “his ex-girlfriends … lined up everywhere looking sad,” as she jokingly recalled in a People magazine interview in 1995. But the former Detroit Lion and then Dallas Cowboy deemed himself ready for a real relationship at that point in his life. “Holly keeps me in line,” Peete said in the same interview, which took place before their wedding that summer. “Because she has her own life, I knew she could walk away from me.”
The footballer had actually proposed to her in a clever way that no doubt endeared him to her: during a taping of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, the actress did what her script called for—opened a door—and found her boyfriend standing on the other side. With a live audience present, Peete dropped to his knees and proposed, proclaiming, “I love you with all my heart.” The moment, though cut out of the Mr. Cooper episode, was replayed on television shows such as Entertainment Tonight, and the quarterback was teased mercilessly about his apparent soft side. The pair were wed on June 10, 1995 in an event held at the Brentwood home of television executive Les Moonves. Holly reportedly cried throughout ceremony, which was officiated by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. But she had arranged a surprise of her own for Peete—after he uttered his “I do,” the University of Southern California marching band burst in and began playing the U.S.C, fight song; her new husband had first gained fame as the Trojans’ quarterback, and was a campus celebrity during his college career.
Peete continued her role on Mr. Cooper, which kept her in California for part of the year; the couple reside in a hillside Beverly Hills home. In October of 1997, she gave birth to twins, Rodney Jackson and Ryan Elizabeth, after a difficult pregnancy in which she gained 68 pounds and suffered acute morning sickness. She chose to have them Caesarian, so her husband would not be playing a game in another state when she went into labor, but nature overruled plans and she went into labor on the same day of his season opener with his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Keeping in contact with him by phone, she and her mother rushed to the hospital as the game headed into overtime. “Half of me was thinking, ‘I have to win this game,’” Peete told Laura B. Randolph in Ebony, “and half of me was thinking, ‘I have to hurry up and get this game over.’” He set up a game-winning field goal, and made it to the hospital just in time with the help of a police escort.
While enjoying her new role as a full-time mom, Peete was offered a chance to star in a new NBC sitcom that was picked up mid-season. Created by Yvette Lee Bowser of Living Single fame, For Your Love was set in suburban Chicago and followed the travails of three couples at varying levels of love and commitment. Peete played newlywed shrink Malena Ellis; James Lesure played her attorney husband. “I love playing a psychiatrist who has got all kinds of her own little problems,” Peete told Jet “She can dish it out, but she can’t take it,” she added. Peete’s new job was made easier by the fact that executive producer Bowser was also a new mother, and there was on-site daycare. “I don’t have to leave them at home,” Peete enthused in the interview with Jet “Some days I’m more busy than others and don’t have the time to come out and see them as much. But I know they’re here, and I can always run in there if anything’s wrong.”
As the wife of a pro athlete based in another city, Peete has had to adjust to being on her own with her twins, at least for part of the year. “When I pulled up to this house with these two babies in the car and Rodney had to go back to Philly, I was so scared,” she told Randolph in Ebony. Fortunately she had an excellent nurse to help out the first few weeks, and said that it was a surprise to her “just how naturally motherhood has come to me. I was so scared about what kind of mother I would be. But I’m learning to trust my instincts.”
For Your Love was picked up by the WB (Warner Brothers) network for the 1998–99 full season, and Peete looks forward to her future. Her greatest setback, she told Collier in a 1995 Ebony interview, was having to put her dreams of singing professionally on hold. She was once tapped to fill in for Whitney Houston at the last minute at a celebration for the U.S. Constitution on Capitol Hill, and has sung the national anthem at major-league sporting events. She even sang with jazz legend Lionel Hampton once in Paris. “What I found was that in Hollywood, once you establish yourself as a television person, they put up barriers in the recording business. You get pigeonholed. For a minute, it was tough for me letting go of that dream, but I had to. It was a reality,” Peete reflected. She says she tries to not dwell too much on her next career move, whether it be on the stage or in feature films. “When I look at the percentage of Black actresses who’ve been able to achieve what I’ve achieved, I’m not going to trip.”
Ebony, March 1989, p. 29; February 1993; September 1995, p. 132; April 1998, p. 30.
Essence, January 1988, p. 32.
Jet, July 10, 1995, pp. 32–37; May 11, 1998, pp. 30–33.
People, February 13, 1995, p. 82; July 7, 1997, p. 37.
Washington Post, December 13, 1987, p. Y11.
Robinson Peete, Holly 1964- (Holly Robinson)
Robinson Peete, Holly 1964- (Holly Robinson)
Original name, Holly Elizabeth Robinson; born September 18, 1964, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Matthew, Jr. (an actor and writer) and Dolores (an actress, producer, and talent manager) Robinson; married Rodney Peete (a professional football player), June 10, 1995; children: Rodney James and Ryan Elizabeth (twins), Robinson James, Roman. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, graduated, 1986; attended Sorbonne, University of Paris.
Agent—Innovative Artists Talent and Literary Agency, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401; (voice work and commercials) Tim Curtis, William Morris Agency, 1 William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Manager—Dolores Robinson Entertainment, 9250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 220, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Publicist—Patti Webster, W$W Public Relations, 8899 Beverly Blvd., Suite 504, West Hollywood, CA 90069.
Actress and singer. Performed as a nightclub singer in New York City and Paris; appeared in television commercials and print ads. HollyRod Foundation, cofounder.
Woman of Conscience Award, 1999; Image Award nominations, outstanding actress in a comedy series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002, all for For Your Love; Gerald R. Ford People Helping People Award, 2004; Healthy Babies, Healthy Futures Award, March of Dimes, 2004; named woman of distinction, University of Southern California, 2004; Mentor Award, Girls Inc., 2004; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a comedy series, 2006, for Love, Inc.; Quills Award, Quills Literacy Foundation, 2006; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, 2008, for Matters of Life and Dating; American Mentor Award; Buddy Award, Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Organization for Women; Community Service Award, Southern California Broadcasters Association; John E. Jacob Community Service Award, Anheuser Busch; Distinguished Achievement Award, Huntington Disease Society.
Television Appearances; Series:
(As Holly Robinson) Officer Judy Hoffs, 21 Jump Street, Fox, 1987-92.
(As Robinson prior to 1995 Vanessa Russell, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, ABC, 1992-97.
Malena Ellis, For Your Love, NBC, 1998, then The WB, 1998-2002.
Stacy, a recurring role, One on One, UPN, 2001-2002.
Tanya Ward, Like Family, The WB, 2003-2004.
Clea Lavoy, Love, Inc., UPN, 2005-2006.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
(As Holly Robinson) Diana Ross, The Jacksons: An American Dream (also known as The Jackson Five), ABC, 1992.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Malena Ellis, For Your Love, NBC, 1998.
Samika, My Wonderful Life, ABC, 2002.
Tanya Ward, Like Family, The WB, 2003.
Earthquake, ABC, 2004.
Jackie Jameson, Football Wives, ABC, 2007.
Television Appearances; Movies:
(As Holly Robinson) Genettia Lang, Dummy, CBS, 1979.
Jennie Sawyer, Killers in the House, USA Network, 1998.
Michelle Troussaint, After All, Black Entertainment Television, 1999.
Matters of Life and Dating, Lifetime, 2007.
Television Appearances; Specials:
(As Holly Robinson) Segment host, Live! The World's Greatest Stunts (also known as The Greatest Stunts on Earth), Fox, 1990.
(As Robinson) Magic Johnson's All-Star Slam 'N Jam, syndicated, 1992.
(As Robinson) Host, Taco Bell Presents: Battle of the Bands '93 (also known as Battle of the Bands), ABC, 1993.
(As Robinson) Ringmaster, Circus of the Stars Gives Kids the World (also known as Circus of the Stars #18), CBS, 1993.
(As Robinson) Vanessa Russell, ABC Saturday Morning Preview Special, ABC, 1993.
(As Robinson) In a New Light '93, ABC, 1993.
(As Robinson) Off Camera with Dean Cain, ABC, 1995.
(As Robinson) Competitor, Superstar American Gladiators, ABC, 1995.
(As Robinson) Judge, The 1995 Miss America Pageant, NBC, 1995.
(As Robinson) Extreme Comedy, ABC, 1996.
Moore Bloopers, ABC, 1999.
Mommy Chic, E! Entertainment Television, 1999.
Intimate Portrait: Star Jones, Lifetime, 2000.
Intimate Portrait: Holly Robinson Peete, Lifetime, 2000.
Narrator, Intimate Portrait: Lela Rochon Fuqua, Lifetime, 2001.
Host, Pepsi Play for a Billion (also known as Play for a Billion), The WB, 2003.
The 6th Annual Sears Soul Train Christmas Starfest, UPN, 2003.
Intimate Portrait: Niki Taylor, Lifetime, 2003.
Intimate Portrait: Celebrity Love, Lifetime, 2003.
A Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Family First, CBS, 2004.
Pepsi Smash Superbowl Bash, VH1, 2006.
(In archive footage) I Was a Network Star, 2006.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(As Holly Robinson) Sesame Street, 1970.
(As Robinson) Kidsworld, c. 1975.
(As Robinson) This Is the Life, 1975.
(As Robinson) Detective Judy Hoffs, "The Pump," Booker, 1989.
(As Robinson) Detective Judy Hoffs, "Father's Day," Booker, 1989.
(As Robinson) Jackie Tate, "Belly of the Beast," Gabriel's Fire, 1991.
Gina Galindo, "Soft Targets," Pacific Blue, USA Network, 1997.
Vanessa Hamilton, "Smokescreen," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1997.
Halle Ellis, "Donors," Strong Medicine, Lifetime, 2001.
"Mother's Day Surprises," The Tyra Banks Show, UPN, 2006.
Dancing with the Stars, ABC, 2006.
Entertainment Tonight (also known as Entertainment This Week, E.T., ET Weekend, and This Week in Entertainment), syndicated, 2008.
Appeared as Vanessa in an episode of ABC TGIF, ABC; also appeared in an episode of Sparkle Lounge.
Television Guest Appearances; Episodic:
(As Holly Robinson) The Tonight Show, NBC, 1988.
(As Robinson) Good Morning, America, ABC, 1988.
(As Robinson) The Arsenio Hall Show, syndicated, 1989.
Guest host, The Vicki Lawrence Show, Fox, 1996.
The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2007.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien), NBC, 1998.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1998.
Hollywood Squares (also known as H2 and H2: Hollywood Squares), syndicated, multiple appearances, between 1998 and 2002.
Guest host, Good Day Live, syndicated, 2002, 2004.
The Sharon Osbourne Show (also known as Sharon), syndicated, 2003, 2004.
The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (also known as JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment), The WB, 2003, 2004.
The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2004.
The Tony Danza Show, syndicated, 2004.
The View, ABC, 2005.
Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2007, 2008.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
(As Holly Robinson) The 61st Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1989.
(As Robinson) The 21st Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1989.
(As Robinson) The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1990.
(As Robinson) Kids' Choice Awards (also known as Nickelodeon's 6th Annual Kids' Choice Awards), Nickelodeon, 1992.
(As Robinson) Presenter, The 6th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 1992.
(As Robinson) The 27th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1996.
Presenter, The 30th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1999.
Presenter, The 1999 Essence Awards, Fox, 1999.
The 31st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
Presenter, 33rd NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2002.
Host, The 5th Annual Family Television Awards, The WB, 2003.
The 2003 Essence Awards, Fox, 2003.
Presenter, 9th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, The WB, 2003.
The Third Annual Vibe Awards on UPN, UPN, 2005.
The 37th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2006.
The 2nd Annual Quill Awards, NBC, 2006.
The 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2008.
Television Work; Series:
Theme song performer, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, ABC, between 1992 and 1997.
Producer, For Your Love, NBC, 1998, The WB, 2000-2002.
(As Holly Robinson) K. C., Howard the Duck (also known as Howard: A New Breed of Hero), Universal, 1986.
(As Holly Robinson) Song performer, "Throw You Down," Hurricane Smith (also known as Dead on Delivery), 1992.
Appeared in the music videos "Whip Appeal" by Babyface, 1990, and "Dance with My Father" by Luther Vandross.
(With Daniel Paisner) Get Your Own Damn Beer, I'm Watching the Game! A Woman's Guide to Loving Pro Football, Rodale, 2005.
Contributor to magazines, including Woman's World.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 20, Gale, 1998.
Newsmakers, Issue 2, Gale, 2005.
Black Enterprise, May, 2008, p. 128.
Ebony, December, 2002, p. 52.
Jet, March 22, 2004, p. 54.
Newsweek, October 15, 2007, p. 72.
People Weekly, September 21, 1987, p. 75; October 22, 2002, p. 116; June 4, 2007, p. 69.
TV Guide, September 4, 2005, p. 32.
Woman's Day, May 4, 2004, p. 86.
Intimate Portrait: Holly Robinson Peete (television special), Lifetime, 2000.