Tori Spelling & Jennie Garth on the Fact, Fiction, and Funny of ‘BH90210’ (VIDEO)
Fine, I’ll say it: Fox’s BH90210 may be the greatest TV event in all of history.
For anyone who spent the ’90s watching, obsessing over, and emulating the perfectly coiffed and perpetually imperiled teens of Beverly Hills, 90210, the idea of the cast reuniting to play versions of themselves in a cheeky meta soap about a possible reboot of their classic series is both a dream come true and something they may not even be able to handle.
Because it’s not a lackluster reboot, we are not picking up at The Peach Pit 19 years after David (Brian Austin Green) and Donna (Tori Spelling) married in the series finale. We are not getting a next-gen attempt to cash in on nostalgia for ratings sakes. It is a slyly funny, behind-the-scenes scripted dramedy hybrid centered on the actors who brought Beverly Hills, 90210 to life and how their “lives” are now, so many years later. And it is fantastic.
Fittingly, the six-part event was spearheaded by Spelling, daughter of the original show’s executive producer Aaron Spelling, and bestie Jennie Garth, who played Kelly Taylor for the show’s entire run. Friends since forever, the two are so in sync with each other that it’s easy to see how their combined efforts and shared energies were enough to draw in their former co-stars and make this thing happen.
We recently sat down with the two of them in the faux Fox offices built on BH90210‘s Vancouver set and got the goods on how it all began and where the show is headed.
Thank you for coming up with this idea, this is so great. How long have you been kicking around the idea of getting the band back together?
Jennie Garth: Well pretty much since we wrapped, I think we kicked around the idea of getting the band back together but nobody was taking it. [Laughs] We’ve been working on this for two years trying to put this together.
As you saw other shows rebooting, some of them with success and some of them without, what made you think like “OK, we can’t do a straight reboot”?
Tori Spelling: It’s weird that you say that because I never thought watching reboots, “Oh, we should do a reboot.”
Garth: That’s not why we came up with this idea
Spelling: We wanted to work together. We all like each other. So we were like, if we’re going to work all time, I’d like to do it with [Jennie and the others].
You two have stayed close the entire time since 90210 ended. And I know Jason Priestley (Brandon) has spoken about a ’90s convention you did with him and Luke Perry. Is that where this really picked up steam?
Spelling: No, we already had talked about it. 90210 is kind of in your back pocket when you have that success, so we were thinking of other ideas we wanted to do together and we wanted to do comedy. Then we were like, “What if it’s something around 90210 but not a reboot?” We came up with something that had to do with our lives… things happened to us all the time that we were like, “If anyone knew that happened to us, that would be so funny.” And then we actually went to this convention but we were already kind of thinking of it.
And I hear there were antics…
Spelling: It was a s**t show. [Laughs]
I am assuming you guys partied way too much?
Spelling: Oh no, not even. I was pregnant!
Garth: We had a conversation and I just didn’t want to go back to playing Kelly Taylor. That ship has sailed. I feel too old and it just feels weird, so coming up with something different was important.
And it’s super fun. When did you start gathering everybody else, like Ian Ziering (Steve) and Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea)?
Garth: We’ve been working out stuff for like two years, but last October was finally when we got to the point where we were ready to contact the rest of the cast. We group-texted them, “Let’s all get together, we would love to talk to you about this idea.”
I love this, you have no idea. Tori, what did you learn from your father that helped you as you were reconfiguring the show something that he created?
Spelling: Never take no for an answer. This is one of those things where people think it’s a no-brainer. 90210 coming back? Of course! But there’s a lot of moving pieces. The property was owned by CBS Studios so we had to get them on board, then each of the cast members and there’s the business side, the personal side, the creative side. We just went through so much to do this, which makes it even better. Sitting here means so much to us because we feel like we’ve come so far with this project. But there were definitely times where we were like, “OK, we just gotta keep going.”
Garth: There were days where I was like “We can’t do, it’s not going to work.” And Tori would be all, “Yes we can!” And then there were days where she was feeling that we can’t do it and I was like “We got to keep going.”
Spelling: It would be like two steps forward, one step back. It would be like everything would be great and the next day something would [happen] and it was like the whole thing was going to fall apart.
You all have gone through so much in your own lives…do you feel like this is happening now because of everything you’ve all gone through?
Garth: Maybe so. It makes you prioritize and focus on the things that are important and know what’s real. I think that the experience we had together, we all know it was very real and it stayed with us all in different ways through all these years. So going back to something that is comfortable, familiar and real just felt right.
And it seems like you are leaning into the old feuds. Even Shannen Doherty (Brenda) gets in on the jokes about the past. Was that comfortable?
Spelling: That’s why we do it. We wanted to play it up and talk about that. And that’s the thing we admired was that when we all got together, everyone was game to kind of play into the public’s perception of who they were, their characters and those dynamics.
And now you get to enjoy what the show meant to so many.
Spelling: We definitely feel appreciative of what this is. Because I think at the time we didn’t appreciate it because we were young and we were in the middle of it. We all kind of joke about going to fake high school and fake college. But I think this is now like when people later in their life are like, “Ugh, if I had only known then maybe I would have different relationships or things would have turned out differently. I wish I could go back.” We have like a do-over, we’re able to go back in some sense and be with the group we grew up with and kind of play it out differently as adults.
That’s awesome. What are your scripted versions of yourself like?
Spelling: Well, that’s the thing, everyone plays heightened versions of themselves. We kind of want the audience to wonder what’s based on reality, what’s totally fictionalized, what’s a blend of the two and kind of decipher for themselves.
Garth: I don’t really the notion that we play “heightened versions” of ourselves, I feel like my take on it is that we are creating characters with our actual names because that gives us so much liberty. I can make Jennie whatever I want.
Spelling: She’s right, I guess I’m just used to calling it that.
So what are the fictionalized versions of you like?
Spelling: It’s a blend and we use things we want to use from our real lives and we blend that up with scripted, completely fictionalized stuff and we blend that with real things from the old show.
I know that a certain soapy storyline develops early on…
Garth: It’s fun. We are having so much fun with it.
Spelling: There are just so many elements. The original was talked about as a nighttime-soap in a way and it obviously dealt with real teen issues, but it was a popular soap of that generation. With kind of a fun little twist.
So what can you tell me from your storylines aside from trying to create the reboot?
Garth: We all have complicated lives. My character, for example, is on her third divorce which is something that we pulled from my real life and blended up in a different way. I have three teenage daughters and in the show, I only have one teenage daughter. And Tori’s character has six kids instead of five.
Spelling: We didn’t want it to be too close to home and it’s funnier to add more. [Laughs]
Have you’ve been in touch with the rest of the cast all along?
Spelling: We definitely have. I think that’s a big part of the show, the friendship. Because I think everyone has that one friend that’s ride or die in life and that’s us in real life and on the show. So we started this together, got on this journey together and we really stick with that on the show.
How do you deal with Luke Perry’s passing? I know it can’t be easy.
Garth: We have honored him and dealt with him in really respectful ways, in our opinion. I mean, he’s with us in all of our hearts all the time so it’s kind of like he’s here. I know that people can’t even grasp that feeling of his loss.
It makes no sense still. And what about your dad, Tori? Is he mentioned at all?
Spelling: Oh yeah, we do mention him.
I feel like people dismiss the show when it was actually pretty groundbreaking. I was rewatching episodes and shocked that you were talking about stuff like drugs, date rape, and parental infidelity back then? Like the sleepover episode? Or Kelly’s “Mom of the Year” episode…that was in Season 1!
Garth: That was some heavy stuff.
And I love that you are clearly respecting the fans of the original. You’re bringing them in on the joke without clowning on the show.
Spelling: No, because we all have so much respect for the show that I think we can make fun of [ourselves] because we are all so proud of it.
When filming finally started, did you all fall back into old patterns of how you used to be?
Spelling: Immediately. On the first day at the promo shoot, I was like “Oh my god, I’m a 46-year-old woman with five kids and I feel like a 16-year-old girl again.” You regress to how you were and the dynamic you had in the friendship and in the group…you finish each other’s sentences and it’s a family. Yeah, all of that resurfaced, the good and the bad.
Garth: We know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. [Laughs]
How is it filming in Vancouver instead of Los Angeles?
Spellling: At first we were like Vancouver for Beverly Hills? But it’s turning out great and we know the [cost] benefits of doing this, but it kind of takes us out of comfort zone and puts us all together. It’s almost like sleepaway camp and we kind of needed that. [Laughs]
Garth: We had that when we first did the show, we were sequestered in a warehouse together in Van Nuys for ten years together and that was our growing up. So now we’re all staying in the same apartment building, she and I roomed together for the first month. We were roommates! We’ve been friends for 30 years but we’ve never been roommates.
Spelling: Now she’s my next-door neighbor. [Laughs]
BH90210, series premiere Wednesday, 9/8c, Fox