Actress, producer, singer and author Holly Robinson Peete has helped redefine the notion of a successful entertainment career not only with five decades of iconic and memorable television roles but also by endeavoring to help others through her off-screen philanthropic works.
Robinson Peete is best known for her roles in shows such as 21 Jump Street and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, as well as appearances in more than a dozen Hallmark Channel holiday films — a number that will increase significantly as part of a recently-signed, multi-picture deal with Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networks. Her on-screen success was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May.
When she’s not in front of the camera, Robinson Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, are tireless advocates for people dealing with Parkinson’s Disease and autism through their HollyRod Foundation.
“Holly is an incredible talent and sets a wonderful example as a strong, authentic and compassionate woman,” said Crown Media Family Networks president and CEO Wonya Lucas. “She is deeply committed to raising awareness about autism and Parkinson’s disease, among other causes, and uses her influence to make positive differences in the world.”
Robinson Peete’s exposure to the world of entertainment began at the early age of six when she made a cameo appearance on PBS’s Sesame Street alongside her father, Matt Robinson, the original Gordon in the beloved children’s series.
“I wanted to be on Sesame Street with my dad, but he just did not want me to be a showbiz kid — he wanted me to be really good in school, get amazing grades and go to a good college,” Robinson Peete said. “But when I got there and saw those lights and cameras, this 10-foot bird and the dude in the trash can and a guy who ate cookies, I was like, Oh my God, I want to do this.”
She nevertheless heeded her father’s wishes and earned a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York before she ventured back into show business. She would land a role as a young undercover police officer in Fox’s 1987 television drama 21 Jump Street.
“I kind of dabbled a little bit in show business as a teenager, but it wasn’t until 21 Jump Street that I really sunk my teeth into it full time and felt like I could actually make a career out of it,” she said. “I loved Judy Hoffs, the character on 21 Jump Street — she had so much integrity, and a lot of people connected with her and that character.”
She would continue to build an impressive television resume that included starring roles on such popular shows as For Your Love and, more recently, Mike & Molly and drama series Chicago Fire.
But Robinson Peete said it was her time on the 1992-97 ABC sitcom Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper that had the most memorable effect on her both on- and off-screen. “My husband proposed to me on the set of that show, so that makes that show very special for me,” Robinson Peete said.
Holly and Rodney Peete would eventually star in Hallmark Channel’s 2018 reality series Meet the Peetes, which focused on the couple’s burgeoning family of four children, including a son that was diagnosed with autism.
The Peetes would also make their mark in the world of philanthropy with their HollyRod Foundation, created to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease and assist those dealing with autism. Despite all of her on-screen accolades, Robinson Peete said that her idea of success is now more determined by the fortunes of her foundation.
“I’m so motivated by my foundation,” she said. “When I think of success, I never think of whether I won a Grammy or an Emmy, but instead I think of how much money we raised for the HollyRod Foundation.”
Next Role: Executive Producer
Robinson Peete says she looks forward to adding the title of executive producer to her impressive portfolio through her new, multipicture deal with Hallmark. The agreement continues a relationship that began in 2015 between Robinson Peete and the network that has already yielded starring roles in more than a dozen Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries projects.
“I love that Hallmark Channel looks to me as a content creator as somebody who
has more to say than just the lines and really understands or values my input to the creative process,” Robinson Peete said. “That was a huge part of this deal.” ■
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.