Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Holly Robinson Peete On Why ‘Morning Show Murders’ is ‘My Secret Fantasy’ Role [EUR Exclusive]

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Photo: Al Roker, Holly Robinson Peete Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

*Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has teamed with award-winning TV personality Al Roker for a development deal based on his acclaimed novel “The Midnight Show Murders: A Billy Blessing Novel.”

Morning Show Mysterystarring Holly Robinson Peete and Rick Fox premieres revolves around a fictional TV morning show similar to Hallmark’s “Home & Family.” Billy Blessing (Robinson Peete) is the food anchor for the show and owner of a successful local bistro. After the mysterious death of one of the network execs, Billy’s life takes a turn as she becomes the main suspect in the murder investigation and is forced to investigate to clear her name.

“Billie’s someone who does a lot in her life and wears many hats. She’s very family oriented and she runs a restaurant that was owned by her late father. She’s someone who is very approachable and likable but she’s also very nosey and is always in somebody’s business, much like me,” Robinson Peete tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report. “And she’s also somebody who has a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. She has a lot of integrity. So when she comes up as a suspect in this morning show mystery, she has to defend herself and that brings a lot of twists and turns.”

“The Morning Show Murders” novel is the first in a series of murder mysteries from America’s most famous weather anchor.

“Al is a multi-tasking mogul and it’s funny how this all came together. I was looking to do some development with Hallmark Channel as well as Hallmark Movies and Mysteries and we were looking for a vehicle for me and then Al had his novels. There are three of them now and he optioned them to Hallmark,” she explains, noting that Roker also was involved with “writing the actual script.”

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Photo: Holly Robinson Peete, Rick Fox Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

“I loved the script when they sent it to me. I thought it was really approachable, fun and had intrigue. And I think she’s going to be somebody that’s going to be fun to play. My good friend Lori Loughlin, who’s on “Garage Sale Mystery” for Hallmark movies is on her like, I think, 13th movie, and so you sign up with the thought of, “I could be doing this more than once.” So you want to love the character and you want her to be someone who’s going to be fun to play, or else, nothing’s fun. So I fell in love with Billie Blessings when I read the script but now that I’ve had a chance to play her, I like her even more.”

All eyes are on Billie Blessings as the prime suspect in the murder of her local morning show’s executive producer, especially those of local cop Ian Jackson (Fox), with whom she has a complicated history.

“They both definitely were attracted to each other and dated and then life took them in different directions,” she states. “I’d say Billie was very guarded about moving forward in her romantic life and she’s definitely extremely focused on career and the restaurant, and so, does she have space and time for a relationship right now? I’m not sure if she does. I think Ian is definitely a little bit more gung-ho to try to pursue this and we’ll see where that leads.”

Since retiring from the NBA, Fox star has appeared in dozens of film and television projects. But the biggest role of his early acting career is that of prison inmate Jackson Vahue on the HBO prison drama “Oz.” He appeared in 11 episodes of the show between 1997 and 2003. 

“I was so excited when I heard that Rick was going to play this part. He’s such a good actor. He’s really been working on his craft. He was my love interest on a sitcom I did very briefly, called “Love Inc.,” so that was familiar territory for me and very exciting to be able to work with someone that I knew already. We already had the chemistry.”

The heart of “Morning Show Mystery” is “really about constantly speaking up for yourself and defending who you are,” says Robinson Peete, because Billie must work quickly and discreetly, with a couple of trusted colleagues assisting her, to figure out who put cyanide into one of her signature cakes and had it delivered to the victim in her name.

Photo: Holly Robinson Peete Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

Holly Robinson Peete is perhaps best known for her roles on the TV police drama “21 Jump Street” and the comedy series “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.” She also served as one of the original co-hosts of the CBS daytime talk show “The Talk.” Her children’s book, “My Brother Charlie,” won her an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in March 2011. 

After her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Robinson and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, co-founded the HollyRod Foundation, which is dedicated to helping find a cure for the disease, as well as for autism, and assist those living with the conditions. 

The Peetes have four children, and their teen son Rodney Jr. was diagnosed with autism at age 3. The entire family is set to star in “Meet the Peetes,” Hallmark Channel’s first-ever docuseries, premiering Sunday, February 18.

In the meantime, catch her on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries as Billie Blessings, who goes from beloved chef and talk show host to cold-blooded murder suspect.

“I felt comfortable with all three aspects of Billie’s personality from the talk show to the restaurant to getting herself out of hot water and advocating for herself. I am a foodie. I wouldn’t call myself a chef but I absolutely love to cook and I’m fascinated with Food Network-type shows. So for me, it was easy to be excited about the foodie expert element of who Billie Blessings is. I did “The Talk.” I was very good at it and I enjoyed the actual job. I didn’t so much enjoy that particular production but I really did enjoy that live talk show connection. So I felt very comfortable playing a talk show host,” Robinson Peete shares.

“And as far as the detective part, that would be where the nosiness in me comes in. I’m always up in somebody’s Kool-aid trying to figure something out. So I definitely felt connected to trying to get to the bottom of something. My husband is always telling me, “You just need to know too many details about everything.” The other thing about Billie is she’s really family oriented. She was a fierce protector of the legacy of her father and I am like that too.”

Photo: Holly Robinson Peete, Rick Fox Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

“My dad was somebody who was very important in my life and, as you may already know, he was the first Gordon on “Sesame Street” and really broke some barriers and I’m always out there posting about him and keeping his legacy alive and Billie’s the same way. Her father was an ex-cop but his dream was to open a restaurant. She could be an A-list talk show host but her focus is on trying to keep that restaurant going in the name of her father. She has her priorities in line and especially when it comes to protecting her dad’s legacy. So I feel very connected to her in a lot of ways. She’s not a mom and it’s fun to play somebody who’s not a mom when you have so many kids. You just can lose yourself in the fact that, “Oh, it’s just me? Oh, okay….”. So there’s part of me that enjoyed playing a single person. That was a stretch but that was kind of my secret fantasy. It was fun to play her in that element.”

Peete admits that when she was cast in the project, she hit up a couple of her longtime colleagues who are Hallmark Murder Mystery stars for a bit of advice on what to expect as the lead on a mystery film series.

“I got some great face-time with my friends who are Murder Mystery stars, Ally Sweeney, Lori Loughlin, Candace Cameron Bure. They are people I’ve known for decades so when I first was cast in this great movie series, I asked all of them for advice and they all gave great advice but Ally especially gave me excellent advice, saying that: “You’re #1 on the call sheet and I don’t know when the last time you were #1 on the call sheet but that means you’re in every single scene. So get ready to have a very turnkey personality and attitude. You’re not going to have much time memorizing your lines so your mom-ing, delegate all that to dad while you’re on location working because you’re really not going to be able to do anything else but focus on this character and this show while you’re shooting this.”

“That was very good advice and boy was she right. It was a little bit overwhelming having to be in every single scene, making sure you have your lines for the next scene and all of those things. The prep that I got and tips that I got from Lori and Ally, especially, were invaluable and everything they said came true. One of the tips I also asked them for was playing these sort of formulaic mysteries, how do you keep it fresh? I’ve only done one movie but they’ve already written the script for the second film, which is awesome. So getting back into it and reinventing yourself as a character a couple of times in a row, how do you keep it fresh? They gave me some really good advice: just get really excited about who you’re playing and constantly know that you’ve gotta save yourself and you’ve gotta advocate for yourself. It’s just really about constantly speaking up for yourself and defending who you are. It might not necessarily be Billie who’s a suspect, but it might be someone she loves or cares for and so it’s constantly advocating for yourself and for those that you love.”

“Morning Show Murders” premieres Sunday, January 21 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.




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