Melissa Peterman (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Meet Melissa Peterman: From Barbra Jean on 'Reba' to a Decades-Long Friendship with Reba McEntire


Since lighting up the screen for six seasons as the lovable buffoon Barbra Jean on Reba, Melissa Peterman has joined the ranks of sitcom legends. The actress and comedian followed up her most famous role with memorable gigs hosting reality competition shows such as The Singing Bee, and touring with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, George Strait and, of course, Reba McEntire. Peterman and the Queen of Country have maintained an unbreakable bond since Reba's 2007 finale, and they show no sign of slowing their creative partnership. In a January 2023 interview promoting their Lifetime movie The Hammer, the pair teased that a Reba reboot was imminent. And with McEntire taking over for Blake Shelton on The Voice, it's safe to assume the country legend will invite her right-hand woman to the show for some extra-special bits.

From her early acting roles to her role of a lifetime as Reba McEntire's trusted friend, here's everything you need to know about Melissa Peterman.

She's a Midwesterner at Heart

Young Melissa Peterman. (Melissa Peterman via Instagram)

Peterman was born in Edina, Minnesota, and grew up in Burnsville, just outside of Minneapolis. She is the youngest of two girls, sharing a close bond with her sister, Juli. In 2021, Peterman honored her sister with a sweet, characteristically cheeky birthday message on Instagram. The actress posted a collection of childhood photos set to McEntire's "My Sister," writing in the caption: "Happy Birthday Juli! Sorry I ruined your whole 'only child' plan....and for never returning that Express sweater....I hope this song I had Reba write for you will make up for it all...(Reba if you are seeing this, just roll with it)."

Upon graduating from Minnesota State University with a degree in theater, Peterman acted in local stage productions. She honed her improv skills at Minneapolis' iconic Brave New Workshop -- the nation's longest-running sketch and improv comedy theater, which has fostered the talents of Mad TV alums Mo Collins, Carl Lumbly and Penn Jillette. Peterman made her feature film debut in the Coen brothers' Oscar-winning Fargo, in which she played a small but memorable role as "Hooker #2."


Her Breakthrough Role on Reba

Melissa Peterman as Barba Jean on Reba. (Image via IMDb)

In 2001, Peterman was cast as Barbra Jean Booker-Hart in McEntire's sitcom Reba, starring opposite the Queen of Country. The show quickly became a smash hit, thanks in no small part to Peterman's hilarious portrayal of the lovable airhead Barbra Jean. Reba would end its six-season run in 2007, but Barbra Jean lives on as one of TV's most iconic characters. Besides, Peterman and McEntire are determined to reprise their roles in a Reba reboot. In a January interview, the pair teased that a return to the sitcom was all but guaranteed: "We've been working on [a reboot] for several years now," McEntire said. "The cast is eager and hoping."

Read: More Barbra Jean clownery is on the way.

Family Life

Melissa Peterman, her husband, John Brady, and their son, Riley. (Melissa Peterman via Instagram)

In 1999, Peterman married actor John Brady, who would go on to guest star in episodes of Reba in 2002. Peterman's social media profiles are filled with hilarious videos of the couple's antics -- from John's failed trombone career to that time they attended one of McEntire's concerts with a Reba-on-a-stick sign in tow. But it's not all fun and games for Peterman, who posted a heartfelt birthday tribute to her hubby on Facebook last year, writing in the caption, "In a world that can break your heart, I'm real glad I married John Brady." The couple share 17-year-old son Riley David Brady.

Life After Reba

Melissa Peterman in Hall Out the Holly. (Hallmark Network)

Peterman followed up her storied run as Barbra Jean with roles in comedy films and TV series. She appeared alongside the late, great Ed Asner on CMT's Working Class, which she also produced. From 2012 to 2017, she starred in the People's Choice Award-winning ABC comedy Baby Daddy. Peterman also had a recurring role on CBS' Big Bang Theory prequel series Young Sheldon, which aired from 2018 to 2023. The TV veteran made the jump to Hallmark movies with memorable roles in the Tia Mowry-starrer A Gingerbread Romance, and in the popular 2022 Christmas comedy Haul Out the Holly, led by Lacey Chabert. Then, in January 2023, fans got a mini Reba reunion when Peterman starred as McEntire's brothel-owning sister accused of murder in the Lifetime movie The Hammer.


In addition to her acting roles, Peterman is a bonafide hostess with the mostest, proving her reality show mettle while helming a collection of competition series including CMT's The Singing Bee, Fox's Punchline and the ABC game show Bet on Your Baby.

Friendship with Reba

Melissa Peterman and Reba McEntire onstage together in 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night)

Sixteen years after Reba's final episode, McEntire remains one of the most important people in Peterman's life. The comedian has made guest appearances on McEntire's tours, performing songs and bits for stadiums of fans. She even co-hosted the first few episodes of McEntire's podcast Living & Learning, where the duo drew high-profile guests including Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Darius Rucker. And when McEntire received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 2018, Peterman was on hand to deliver a moving tribute to the country legend:

"I just love you so much, and I'm so proud to call you my friend," Peterman said, holding back tears. "You deserve this. It is about time, and you've made an impact on so many people, and I don't even think you know it."


READ MORE: Reba McEntire Was a Bridesmaid in Co-Star JoAnna Garcia's Wedding to Former Baseball Pro Nick Swisher

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