Good Grief, it’s Charlie Brown’s Voice Actor Peter Robbins

A few weeks ago, Sensible Reason got a chance to interview with Peter Robbins, aka America’s favorite blockhead, Charlie Brown! It was early morning, Mr. Robbins has been traveling from convention to convention, but gave SR a ring to talk about Peanuts, being a child actor, and kicking footballs. It was a surreal moment hearing the man behind such an iconic and beloved character that has spanned the hearts from generation to generation.

SR: “Hi Mr. Robbins, whenever you’re ready we can start the interview.”

PR: [In a big enthusiastic voice, he replies] “I’M READY!”

SR: “You’re the voice of THE voice of the one and only Charlie Brown — when you were first introduced to the role, what was one of the first things you loved about the character?”

PR: “Not much! I was kinda disappointed he’d let a girl take his football from him and let him fall flat on his face! I lived on Newport Beach and was a child actor and I was in F Troop and Get Smart and the Munsters, and I just tried out for an audition for Charlie Brown and being the voice…actually I auditioned for all the voices but they thought I was the most depressed, anxiety ridden nine-year-old in America, so that’s how I got the part.”

SR: “So there wasn’t anything you identified with the character?”

PR: “Well, just as far as ‘whenever you fail to keep trying.’ That’s kind of Charlie Brown’s motto. Y’know, when he starts the baseball season, they lose the first game of the season and the last game of the season and all those games in-between; he’s always looking to his friend, Linus, to tell him the philosophy of ‘why am I depressed during Christmas, why do I keep getting rocks during Halloween time…and throughout all that, he [Charlie Brown] keeps a good attitude and persisting. That’s the thing I respect most about his character.”

SR: “There were so many beloved Charlie Brown holiday specials that get aired every year because they’re just a big family favorite, are there any that you still watch when they show reruns on TV?”

PR: “I try to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC and the Great Pumpkin. Those are my favorite. It featured the original cast. Linus was such a great voice too, and Lucy! There were several more later on that I had done…but I think there’s something special about the first two. They were magical and they run the test of time! They show it on network television every year. Many people tell me: it’s not Christmas time until Charlie Brown Christmas is on TV!”

SR: Did you ever get to meet Charles M. Schulz and how was that experience?”

PR: “I did! I found him to be a very introverted kind of philosopher, and was very nice to me…he was a doodler — he got in his studio and do his drawings. I think he became a kind of extrovert, so to speak, through his Peanuts comic strips.”

SR: “Having many parts in cinema as a child actor, was there any role in tv shows, films, or shorts that was your favorite?”

PR: “I was in Get Smart which was a fantasy for me because I got to play Doctor T, the boy genius, and work with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.”

SR: “So I’m getting the vibe that you preferred playing more eccentric and larger than life parts?”

PR: “Well, being a child actor, you’re sort of a product of your mother taking you to lots of interviews and going to meet people but it was a great experience — I got my first motion picture role when I was just six called “A Ticklish Affair”, and got to star with Shirley Jones, Gig Young, Red Buttons, and Caroline Jones from Addams Family…so when I would do these roles I instantly fell in love with my mother figure, whoever she might be. It was just a fantasy getting to different characters in these series that you watch at home; about 1962 to 1970, I worked a lot of shows and single parts than any other child actor so I wasn’t stuck in one particular role for one time.”

SR: “I know millions of people out there who want to also become iconic voice actors who aren’t really sure how the business works — what kinds of struggles and challenges did you come across as a child voice, tv, and film star then transitioning into adulthood?”

PR: “I started when I was eight-months-old in an ivory soap bar commercial so I really didn’t know anything else growing up. When I was sixteen, my mother passed away and I was kind of just in that business for her…so I got a good education, I went to the University of California in San Diego. I tried to follow in my father’s footsteps, he was a doctor, but that didn’t work out. So then I worked in the cable TV business, I worked in radio for a while — I was a DJ. It was a rock station from midnight to 5:30 a.m. in Palm Springs, California. Yeah, I was up with the rockers, and stalkers, and midnight people. And then I opened up my own “Good Grief Boutique” in Irvine, California where I sold Peanuts merchandise, which was on fun for a while, but I was in one of those small kiosks — so with all the sun damage, rain, and winters, it wasn’t sustainable for me. Then I got involved in real estate. I did some work for the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project. They have a camp called “Good Grief”, which is for the children that lost a parent in the war. It was rewarding. I also got hooked up with a guy that sells celebrity autographs — the tracked me down and I’ve started going to these comic cons!”

SR: “I’ve got to ask before we wrap things up: is there anything YOU wanted to happen with the Charlie Brown character in the Peanut series that never did?”

PR: “YEAH! I’d like to kick that football!”

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