'BH90210' Cast on Getting the Band Back Together & Paying Tribute to Luke Perry
And they say you can never go home again.
Nearly 20 years after bidding farewell to Beverly Hills, 90210, the cast — Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Brian Austin Green, Ian Ziering, and Gabrielle Carteris — are heading back to their fancy ZIP code. Now older and wiser, this iconic squad has a lot less baggage than they did during the Fox soap’s 1990–2000 run.
"Since we wrapped [the original], we've kicked around the idea of getting the band back together," says Spelling, who spearheaded the six-episode BH90210 with Garth. "90210 is kind of [always] in your back pocket when you have that [level of] success."
Despite the oft-mentioned (and long-resolved) discord covered ad nauseam by the tabloids back in the day, Spelling and her fellow West Beverly grads "wanted to work together," she says happily. "We like each other."
It's fitting that the daughter of Beverly Hills' late executive producer, Aaron Spelling, is one of the driving forces behind BH90210. In fact, Spelling and Garth had been trying to hatch some sort of reunion since joining Priestley and Perry at a '90s-themed fan convention in 2016.
"We found that we all had a nice time reconnecting and spending time together," Priestley recalls between takes on a late Friday-night shoot in Vancouver, where he's busy in his trailer finalizing a cut of Episode 3, which he directs. "Then everyone went their separate ways. When Jennie and Tori got back to L.A., they realized that maybe there was something to all of us being together."
"We were thinking of ideas, and we wanted to do comedy," Spelling explains. "And then we were like, what if it's something around 90210 but not a reboot?" That's right, Donna Martin has graduated to creative genius. She and Garth had an outside-the-box pitch: The ex-castmates would play scripted versions of themselves trying to mount a revival of the series that made them household names.
For anyone trapped in a pop-culture dead zone at the end of the 20th century, Beverly Hills, 90210 was the show during the '90s. Stylish and socially conscious, the series swirled around transplanted Minnesota twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh (Priestley and Doherty) and their so-cool new SoCal classmates: queen bee Kelly Taylor (Garth), ditzy virgin Donna Martin (Spelling), awkward hip-hop kid David Silver (Green), valedictorian and later teen mom Andrea Zuckerman (Carteris), celebrity scion Steve Sanders (Ziering), and, of course, Dylan McKay (Perry), the brooding, alcoholic, poetry-loving loner. (It was inevitable that he would be torn between Brenda and Kelly.) They were all gorgeous and angsty and coming of age in the glitziest of neighborhoods.
Ratings were less than sunny at the start. But after elevating fan favorite Perry to series regular and launching Season 2 in the summer of 1991, where it was on opposite reruns, the drama took off. At its height, Beverly Hills, 90210 drew 18.5 million viewers per episode.
It ran for 10 seasons (during which time the characters went to college, started careers, and even got married), spun off the equally popular Melrose Place and inspired The CW's 90210 reboot (2008–13), on which Garth, Doherty, and Spelling reprised their roles.
With a concept for the updated version in place, Garth and Spelling had enough interest from CBS Studios and Fox by October 2018 to finally contact the rest of the cast. "We group-texted," Garth says with a laugh.
Green, who had already approached some alums about mounting a 90210 podcast, remembers his costars' pitch while sitting on the set of the immaculately re-created diner hangout the Peach Pit: "They were like, 'Old-school fans get to see the behind-the-scenes [stuff] and then new-school fans get to watch [everyone] being totally self-deprecating.' And I'm all for being self-deprecating."
Ziering was also interested in playing an elevated version of himself. "If it was a story about our real real lives, it would be kind of boring!" he observes.
One by one, the actors signed on, save for Perry, due to his shooting schedule for The CW's Riverdale, and Doherty, who had infamously been written off the original at the end of Season 4. "They approached me, but I couldn't wrap my head around going back, [especially] considering I'd already done the 90210 reboot," she says.
Then on March 4 of this year, Perry, 52, passed away after suffering a stroke. Doherty, in remission from breast cancer since April 2017, had an immediate change of heart. "One hundred percent, there was a pivotal moment of 'OK, I can play this character again,'" she says. "For lots of reasons. To honor Luke, who was so important to me, and to honor his memories [as part of the] show."
Calling it a "very simple decision" to sign on, Doherty also saw the beauty in the people she had grown up with onscreen "to be gathered together, working as a family, and remembering the person that we lost. We all lost Luke." (Doherty will also guest star on the October 9 season premiere of Riverdale, which will pay tribute to Perry.)
As for how the loss of Perry will be addressed, Garth says, "We have honored him and dealt with it in really respectful ways. He's with us in our hearts all the time, so it's kind of like he's here."
But BH90210 will not be all about old grudges and recent grief. The actors' onscreen iterations have been tweaked to have some fun with their images, whether it's a nod to Ziering's Sharknado franchise, Doherty's holistic leanings, or Priestley's love of working behind the camera.
There's even a joke about his real-life romance with Christine Elise (she played Brandon's Season 2 girlfriend turned stalker Emily Valentine), who also returns for an important role. And Carteris, who left the show in 1995 and has served as president of the SAG-AFTRA actors' union since 2016, gets a subplot she predicts will "really flip [fans] out."
BH90210, Series Premiere, Wednesday, August 7, 9/8c, Fox
This is an abbreviated version of TV Guide Magazine's latest cover story. For more from our chat with the cast of BH90210, pick up the issue, on newsstands now.