Jason Priestley Opens Up About His Return to 'BH90210'
It's Week 3 of Fox's non-reboot revival, meta-thingy known as BH90210 and the suds are bubbling up.
Not only is the fate of the faux show-within-the-show hanging on whether Shannen Doherty joins the cast, but off-camera, there is tension between the new writer (Tahmoh Penikett) and star-director Jason Priestley. Seeing how the scribe is also the father of the baby being carried by J's wife (Vanessa Lachey), you can understand why.
Can the cast keep it together and successfully survive their big promo photo shoot? Could a visit from former TV mom Carol Potter help? Will they get their Brenda back? And who is this hot guy working as Jennie's bodyguard?!
Well, we can't answer those without spoiling things, so instead, here is a chat with Priestley from our set visit last July. It was super-late on a Friday evening — the first day of shooting on Episode 4 — and he had just wrapped directing what airs tonight and was heading off on a fishing trip with his family the next day before flying to Toronto. To say the guy was running on empty is an understatement. Yet he was still charming, generous with his time and refreshingly forthright. Jim and Cindy Walsh would be so proud.
OK, so how did you get roped into this?
[Laughs] Initially I got a text from Tori saying "Hey, what do you think about this?" We had all been to this Rewind fan convention, which was this '90s convention celebrating things from the '90s. So it was us, the New Kids on the Block, a bunch of the people from Melrose Place and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a bunch of classic '90s shows. The convention was fun but then there was also a bunch of crazy stuff that happened that I won’t bore you with. But we all reconnected at that show — this was a couple years ago. Not that we aren’t all friendly, but like I’m shooting a TV series in Toronto....
Right, just because you don’t keep in touch with old coworkers doesn't mean you aren't still friends with them.
Exactly. Work and life and kids and things. A lot of us had drifted apart and then we all found ourselves back together in Chicago at this convention and we found that we all really had a nice time reconnecting and spending time together. First of all, the fan response we had at that convention was overwhelming, and then there were these other crazy antics that happened. Then I flew back to Toronto to work on my show [Private Eyes] and everyone went their separate ways. When Jennie and Tori got back to L.A., they realized from that experience that maybe there is something there to all of us being together. That’s when they reached out to all of us and said, maybe we should talk about the potential of us getting back together and trying to put together a reboot of the show.
And where did it come up with the idea of not a straight-up reboot — not even a continuation?
The idea of the reboot being something very different actually came from Tori. Her whole point of departure on the concept was that our show initially back in 1990 was very groundbreaking and broke a lot of conventions in television at that time. So she contended that, just like our show did back then, this should break TV conventions again. And we all agreed with her, so we started to talk about how to do it, what would be the smart way to do that and sort of what we all came to was instead of just doing a straight up reboot, in this golden age of reboots, where we just go back to playing Brandon, Brenda, Kelly, Steve, David, Donna and Andrea — let’s do a fake reality show where the actors try to get a reboot made of our original show, and what would that look like?
This version of Jason Priestley is quite a character.
[Laughs] He is a Christopher Nolan-obsessed TV director... so much so that I wear a bracelet that says WWCND? "What Would Christopher Nolan Do?" I had Props make this for me so I can always look at it and remember from whence I came.
Did this version have a car racing accident like you did in 2002?
That we have not delved into yet. But a lot of stuff in our real lives is totally fair game. [Former Emily Valentine] Christine Elise is in the show playing a TV network executive, and just like how she and I had a relationship in the past, Jason Priestley and Christine Elise in the show had a relationship in their past. We tap into those things that are real in our past and that’s what’s going to be fun for the audience too because they have to try and figure out what’s real and what’s not.
Your character on the show doesn't have children, so how do your real kids feel about not being represented?
They don’t care. [Laughs]
I always felt that for a show that was so well-marketed, they didn’t really make a big deal about you leaving 90210 at the top of the ninth season. Like, why didn’t we have like a going away party at the Peach Pit?
Yeah, there wasn’t much closure for Brandon. I think Aaron [Spelling, executive producer] always believed that I was coming back.
The original show was pre-social media, but you guys were at the height of all the paparazzi and gossip stuff so we know what it was like then — we know there was baggage that came into this.
Well, there was a certain amount, yes. And there was a certain amount that was created by the media to fill column inches and sell papers. But absolutely, the lives we’ve led, the careers we’ve had, the things we have done, the places we have seen and the experiences we have had... all of our perspectives are incredibly different. For me, the experience of getting back together with all these people has been fantastic. I’ve loved all these people forever. It’s been awesome. I’ve had a great time, it’s super fun.
I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be. Even with your particular workload. You’re filming Private Eyes in Toronto, this one in Vancouver and you directed episode 3. You’re in post right now?
Yeah. They’re going to deliver my assembly this weekend so I have to start giving notes on Sunday while I’m on a plane to Toronto.
Yeah. [Laughs] I said, 'I have a window of time from this date to this date, if you can fit it in that window then that’s great.' But that’s all I had because I was in the middle of shooting five movies... those V.C Andrews novel adaptions for Lifetime. I starred in three of them and directed one of them. I was in the middle of that job, so I had a very specific window that I could deliver for these guys before going off to shoot my fourth season of Private Eyes.
I was watching you guys film, and you and Gabrielle Carteris were just walking and talking, you both had scripts. And it struck me how many times we have seen the two of you walking and talking, usually with a paper of some sort, down the halls of West Beverly. It was such a natural moment. Did you all fall back into old patterns?
Very much so, it was really seamless and really easy. Working together again individually and as a group has been very easy, everybody just fell right back in. When we pitched the show, we pitched it as a straight-up comedy. As the show has evolved, more drama has found its way into the show. Obviously there needs to be some tragedy with the comedy to make it work better. But certainly, being a light-hearted, more comedic show is where this show works.
And you have tragedy. Luke Perry's passing is being addressed, but what about Aaron?
We haven’t dealt with Aaron passing at all, unfortunately. But he was obviously an incredible figure in all of our lives and we all loved Aaron very much.
As a diehard fan of the original, I appreciate that there’s a lot of respect for the fans. You are not clowning on the show....
No, not at all. We treat the original show with a lot of respect. There are a lot of Easter eggs in this new show for fans of the original show, but obviously we have to make a modern show — we have to make a show with modern sensibilities to attract new fans to the show and hopefully we’ve been successful in doing that.
I’ve already been putting together my dream guest cast list for season 2, I need them to find Dana Barron because I always felt she deserved a second chance.
[Laughs] Little Nikki Witt! I have no idea where Dana Barron is these days, but I would love to see her.
BH90210, Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox