Fans were shocked when the CBS daytime show, The Talk, decided not to renew original co-hosts Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete’s contracts. Even months later, viewers continue to wonder what happened to the missing stars and now one of them breaks her silence.
While reports of her impending departure along with Remini broke in late August, Peete says that no one at the show that she helped to make successful would tell her anything.
“Usually when you get fired, your boss brings you in, sits you down and tells you why they can’t keep you,” Peete, 47, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They say we have to downsize or you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. I was never given that opportunity.”
“So, I just started hearing rumors that other people were hired,” she continues. “So, I’m like, ‘That’s going to be a crowded table.’ And I couldn’t get anything from my agents, no one could get anything from anybody – just that I wasn’t released [from my contract]. It was the most peculiar situation.”
It wasn’t until about two days before the show’s Season 2 was about to launch in September when Peete was officially informed she wasn’t coming back and even then she didn’t know why.
“I tuned into the show thinking I may hear something about why there, and of course, I heard nothing,” she says. “It was a very, very frustrating time – the most frustrating time of my professional life.”
That says a lot for an actress who has been working in Hollywood since the late-80s when she starred on the hit show, 21 Jump Street, on Fox. Since then, she has starred in several other shows including Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, One on One, For Your Love, Like Family, and Love, Inc.
Since the time she was let go from The Talk, Peete has given a lot of thought about the factors that were involved in the decision to let her go.
“The main issue with The Talk is when you have somebody who’s in a power position and who can make decisions, there’s not a lot of recourse, there’s not a lot of discussion,” she says. “And so because of that, they can pretty much do what they want.”
Peete chooses not to confirm reports that her former co-host Julie Chen, who also happens to be married to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, had something to do with her dismissal from the show.
“Still to this day, I don’t know,” she says about the reason her contract wasn’t renewed. “I speculate in my mind, but in trying to move forward all I can say is, ‘Hey, is it because of my performance?’ I don’t think so.”
The way the network and her colleagues have treated Peete is one thing (Sara Gilbert is the only one of the remaining original co-hosts who has reached out to her since her dismissal), but the actress says that the way they treated their viewers in the wake of her and Remini’s departure is a whole other level of failure.
“We had developed these real relationships and the audience connected to it,” Peete explains. “We were like mommy, friends, sister-friends and when the show decided it didn’t need to offer an explanation, people were mad.”
“And that’s what you were seeing, that’s what Leah and I saw,” she continues. “If anything I was lifted by it. I wasn’t happy about the decision, but it’s always great to see people go ‘Wait a second, I’m just as mad as you.’ I was surprised at how passionate people were and remain passionate -- they are not giving up!”
The show’s format was developed with who Peete calls “mom bloggers.” And what made The Talk different from ABC’s The View in the actress’ mind was that not only did they search out the views of these “mom bloggers,” but that the hosts who became regulars by the end of the season were all moms themselves. And she says the No. 1 thing that the bloggers wanted from her and her colleagues was that they “keep it real.”
“So, when those same mom bloggers wondered what happened to those two girls who we’ve connected with and they got stonewalled by the network PR machine, they got pissed,” she says. “They helped to make the show and they felt disrespected.”
Season 2 found CBS booking guest co-hosts to fill the seats along with newly hired regular co-host, comedian Sheryl Underwood. Just last week, actress and comedian Aisha Tyler also joined as a permanent co-host. Peete says she has nothing against the new hires, that she respects their work, and feels it was unfair that they had to join the show under the circumstances of her and Remini’s unexplained departure. But, Peete also thinks that their hiring represents a new direction for the show on Season 2.
“I feel bad for [Sara], because I think about her original concept for the show. I don’t know where that is now,” she says. “I mean the two ladies they brought on are fantastic and great TV personalities, but they’re not moms. So, I guess they abandoned the whole mom brand. That was Sara’s initial concept. I haven’t really spoken to her much since, so I don’t know what she thinks about that concept being dismantled.”
Regardless, life must go on and sometimes it can take an ironic turn as a new gig brings Peete back to the network that had treated her so unkindly. Her multiple episode arc on the CBS hit comedy from showrunner Chuck Lorre, Mike & Molly, begins on Monday.
“All you can do is control how you respond,” Peete tells THR of the lessons she has learned from her experience with The Talk. “And my major response to you and to everyone is that I’m not going to lie and say it was great the way it happened, but I’m also going to say that it was a great opportunity to get my feet wet in a genre I’ve been wanting to be in. And that is the best part of this.”
“Now, I know I can do this,” she adds. “And I can move forward to try and find something else.”
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro