Brow Beat

Peggy Lipton, Star of The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks, Has Died at 72

Peggy Lipton smiling on a red carpet.
Peggy Lipton attending the Elle Women in Hollywood Dinner in 2012.
Fred Prouser/Reuters

Actress Peggy Lipton has died from cancer at the age of 72, the Los Angeles Times reports. Lipton, a former model who rose to fame with a starring role on ABC’s The Mod Squad, was best known in recent years for her role as restaurateur Norma Jennings on Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return. Lipton’s daughters from her marriage to music producer Quincy Jones, Kidada and Rashida Jones, announced her death in a statement.

Lipton, who hailed from New York, started modeling at the age of 15. At 21, she landed the role of Julia Barnes on The Mod Squad, a 60-minute drama in which she played one of a trio of counterculture dropouts who find work as undercover cops. The show, which was groundbreaking in its day both for its attempts to address the counterculture and its interracial cast, ran on ABC from 1968 to 1973 and made Lipton a star:

Lipton won a Golden Globe for best actress for her work on The Mod Squad in 1971, and leveraged her fame to pursue a music career, recording hit versions of Laura Nyro’s songs “Stoney End” and “Lu” and Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.” But by The Mod Squad’s fifth season, Lipton was sick of the show and sick of Hollywood:

There’s a small town atmosphere here that makes it impossible to enjoy any degree of anonymity. Everything you do is noticed, made note of. You dine out with a man and you are penetrated by eyeballs across the room. It’s a place where you can never achieve any degree of privacy, but where loneliness constantly engulfs you.

After marrying producer Quincy Jones in 1974, Lipton retired from show business to focus on her family, raising daughters Kidada and Rashida Jones, both of whom went on to become actors in their own right. Retirement suited her just fine, as she explained in a 1979 interview she gave while making a rare appearance in a Mod Squad reunion.

I would compare the way I used to feel to having a blender turned on inside me. I was unsettled, now I’m calm. … And if I had to make a choice between working and being with my family, it would be my family.

In 1989, Lipton divorced Jones and returned to acting professionally, landing the role of Norma Jennings, owner and proprietor of the Double R Diner, on David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking drama Twin Peaks. Lipton’s character served as a maternal figure for several of the town’s lost souls, while her doomed romance with her former high-school sweetheart Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) provided some of the show’s soap opera bubbles:

Lipton continued working in film and television the years following Twin Peaks, making several TV movies and appearing in recurring roles on Popular, Alias, and Crash. She also stopped by her daughter Rashida’s show Angie Tribeca a couple of times to play her mother. And in 2017, she and Everett McGill inspired Lynch and Frost to dizzy heights of romanticism in a show that didn’t have much room for dizzy heights of romanticism: Twin Peaks: The Return. Norma Jennings’ reunion with Ed Hurley is one of the great kisses in the history of acting:

In 1990, as Twin Peaks thrust Lipton back in the spotlight after a long hiatus, she explained how it felt to be returning to work after so long:

It was great, but I was scared. It’s true for any woman because your sense of yourself has changed so much. My whole energy has changed. But you have a great advantage: You know yourself better.