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10 Quick Questions for Holly Robinson Peete

‘Holiday Heritage’ star is a big fan of positive programming

spinner image holly robinson peete on gray background
Steve Wilkie/Hallmark

Holly Robinson Peete, 58, began her acting career at just 5 years old on the set of Sesame Street and went on to play memorable characters on the hit shows 21 Jump Street and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. She’s also a Hallmark movie veteran, and her latest, Holiday Heritage, is the first Hallmark production with a plotline about celebrating Kwanzaa. 

Your father, Matt Robinson, was the original Gordon on Sesame Street, and that show was also your TV debut. Did you always know that you wanted to act?

The irony is that my dad didn’t want me to be on the show. I was devastated at 5 years old. Sesame Street, as it is today, was a monster hit. He didn't want me to be that showbiz kid. But once I got those lights on me and met Big Bird and Cookie Monster, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Do you have a fun, behind-the-scenes Sesame Street story you could share?

They taped Sesame Street in New York, but everyone came to [our house in Philadelphia] for this party, and Caroll Spinney was there. He [voiced] Oscar and Big Bird. He passed away recently, but I got the chance to talk to him [when I was 6]. He would go back and forth from the voice of Oscar to the voice of Big Bird. It was, I think, the most amazing conversation I've ever had in my life.

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You’ve appeared in nine Hallmark productions. What’s the best part of the experience?

The best part about starring in Hallmark films is the fan base. … They’re so loyal, they’re so dedicated, they understand the mission of Hallmark Channel and the mission of these movies — especially the Christmas movies, where there’s a happy ending. But it’s positive, uplifting and aspirational programming. And it’s something that always makes you feel good. … It makes people look at you as part of this family. And you’re synonymous with positivity, you’re synonymous with good feelings, happy endings — all of that stuff. … And everywhere I go, someone has a story about how one of my movies made them feel or how they connected to it. And that’s a great feeling as an actor and a content creator.

Holiday Heritage is about celebrating Kwanzaa. Do you celebrate?

I have been celebrating since the kids were born. I love this holiday. It is really all about community, ancestry, appreciating your roots and coming together as a family and a culture. I absolutely love Kwanzaa. … I wanted [Hallmark] to do a movie about Kwanzaa for some time now, so to be able to be in this movie was a total treat.

Last year, you starred in Hallmark’s Our Christmas Journey, playing the mom of a son with autism. How meaningful was that role for you?

That was one of the highlights of my Hallmark career. I wasn’t just an actor in it. [In real life] I’m a mom of a son with autism, and I run a foundation for autism [the HollyRod Foundation], so it was a very personal project. I also got to be the executive producer, which means I had a hand in the casting. I made sure that we cast someone from the autism community to play the role [of my son]. Nik Sanchez was phenomenal.

spinner image jennie esnard, lyndie greenwood and holly robinson peete in a still from holiday heritage
Holly Robinson Peete stars alongside Jennie Esnard and Lyndie Greenwood in the new Hallmark movie "Holiday Heritage."
Albert Camicioli/Hallmark

You’re fluent in French and once lived in Paris. How often do you get to use your language skills?

I've been trying to pitch a Hallmark movie to take me to Paris. I’ve got all the fluency, but I’ve never really used it. I’m hoping my next Christmas movie will be somewhere in Paris, where we can see me speaking and putting some of [my] French degree to work.

Your husband, Rodney Peete, 56, is a former NFL quarterback. Does the Peete family play sports together?

We play sports all the time. We are very sports-centric. We play a lot of baseball. My son works for the [L.A.] Dodgers. My other son was a phenomenal baseball player. And so it’s all sports, all the time at our house: basketball, football, baseball, golf. 

21 Jump Street just celebrated 35 years since its 1987 release. Do you keep up with your costars?

I do. I keep up with all of them, as a matter of fact. Johnny [Depp]'s probably the one that I haven't seen as much. … I call him a citizen of the universe, so he's kind of everywhere. But Peter DeLuise and I just got together last year in Vancouver. … I just love him so much, and he's a big director up in Canada. Dustin Nguyen … and I are still joined at the hip, and he’s making movies all over the world and producing. And Steven Williams … came to my Hollywood [Walk of Fame] star ceremony this summer, and that meant the world to me. 

Congrats on getting your star. What was that experience like?

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It was amazing to celebrate that moment and have that tangible star on that Walk of Fame. I walked [there] as a little girl. I never dreamed of being there. Fast-forward 50 years: It was an awesome feeling and a day I’ll never forget.

Your career is flourishing. Has it gotten better with age?

I remember being in my 30s and 40s hustling, thinking, When I’m in my 50s, I’m not going to get this kind of work opportunity. [Now] I’ve got that 50s wisdom, and I’m still working in a business that I’ve grown up in. So I would say yes, it definitely gets better with age.


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