Holly, perhaps best known for her roles as Judy Hoffs on the police drama “21 Jump Street” and Vanessa Russell on the ABC sitcom “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” stars alongside her husband, retired NFL player Rodney Peete, and their four kids (and her mom), on the reality series that documents their everyday life.
Robinson, who also served as one of the original co-hosts of the CBS daytime talk show “The Talk,” told us that this season is all about “transition,” as her daughter heads off to college and her autistic son RJ gains his independence.
“I’m screed to death to let him leave the house,” she said. “I’m so scared of him getting pulled over by a cop and the cop not understanding his quirkiness and taking that as noncompliance, and you know what happens then. So I’m petrified about it.”
Check out what else Holly had to say about how she has prepared her son on how to handle encounters with law enforcement, advocating for autism, and what viewers can expect to see this season on “For Peete’s Sake.”
This season is about transiting for you and Rodney, so what types of challenges will viewers see the Peete family experience?
HRP: The challenge is like you said, just change. For me personally, it’s about letting go. I have a little controlling issue, which my family loves to point out on television. So everybody has their own little agenda. I have mine as well. When so much change happens at once, it’s seismic and emotionally it’s hard to adjust to that. So that’s really what this season has been about. Between my daughter leaving home and my son trying to get his independence in the workforce and transitioning teenagers, it’s a lot going on. And then Rodney and I have been married for 22 years, so we have to fight to keep or marriage alive, healthy, spicy because so many times in these transition moments everyone’s moving so fast that we’re not taking care of ourselves and not nurturing and feeding our relationships. So lots of things going on at once.
Has participating on a reality TV series — allowing cameras and millions of viewers into your home, has this process been therapeutic for your family in any way?
HRP: Yes. it’s been a little bit cathartic. In other words, we have taken advantage of the opportunity to deal with some things that we have put off because we have the opportunity to make television, but we also want it to be authentic. For instance, finally putting my dad’s ashes to rest. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for fourteen long years. That was a moment to do something that I needed to do that I’ve been putting off that really help me unload a lot of emotional baggage. So that happening at the same time as this other transition, it was a lot emotionally, but I feel lighter as a result. So yes — we cathartically do this show. I have my own agenda in so many ways.
I’ve been trying to get Rodney Peete to get in front of his health, his cognitive, his emotional and all the things that football players and athletes go through when they retire. It’s a huge transition. I’ve been trying to get him in that space for ten years. I’ve been trying to get him to get that knee fixed for about five or six years — get an MRI, stay in front of your cognitive health, keep checking on your brain from your injuries from football. These are things that I have been nagging this man to do. So now i have the OWN network and national TV to help me nag, so it’s good TV that way. It’s authentic and it is very cathartic.
— Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete) March 3, 2017
Viewers are experiencing some of your children’s incredible milestones. Is this series allowing them to find and develop their own voice?
HRP: Yes. It’s about figuring out who you are. Figuring out what your next steps are in life and in this social media age, that’s all these guys do is click for likes. It’s all about branding. When I was Roman’s age, he just turned twelve, when I was twelve, I didn’t know nothing ‘bout no brand. Nobody talked about branding themselves or any of these things, but the kids nowadays, they really are looking to define who they are at a much earlier age than we did. This show has allowed them to see themselves in ways that are pretty cool.
Now a couple of them can’t watch themselves. The twins have a hard time watching themselves on TV. They enjoy the show but whenever they come on they leave the room. I know a lot of actors who don’t like watching themselves. But they like the advocacy that the show brings. They are very comfortable with the whole scenario of advocacy for kids with autism, for football players and their injuries.
A more minor issue is the other night, Robinson, my middle child, was cussing on the show. He’s a middle kid, he’s always trying to get attention, so half the time we just ignore him cause we find when we’re like, “Robinson, why are you cussing so much?,” we give him fuel and that makes him do it more. So we just use the reverse psychology and don’t pay attention to him. So he said “Damn,”… or something he said on the show last week, and on the OWN Facebook page they were going at it about Robinson cussing and we were cracking up. I showed Robinson and I said, “See how disrespectful that is? Now you got every black mom in America ready to give you a whopping.” We were cracking up about it because in some ways that was my way of shaming him into seeing that he needs to watch his mouth. I’m like, “if you’re going to want to do that on TV, then you’re going to get the consequences.”
Your son RJ is driving now. As a mother to black son with autism, have you had “the talk” with him about what to do and how to respond during encounters with police?
HRP: I’ve worked very hard to get my son to be very independent and now that’s he driving I’m screed to death to let him leave the house. We brought cops to the house and drilled him with real cops, not just mom and dad. We showed him where to put his hands, how to put his hands, what not to say, what to say — but he has autism, he’s different. He’s quirky. He kinda has no filter sometimes, or if he gets scared his whole body language changes. It’s scary but we wanted to use the show as a way to advocate to get more training with law enforcement. That law enforcement knows what autism looks like in the community and start to understand who these kids are. This is a very prevalent disorder that you’re gonna see if you’re cop. So we really are trying to advocate for that and get some laws made. I want to get an RJ’s Law made which basically would be get something on the DMV licenses and identification that can indicate that you’re on the autism spectrum and that might change the equation. That might change the moment.
We brought in Charles Kinsey and other policeman, and Charles Kinsey is the man who was shot by police in North Miami while he was trying to help a patient with autism. We feel like if the North Miami police officers had known what autism looked like, that they perhaps would not have fired their gun, or even drawn their guns. So we’re trying to spread advocacy for autism in the community. It’s one thing to have autism. It’s another thing to be black and have autism. So these are things that I’m so excited about for this season — being able to advocate for so many in the community who have no voice.
The other thing I wanna say is that I took my son to the local police department to meet everybody in his neighborhood and meet the cops that are on the beat. RJ likes to walk up and down the street with his hoodie on. He talks to himself sometimes. He runs for no reason. He does things that are different. So I will want them to notice this boy in the community and know what his issues are. Get to know him and maybe even roll down the window and say, “Hey RJ, how ya doing?” I mean, remember when cops used to do that? They actually knew people in the neighborhood and they said “Hi” — and Officer Joe was your guy if you needed something. We need to get back to that kind of community policing.
What advice do you have for parents who dismiss their kids as being “different,” or do not recognize that a child’s “quirkiness” may have an underlying issue?
HRP: The other day I went to church and I was given an award for Black History Month at a church down in L.A., and what was really cool was the young man in the church who presented me with the award was missing last week for four or five days. He had gotten lost. He has autism, and he had gotten lost and I was part of a group of autism advocates that went out of our way to find him, which I would do for any kids. But in our community, in the African-American community, our kids get diagnosed 3-5 years later with disorders like autism and we have to get in front of that because our kids are getting their services too late, if they can get services at all and it’s leaving them behind. It’s very important that we identify who these children are in our community with autism. That we as black people not be afraid of autism — not avoid it because of the stigma but that we advocate. This church, they have embraced this young man but other churches a lot of times will not have conversations about what autism looks like in our community and we have to work on that. We have to make our kids more of a priority.
Here’s what we tend to do, and I speak for myself and my family, if a child has difference or if he’s non-verbal, or if he does quirky things, many of us tend to say, “That’s just little Jojo. That’s just how he is.” Well, little Jojo needs intervention. Jojo has speech delays.” We sometimes tend to marginalize our kids and say, “That’s just who he is. He’s the quiet one.” Well he may have some bigger issues and that’s what we gotta start to recognize. I’m so proud to be able to advocate for all communities but especially communities of color where our children just need a lot of help.
Tune in to “For Peete’s Sake” Saturdays at 10/9c on OWN.
— HollyRod Foundation (@HollyRodFDN) March 2, 2017