American actress and singer Nia Peeples was shot to prominence with her portrayal of performing arts student Nicole Chapman on the 1980’s popular syndicated series “Fame,” a role she played from 1984 to 1987. She continued to have regular roles in the CBS short-lived shows “Courthouse” (1995) and “Crisis Center” (1997) and in the network's hit drama “Walker, Texas Ranger” (1999-2001), where she played Texas Ranger Sydney Cooke. More recently, she is recognized by TV audiences as Karen Taylor on the long running soap opera “The Young and the Restless” (2007-present). Peeples has also acted in many TV films and guest starred in such TV series as “General Hospital,” “Matlock,” “Nasty Boys,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Early Edition,” “The Division” and “Barbershop.” Making her feature film acting debut in 1987's “North Shore,” the diminutive dark-haired beauty has since appeared in “DeepStar Six” (1989), “I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore” (1992), “Improper Conduct” (1995), “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998), “The Riff” (2001) and “Half Past Dead” (2002). On the music front, Peeples launched the albums “Nothin' But Trouble” (1988), “Nia Peeples” (1991) and “Songs of the Cinema” (2007), and had two hits with the singles “Trouble” (1988, #35) and “Street Of Dreams” (1991, #12). Back to movies, Peebles will play roles in the upcoming “The Outside” (2009), “Between Heaven and Earth” (2009), “Citizen Jane” (2009, TV) and “Firedog” (2010, as the voice of Haley).
Peeples, who became part of the performing troupe “The Young Americans” early in her career, has also hosted several TV shows, including the British music series “Top of the Pops” (1987) and the late night program “The Party Machine with Nia Peeples” (1991).
As for her personal life, Peeples has been married and divorced three times. She is the mother of two, son Christopher (born in 1990, father is singer Howard Hewett) and daughter Sienna Noelle Peeples Chartrand (born in 1998, father is third husband Lauro Chartrand).
Childhood and Family:
Virenia Gwendolyn Peeples, who would later be popular as Nia Peeples, was born on December 10, 1961, in Hollywood, California. Her father, Robert (an artist), is of Scottish, Italian, Irish and Native American lineage. Her mother, Elizabeth Peeples (a flamingo dancer), is of Filipino, Spanish and German heritage. Nia was raised in West Covina, California, along with her sisters Cynthia and Paula. When she was 8 years old, Nia performed concerts with her family for community groups and conventions and did dances of different cultures.
Nia attended West Covina High School in West Covina, California. An active student, she was in the marching band and on the cheerleading squad. She also participated in volleyball, student government, the choir, and sang with a rock 'n roll band. She earned recognition for her performance as Bloody Mary in a school production of “South Pacific.” Also an A student, Nia received a music scholarship to the University of California Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California. She majored in voice for a semester before leaving school to pursue a career in performing. Nia also studied singing with Gloria Rush and the Sanford Meisner acting technique at Playhouse West.
At age 23, on May 26, 1984, Nia married actor Guy Ecker. They divorced in 1986. Nia married singer Howard Hewett in 1989. The marriage, however, ended in divorce in 1993 after producing one child, Christopher (born in 1990). Undaunted with the failure of her two previous marriages, Nia married stuntman and actor Lauro Chartrand on November 22, 1997. The couple welcomed a daughter named Sienna Noelle Peeples Chartrand on November 11, 1998. However, on June 1, 2004, they divorced.
In her spare time, Nia enjoys hiking, rollerblading, skiing, and tandem surfing. She also participates in many charities.
Nia Peeples began performing as a child and later with the performing troupe “The Young Americans,” with whom she toured Japan and Korea. She also opened for Liberace on several occasions in Las Vegas on weekends and performed on Liberace's cable-aired Christmas special in 1980. Thanks to her singing ability, Peeples got a role as a young singer on the 13-part series “Music Shoppe” (1981), which aired in Europe. The same year, she also appeared on HBO's “A Single Light,” playing a deaf girl. More acting jobs followed, including guest spots in such television shows as “Tales of the Gold Monkey,” “Hardcastle and McCormic” and “T.J. Hooker,” and a recurring role on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital,” where she played Carla Escobar, a high school track star with a leg injury.
Peeples' big break came when she auditioned for and won the role of Nicole Chapman on the syndication drama series “Fame,” whose regular cast also included Debbie Allen, Albert Hague, Carol Mayo Jenkins, Lee Curreri, Erica Gimpel, Carlo Imperato, Valerie Landsburg, Gene Anthony Ray and Lori Singer. From season 4 to 6 (1984-1987), she charmed audiences with her vocal and dance talent and her acting ability via her portrayal of the sensitive, but strong-willed, performing arts pupil. Her character was killed off in 1987 in a drunken driving accident, which received an overwhelming response from audiences.
Shortly after leaving the series, Peeples made her feature acting debut in the William Phelps-directed drama “North Shore” (1987). Also in 1987, Peeples was hired to host the music show “Top of the Pops” (1987-1988) on CBS. She would later appear in shows like “The Party Machine with Nia Peeples” (1991), “Heroes: The Mystique, the Movies, the Men” (1998) and “It's a Miracle” (1999).
In 1988, Peeples released her debut album, “Nothin' But Trouble.” It spawned the popular single “Trouble,” which rose to No. 1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. A year later, she returned to acting in the horror film “DeepStar Six” (1989), opposite Taurean Blacque, Greg Evigan and Miguel Ferrer. It was followed by appearances in the NBC TV film “Swimsuit” and in an episode of “Matlock” (1989), in which she played Morgan Gerard, a winner of a beauty pageant who is charged with killing a fellow contestant. She also had a recurring role on the NBC cop series “Nasty Boys,” portraying the wife of Benjamin Bratt.
Peeples launched a self-tiled sophomore album in 1991. The single “Street Of Dreams” peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking her most successful single to date. She, however, did not release another album until 2007's “Songs of the Cinema.”
Peeples kept busy acting. In the early 1990s, she could be seen in episodes of “The New WKRP in Cincinnati” (1992), “Highlander” (1994), “Touched by an Angel” (1994) and “Marker” (1995), and TV movies like “Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer” (1990),”My Name Is Kate” (1994), “XXX's & OOO's” (1994) and “Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14” (1995). She also appeared in the TV miniseries “Return to Lonesome Dove” (1993), where she played Agostina Vega. During this period, she worked on two feature films, “I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore” (1992), an independent comedy in which she starred as a psychology student named Theresa Garabaldi, and “Improper Conduct” (1995), an independent thriller from director Jag Mundhra.
Peeples returned to series TV as a regular in the short-lived CBS drama “Courthouse” (1995), in which she was cast as Veronica Gilbert, a dedicated public defender. She next portrayed Lily Gannon in the CBS medical Emmy nominated series “Crisis Center” (1997), which also had a short life. In between the two series, she starred with Ron Perlman, Rutger Hauer and Wil Wheaton in the Sci-Fi Channel TV film “Mr. Stitch” (1995), with Doug Savant and Michael Ironside in NBC's television movie “Robin Cook's 'Terminal,’” (1996) and in the USA Network's “Bloodhounds II” (1996). She also teamed up with Patrick Dempsey, Roxanne Beckford and Michael Ralph in the made-for-TV “Odd Jobs” (NBC) and played Sister Mary in an episode of “Early Edition” called “Angels and Devils” (both 1997).
After “Crisis Center,” Peeples supported Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst in the Disney production “Tower of Terror” (1997), which aired on ABC, was featured in John Landis' “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998), a sequel to the 1980 cult classic “The Blues Brothers,” and appeared with James Caan, Dina Meyer and David Keith in the HBO television film “Poodle Springs” (1998). In 1999, she joined the cast of the CBS hit police drama “Walker, Texas Ranger” in the regular role of undercover officer Sydney Cooke, a role she held until 2001.
Peeples starred with then-husband Lauro Chartrand in the short film “Bruised” (2001). She next portrayed Heather Anderson in the American Black Film Festival's Lincoln Filmmakers Trophy winner “The Riff” (2001), starred as Pearl Empress in a TV pilot “The Chang Family Saves the World” (2002), and offered a notable performance in the thriller “Half Past Dead” (2002), which was written and directed by Don Michael Paul and starred Steven Seagal. Following a short hiatus, she resurfaced in 2004 with Lifetime's TV film “The Coven” and in an episode of “Andromeda.” She also appeared in the recurring role of Sandra Prestiss in two episodes of Lifetime's series “The Division.” The next year saw roles in “Inside Out,” a thriller from writer/director David Ogden, “Sub Zero,” a direct-to-video release, and Showtime's sitcom “Barbershop,” where she had a three-episode role as Detective Hahanna.
After working in the TV series pilots “Alpha Mom” and “Special Unit” (both 2006), the direct-to-video “Connors' War” (2006) and the pilot episode of “Arwin,” (2007), Peeples began her role of Karen Taylor on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless” in April 2007. The role brought the lovely actress a 2009 Image nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series.
Peeples will play Joanne Blakey in the drama film “The Outside” (2009), written and directed by Ari Davis, and Denise in the dramatic family film “Between Heaven and Earth” (2009), opposite Lynda Carter, Obba Babatundé, Hope Riley and Nina Fehren. Her voice can also be heard as Haley in “Firedog” (2010), alongside the voices of Tom Arnold, Lauren Bacall and Tom Berenger. On the small screen, she will portray Evelyn in the mystery film “Citizen Jane” (2009), which is being directed by Armand Mastroianni and stars Ally Sheedy as Jane. Other costars include Sean Patrick Flanery, Meat Loaf, Jon Polito, Robert Curtis Brown and Andrew Patrick Ralston.