Holly Robinson Rocks and Roles
By Cindy Pearlman
Holly Robinson sits in the studio of a Chicago radio station. Its 21 Jump Street Day – not your average city holiday – and, together with cast members Dustin Nguyen, Peter DeLuise, and Steven Williams, she’s taking calls from fans. The phone are ringing like crazy.
Robinson’s short hair emphasizes her sculptured cheekbones. She’s wearing her typical outfit of blue jeans, pink T-shirt, and black boots. She looks, well, gorgeous – the kind of girl who inspires male whiplash.
“Hello, this is Holly Robinson,” she says, punching up a call. “What can I tell you about all of us?”
“I just wanted to say I looove Peter DeLuise,” gushes the caller.
“Oh, you wouldn’t if you really knew him,” laughs Robinson. “He doesn’t wear clean socks.”
Holly and her pals are in Chicago as part of a citywide youth festival – and citywide pandemonium breaks out wherever these hip stars appear.
While Johnny Depp is the cool behind Jump Street, Robinson is the calm and collected. As she puts it, “In a medium like television, where most of the young women are blond and bubble gum, I’m just a little brown bird.”
Actually, Holly’s known for bucking the odds. Besides being one of the few young television actresses who is black, she’s also one of the few female stars who doesn’t play an airhead.
Come to think of it, playing a bubble-brain would be a real acting stretch: This brainy beauty graduated from prestigious Sarah Lawrence College, spent a year studying in Paris, and speaks three foreign languages.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Holly had an upbringing that was hardly what you’d call typical. Her father originated the role of Gordon on Sesame Street, and her mother was a public relations director at NBC-TV. The strain of both parents working long hours in New York City caused rifts that resulted in a divorce when Holly was six.
Three years later, her mother moved Holly and brother Matthew to Southern California, into the star-studded suburb of Malibu. “I’ve been friends with Rob Lowe, Sean Penn, and Charlie Sheen since we were all in grade school together,” she says casually. “Except back then they were geeks!”
After graduating from Santa Monica High, where Holly was an honors student, it was on to Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York. To Holly’s dismay, the press has made less of her intelligence than of an incident with classmate Robin Givens (of Mike Tyson fame). Givens said something nasty about Robinson’s mother, “so I punched her!” Holly remembers.
Her junior year, Robinson studied at the Sorbonne, where she developed a passion for rock music. She sang during semester breaks at resorts around the globe, then joined the group Cherry Bomb when she was a senior. Remember the band’s gig in the movie Howard The Duck? Neither do most people. The movie never hit big and her appearance was edited down to three minutes anyway.
“I was really disappointed that most of my part was cut,” Robinson says. But by then she was hooked on acting, and later that same year landed the role of Officer Judy Hoffs.
Actually she wasn’t exactly what the producers of 21 Jump Street envisioned. Originally, they wanted a white bread Susie Cream-cheese who giggles. But when they found Holly, they decided to rewrite the part of Judy with her mind.
These days, Robinson spends a lot of time in Vancouver, British Colombia, where 21 Jump Street is filmed. There, she’s found a community of friends with her fellow Jump Streeters.
“All the actors come from different walks of life,” she points out. “Johnny was a street kid. Dustin was one of the boat-people refugees from Vietnam. We’re all young. We count on each other. And we have a blast.” (Rumor has it they have some mean water pistol fights on the set.)
When she’s not acting or blowing off steam, Robinson’s heart is still in music. She sings the show’s theme song. And she’s psyched about the debut album she’s about to cut.
At the age of 24, Holly Robinson has got lots of other people singing, too – her praises that is.