Shannen Doherty became a household name in the early 1990s when Fox teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 took the world by storm.
The show focused on a group of teens living in the affluent area of Beverly Hills, California and their time together at high school. Twins Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Brenda Walsh (Doherty) arrive from Minnesota, facing a big culture shock and getting involved in a variety of subject matter that broke boundaries at the time.
To celebrate the return of Beverly Hills, 90210 on UK screens this month, Digital Spy had a chat with arguably its biggest star about the show’s legacy and what it meant for her.
The show’s surprise and sudden popularity in season two
“What is amazing to me about 90210 is that it is a show that keeps on going. In the beginning it wasn’t as popular and I think the thing that made us popular in the US is that at some point we started showing brand new episodes in the summer and that was before people started doing summer programming.
“Although it was a little hard on us in the sense that we were shooting like 36 episodes, it’s still what put it on the map. Prior to that we were just doing this small show going, ‘Oh God, are we gonna get picked up?’, and then there was this surge of popularity.”
Dealing with massive fame at 20
“It was confusing. I had been working for a long time prior to that and had success on different shows and all of a sudden it was a completely different type of success. The shows before were family shows like Our House and Little House and small movies.
“They didn’t catapult myself into a realm of being known, and so it was a little daunting, and to be that age where the press felt I was fair game because I was 18, it was pretty crazy. With all great things comes a little bit of backlash. I definitely don’t think I was ready for it.”
Leaving the show after the fourth season
“I personally couldn’t handle it at that moment in my life, and I wasn’t ready to deal with certain things. I was having a lot of personal issues that I had to come to terms with, like my dad being as sick as he was, and that was definitely hurting me more than I knew, emotionally. It was time for me to put my own house in order and to figure out my own priorities.”
Influencing subsequent teen shows like The OC and One Tree Hill
“I think 90210 still influences people today. It’s a show that people are still talking about. It was super cutting edge for what it was during that day and age. We were handling subject matters that nobody else was tackling for teenagers.
“Brenda losing her virginity was a pretty big deal to tackle at that point in time on TV. We had date rape, drug abuse, alcoholism, a lot of heavy subjects that people hadn’t quite yet tackled like 90210 did. Kudos to our producers and writers for pushing the envelope, and to Fox for pushing us to push the envelope.”
Playing Brenda again in the 2008 sequel series 90210
“It actually felt great because Brenda was full of angst and drama and there was a lot going on for her, poor girl. Her best friend betrayed her for her best friend, that’s pretty traumatic for a teenager. You got to see Brenda come back as a strong, self assured woman who had achieved success and wasn’t interested in the drama any more and had moved on in her life.
“It was nice to see her evolve in a natural way. [Producer] Gabe Sachs sat down with me and asked, ‘You were this character, and where do you think she should be?’, and really took my opinion into consideration, and wrote her to how I was feeling she would be at. It was nice to play her, to show the world this is where this character who was so loved and hated at times is now.”
Whether the show captured the spirit of the original
“It’s always hard to try and capture something like that. I think the cast was great but if I was being 100% honest, I don’t think you can do that. They were talking about a reboot of Charmed, I just don’t know if you can capture that again.
“To take a show that impacted with fans to such a degree, then bring it back with a totally different cast, I’m not sure that you will ever recapture what the original was. You can make something that is different and equally as good, but you’re not capturing the magic that the original show had. Charmed would not be Charmed without the original cast, it’s impossible. The same with 90210 – it’s just a different version of the show.”
The future of Brenda
“She has been put to bed for sure! When I left I said that I would never play this character again, and it took that long of a period of time and the right producer to get me to replay her, and more importantly it took the fans, because they asked to see her back.
“I thought, ‘Wow, my fans are the most loyal and die-hard fans that anyone could ask for’, and if there’s a way for me to say thank you, then I believed that I should do it. There was closure that was needed for Brenda that I got and the fans got in the second 90210.”