On June 21, Holly Robinson Peete was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in recognition of both her longevity as an actress and her dedication to community service. Though she may make it look easy, a decades-long career in entertainment is no easy feat.
Peete has been an entertainer for nearly her whole life, making her first on-screen appearance on Sesame Street at just the age of 5. Her well-known roles include starring as Officer Judy Hoffs on the original 21 Jump Street series and as Vanessa Russell on the sitcom Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Peete was also an original host of The Talk and has recently starred in and produced several Hallmark Channel movies.
Peete is widely recognized for her charity work, specifically the HollyRod Foundation, a joint venture with her husband former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete. The foundation raises awareness and provides resources to families with loved ones who have received an Autism or Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis.
Peete recently spoke with ESSENCE about getting her star on the Walk of Fame, her most iconic television roles, and the one piece of advice her mother gave her that has helped her succeed over the years.
What does receiving a star on the walk of fame mean to you?
HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE – When I came to California at 10 years old, I remember walking down Hollywood Boulevard for the first time and the one thing I noticed as I was looking at the names was that there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me. I think I remember seeing Diahann Carroll and Dorothy Dandridge. I just noticed that there weren’t a whole lot of Black women, but I never thought, “Okay one day it’ll be me.”
Throughout my career, I felt like the work was the reward. I just always felt like the continuation and the blessing of being able to work in this business was always the gold star for me. But with that said, when I was nominated and then selected I was really excited. One of the reasons why I was so excited is that I didn’t realize that a lot of the criteria has to do with community service. A lot of people think that [a walk of fame star] is just about how many movies or tv shows you’ve done, but there’s a criterion for community service and giving back to the community. That’s also where my heart lies. When it comes to our foundation, that made me feel great that that was part of the reason why I was being selected.
Many of us grew up watching you on Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Do you have a favorite episode? Are you rewatching with your kids?
PEETE – Actually, we binged the series in 2020. My kids are pretty grown now, but I said to them, “We’ve got a lot of time since we’re all up on top of each other.” We put the episodes on and we were laughing so hard. There were so many episodes that still to this day are hilarious. But If I had to choose one episode it’s one called “Down in the Dumps” where Vanessa lies to the guys about the lottery numbers. They have to go jump in a dumpster to find the winning lottery ticket and she gets Mexican food poured all over her. Top to bottom, that was my favorite episode.
We loved that you made a cameo in the 21 Jump Street movie in 2012. Do you have any other projects that you’d like to see rebooted or remade?
PEETE – I would love to see a drama of 21 Jump Street remade with me as the captain because when we last left Judy Hoffs she made detective and was rising up the ranks. I imagine she would be the captain now. And I do believe that Jump Street in its true form, the television show form, not the movie form, would be very popular right now if we recast it and rebranded it. I think it would be a smash hit. I would also love to see Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper rebooted. I talk about it with Raven-Symoné and Mark Curry all the time.
In addition to acting, you also serve as an executive producer for some of your recent Hallmark Channel movies. Is it more satisfying being in front of the camera or behind the scenes?
PEETE – I like a little bit of both, but I love being in executive producer mode. During the pandemic, I made 3-4 movies, and we were following Covid protocol and a lot of our executive producers couldn’t fly up to Canada. Sometimes I was the only executive producer on the set of some of the movies that we shot. I love to protect the actors and support the crew and be involved soup to nuts. As an EP, you’re involved from the inception of developing an idea all the way through to shooting it and you feel closer to a project.
Can you tell us some of the proud moments you’ve had with your work with the HollyRod Foundation?
PEETE – I’ve had so many. One of my top moments was completing RJ’s Place, which is a full-service compassionate care center for families dealing with Autism and Parkinson’s Disease. My dad had Parkinson’s, my brother has Parkinson’s, and of course, my son RJ is on the Autism spectrum, so being able to complete that and cut that ribbon was amazing.
What’s the secret to your long career?
PEETE – My mom, who was my manager for most of my career, always told me before I started any show, “Be good to the crew, and they will be good to you.” That was her mantra because she explained to me that when you leave a show, the crew is there and they go on to other shows and they’re the ones that take their experience with you to another show.
I always made an effort to treat the crew like family members. If there wasn’t a wrap party, I always threw it. I felt like the crew gets there before you, leaves after you, makes a lot less money, and doesn’t always get treated well. She told me that if you’re good to them, what happens over a period of time is that you develop a reputation. No matter what, I want the crew to know that it doesn’t get done without them.