Family & Companions
Holly Robinson Peete was destined to be a star. Having a famous actor for a father and a talent producer for a mother, she could have used her last name as a springboard to instant fame. Instead, Peete worked her way up to a successful acting career by starring on several hit television shows such as the police drama "21 Jump Street" (FOX, 1987-1991) opposite Johnny Depp and in the family-friendly series "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" (ABC, 1992-97). She remained in the spotlight by using her celebrity status to draw awareness to two afflictions close to her heart - Parkinson's disease, which her father died from in 2002, and autism, which her son Rodney Jackson suffered from since childhood. With her famous husband, football star Rodney Peete, the couple established organizations that helped families suffering from both diseases. In 2010, her altruistic nature drew her to join the cast of famous faces who competed for charity on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" (2008- ). While Peete's career undeniably peaked in the 1980s and early 1990s, the talented star proved that her best work was not in front of the camera but rather in her lifetime commitment to philanthropy.
Holly Elizabeth Robinson Peete was born on Sept. 18, 1964 in Philadelphia, PA. Her father, Matthew Robinson, had famously played the part of Gordon, one of the grown-ups on the original "Sesame Street" (PBS, 1969 - ) from 1969-1971, while her mother, Dolores Robinson, worked as a talent manager. As a young girl, Peete dreamt of forging an acting and singing career of her own. She tried to appear on "Sesame Street" with her father, but she repeatedly flubbed her lines and never appeared on the long-running children's program. After her parents divorced in the early Seventies, Peete moved with her mother and older brother to Malibu, CA and attended Santa Monica High School in the nearby coastal community alongside classmates and future actors Charlie Sheen and brothers Chad and Rob Lowe. She moved back east to attend Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY where she majored in psychology and French, as well as spent a year studying at the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Following in her father's footsteps, Peete started her acting career on the small screen with a minor role in the TV drama, "Dummy" (CBS, 1979). She made her film debut in the sci-fi disaster "Howard the Duck" (1986), appearing as one of the singers of a struggling all-girl band called Cherry Bomb. While "Howard the Duck" tanked at the box office, the film still gave Peete the exposure she needed to jumpstart her career.
A year later, Robinson landed a starring role in the teen-oriented police drama, "21 Jump Street," which would become most notable for igniting Johnny Depp's career. In the series, Peete played Judy Hoffs, a member of a special group of cops who went undercover to foil adult crimes in high schools and colleges. Her role originally called for a white actress, but Peete's innate talent landed her the part. While her acting career was starting to gain steam, Peete still aspired to become a singer; even providing the vocals to the theme song of "21 Jump Street." In 1988, Peete signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records but nothing was ever released. Yet, she continued singing at nightclubs in New York and at Club Med. She also took on roles that allowed her showcase her vocal chops, including portraying Diana Ross in the Jackson-sanctioned ABC miniseries, "The Jacksons: An American Dream" (1992), which followed the rise of the famous musical family.
That same year, Peete began starring on "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" opposite comedian Mark Curry as the title character, a single high school teacher and basketball coach who lives with two female roommates (Peete and Dawnn Lewis). Shortly after "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" wrapped, Peete secured another starring role in yet another comedy series, "For Your Love" (NBC, 1998; The WB,1998-2002), which followed three couples that counsel each other on the affairs of the heart. She played the role of a newlywed who lives next door to a couple that has been married for four years; a comparative lifetime compared to her character.
Much like her newlywed character on "For Your Love," Peete also became a bride off-screen when she married NFL star Rodney Peete in 1995. They went on to have four children - fraternal twins Rodney James "R.J" and Ryan Elizabeth, Robinson James, and Roman. In 1997, the couple established the HollyRod Foundation to raise money for people suffering from Parkinson's disease after her father, Matthew, was diagnosed with tragic ailment in 1982. In 2005, the couple also established HollyRod4Kids, which aimed to help improve the lives of children affected by autism and other circumstances beyond their control. In this instance, HollyRod4Kids was inspired by her son, Rodney James, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. Taking care of an autistic child almost cost the Peetes their marriage, but with the help of a counselor, the couple stayed together and became even stronger advocates against the disorder. Along the way, Peete leaned on her actress girl friends, Jenny McCarthy and Tisha Campbell-Martin, both of whom had autistic sons.
Getting back to her acting roots after raising a family, Peete starred as the matriarch of a middle-class African-American brood on the short-lived sitcom "Like Family" (The WB, 2003-04) about two families - one African-American; one Caucasian - who live together and try to work out their differences. The thin premise did not sit well with viewers and the show was cancelled before they could film the final episode. Peete starred on yet another sitcom titled "Love, Inc." (UPN, 2005-06), in which she played the owner of a full-service dating company who also struggles with her own love life. The series also failed to attract viewers and was canceled after a solitary season. After starring on two failed sitcoms, Peete was cast in the top-rated reality series "Celebrity Apprentice," where 14 notables competed to raise money for their favorite charities. Along with Peete, the 2010 season of the show also featured singer Cyndi Lauper, comedian Sinbad, reality star Sharon Osbourne, and former Olympian Michael Johnson, among others. Proving herself a capable leader each week, Robinson-Peete raised the most money in the history of the program, all of which benefited the HollyRod Foundation. She also made it to the finals, squaring off against rocker Bret Michaels, who, in the end, took the title of "Celebrity Apprentice."
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First TV appearance, the first episode of "Sesame Street" (PBS)
Made TV-movie debut, playing LeVar Burton's sister in "Dummy" (CBS)
Landed a minor role as a singer in "Howard the Duck"
Played Officer Judy Hoffs on the Fox police drama "21 Jump Street"
Portrayed Diana Ross in the ABC miniseries "The Jacksons: An American Family"
Cast as regular Vanessa Russell on ABC's "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper"
Played Malena Ellis on the sitcom "For Your Love" (NBC, 1998; The WB, 1998-2002)
Cast as the matriarch of a middle-class African American family on The WB's "Like Family"
Starred on the short-lived UPN sitcom "Love, Inc."
Co-hosted "Meet the Peetes" on Oprah & Friends Radio with husband Rodney Peete
Joined the third season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC), finished as the runner-up to Bret Michaels
Co-hosted the daytime talk and variety program "The Talk"; was not asked back after one season
Reprised role of Judy Hoffs in the big screen reboot of "21 Jump Street," starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill