De Passe began her career at Motown as Creative Assistant to company founder, Berry Gordy. Early in her career, de Passe helped bring the Jackson 5 to his attention during their time with Motown. She was instrumental in taking the record label to television with a host of critically acclaimed and highly rated specials, including the multiple award winning Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever produced while she was President of Motown Productions.
When Motown was sold, she partnered with her mentor in Gordy/de Passe Productions and subsequently established de Passe Entertainment in 1992. De Passe's long association with Mr. Gordy was featured in the December 2008 issue of Vanity Fair: Motown the Untold Story, The Labels Greatest Legends, In Their Own Words with photography by Annie Leibovitz.
The subject of two Harvard Business School case studies: "Suzanne de Passe and Motown Productions" and "de Passe Entertainment", de Passe has lectured at the Harvard Business School on several occasions. In 2002, de Passe was named Time Warner Visiting Professor to the Department of Radio, Television and Film at Howard University's John H. Johnson School of Communications, a post she held for the requisite 3 years. During Howard University's 138th Charter Day celebration in March 2006, de Passe received an honorary doctorate degree of Doctor of Humanities. De Passe is currently serving as the Producer-in-Residence at Emerson College, School of the Arts in Boston. She also served as the Emerson College 2007 Balfour Distinguished Lecturer.
De Passe served as Executive Producer of the half-hour, situation comedies, Sister, Sister and Smart Guy, both of which aired on the WB Network and were produced in association with Paramount and Disney Television, respectively.
From 2002 until 2008 served as Executive Producer of Showtime at the Apollo, a weekly variety program nationally syndicated by Warner Brother/Telepictures. In 2005 and 2006 she co-created, wrote, and Executive Produced the Black Movie Awards for TNT. Currently, she is developing King, a film on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
De Passe is currently featured in HBO's, The Black List: Vol. 2. This is the second installment of the documentary including other prominent African Americans such as filmmaker Tyler Perry, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and Pastor T.D. Jakes.
Producer King: The upcoming DreamWorks motion picture on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Steven Spielberg and Madison Jones.
Executive Producer, the upcoming series, Becoming KK Jones, Fox Television Network
Executive Producer, Life Changers television series with superstar music producer, Rodney Jerkins (Lady Gaga, Beyoncé)
Producer, Humpty Dumpty
The Temptations, NBC, four hours, 1998, de Passe Entertainment. NAACP Image Award Winner for Best Miniseries. (Nominated for six Emmy Awards, including Best Mini-Series and won an Emmy for Best Director.) Also nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Producers Guild Award; Directors Guild Award; and Prism Award. Starring: Leon, Charles Malik Whitfield, DB Woodside, Terron Brooks and Christian Payton.
Dead Man's Walk, ABC, five hours, 1996, de Passe Entertainment. Starring: Edward James Olmos, Keith Carradine, Brian Dennehy and F. Murray Abraham.
Buffalo Girls, CBS, four hours, 1995, de Passe Entertainment. Nominated for eleven Emmy Awards, including Best Miniseries and Best Actress. Starring Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith, Reba McEntire, Sam Elliott and Jack Palance.
Streets of Laredo, CBS, five hours, 1995, de Passe Entertainment. Starring: James Garner, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard and Sonia Braga.
Return to Lonesome Dove, CBS, four hours, 1993, Motown Productions. Starring: Jon Voight, Barbara Hershey, Rick Schroder and Louis Gossett, Jr. and William Petersen.
The Jacksons: An American Dream, ABC, five hours, 1992, Motown Productions. Nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, including Best Miniseries. Starring: Angela Bassett, Billy Dee Williams, and Vanessa Williams as Suzanne.
Lonesome Dove, CBS, eight hours, 1989, Motown Productions. Emmy, Golden Globe, Peabody Award-winning miniseries. Named “Outstanding Program of the Year” by Television Critics Association, Best Miniseries in TV Guide Annual Readers Choice Awards, D.W. Griffith Award by National Board of Review. Among other honors, the success of this landmark western resulted in de Passe’s induction into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. “Lonesome Dove” was based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Starring: Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones and Anjelica Huston.
Small Sacrifices, ABC, four hours, 1989, Motown Productions. Nominated for three Emmy Awards, including Best Miniseries and two Golden Globe Awards. Winner of the Peabody Award. Based on Ann Rule’s best-selling book. Starring: Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O’Neal and John Shea.
MOVIES FOR TELEVISION:
The Loretta Claiborne Story – Two-hour, 2000, Disney/ABC Sunday Night, de Passe Entertainment.
Someone Else's Child – Two-hour, 1998, ABC, de Passe Entertainment.
The Last Electric Knight – (AKA Sidekicks) – Two-hour, 1989, ABC, Motown Productions.
Happy Endings – Two-hour, 1983, CBS, King Entertainment, Motown Productions.
Zenon: Z3 – Two-hour, 2004, The Disney Channel, de Passe Entertainment.
Zenon: The Zequel – Two-hour, 2001, The Disney Channel, de Passe Entertainment. When it aired, the movie had the highest-ever rating for a Disney Channel original movie. Premiered January 2001 with 3.3 rating/6 share.
Cheaters – Two-hour, 2000, HBO Films, de Passe Entertainment.
Motown Returns to the Apollo, Three-hour, 1985, NBC, Motown Productions. Emmy Award winner for best variety Program. NAACP Image Award winner. Executive Producer & Writer.
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, Two-hour, 1983, NBC, Motown Productions, Emmy Award winner for best variety program. Winner of NAACP Image Award and Peabody Award. Executive Producer & Writer.
Motown on Showtime: – Smokey Robinson – One-hour, 1990, Showtime, Motown Productions. – Comedy on Campus – One-hour, 990, Showtime, Motown Productions. – Michael Jackson – One-hour, 1988, Showtime, Motown Productions. – Marvin Gaye – One-hour, 1987, Showtime, Motown Productions. – Temptations and Four Tops – One-hour, 1986, Showtime, Motown Productions
Sister, Sister: Half-hour sitcom – 122 episodes completed, 1995–1999, WB, de Passe Entertainment. Starring: Tia and Tamera Mowry, Tim Reid and Jackee Harry.
Smart Guy: Half-hour sitcom – 51 episodes completed, 1996–1999, WB, de Passe Entertainment. Starring: Tahj Mowry, John Marshall Jones, Jason Weaver, Omar Gooding and Essence Atkins.
On Our Own: Half-hour sitcom – 19 episodes completed, 1994–1995, ABC, de Passe Entertainment. Starring: The Smollet Family.
The Motown Revue starring Smokey Robinson: Six one-hour episodes, 1986, NBC, Motown Productions. Starring: Smokey Robinson.
FIRST RUN SYNDICATION:
Showtime at the Apollo: 130 one-hour episodes completed, variety program format. 2002–Present. Syndicated through Warner Brothers/Telepictures.
Lonesome Dove, The Outlaw Years: 44 one-hour episodes completed, western drama, 1994-1996. Starring: Eric McCormack, Scott Bairstow and Paul Le Mat.
Night Life: (195) half-hour episodes, talk show. 1986-87. Hosted by David Brenner.
2006 Black Movie Awards: A Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present, & Future. A 90-minute special which aired nationally on Turner Network Television (TNT) October 18, 2006. Hosted by Tyler Perry
2005 Black Movie Awards: A Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present, & Future. A 90-minute special which aired nationally on Turner Network Television (TNT) October 19, 2005. Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer
34th NAACP Image Awards, Two-hour special, 2003 FOX, de Passe Entertainment. Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer.
2003 Essence Awards, Two-hour special, FOX, de Passe Entertainment.
2002 Essence Awards, Two-hour special, FOX, de Passe Entertainment. Hosted by Steve Harvey
33rd NAACP Image Awards, Two-hour special, 2002, FOX, de Passe Entertainment. Hosted by Chris Tucker
32nd NAACP Image Awards, Two-hour special, 2001, FOX, de Passe Entertainment. Hosted by Chris Tucker
MUSIC and MORE…Image Awards, One-hour special, 2001, WB, de Passe Entertainment. Hosted by Sinbad and Brandy.
The recipient of an Academy Award nomination for co-writing the screenplay Lady Sings the Blues, de Passe won two Emmy Awards and NAACP Image Awards as Executive Producer of Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever and Motown Returns to the Apollo. De Passe served as Executive Producer for the highly acclaimed and multiple award winning, CBS western m\Mini-Series Lonesome Dove, that won both Golden Globe and Peabody Awards and was voted Outstanding Program of the Year by The Television Critics Association.
As Executive Producer of the benchmark NBC Mini-Series The Temptations, de Passe won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Mini-Series and was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award for Best Mini-Series. She also served as Executive Producer for Small Sacrifices, The Jacksons, An American Dream and Bufallo Girls, all of which were nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Mini-Series.
A veteran of over three decades in Hollywood, generating over a billion dollars in revenue in the entertainment industry, and dividing her time and talent between Los Angeles and New York, de Passe has also received countless awards for her contributions to the television, movie and music industries including:
Essence: Hollywood Women of Power Visionary Award (2008)
Savannah Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award (2008)
Black Enterprise Top 50 Hollywood Power Brokers (2007)
The AWRT (American Women in Radio and Television) Silver Satellite Award (1999);
Revlon Business Woman of the Year Award (1994);
Inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (1990);
Essence Award (1989); and
Women in FilmCrystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. (1988).
Recent community honors include:
2010 Recipient The George Arents Award is Syracuse University's highest alumni honor, presented annually to alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields.
Center for The Advancement of Women: 2007 Changing the Landscape for Women Honoree
Jackie Robinson Foundation 2006 Trailblazer Award
Ebony Magazine selected de Passe for its highest honor, presenting her with the 2004 Madame C. J. Walker Award
2003 Whitney M. Young Award; Los Angeles Urban League’s highest accolade. (In keeping with tradition, de Passe presented the 2004 award to Magic Johnson.)