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Shannen Doherty on Playing Version of Herself in ‘BH90210,’ Honoring Luke Perry’s Memory

Shannen Doherty grew up in front of the camera, including early roles on “Father Murphy” and “Little House on the Prairie.” Her career was already on the rise — she was one of the “Heathers” in the dark comedy of the same name — when she took the role that elevated her to worldwide fame: Brenda Walsh on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” The show was an instant hit, and Doherty admits now that she couldn’t handle the tremendous attention that came with it. She left the series after four seasons but found more success as one of the original stars of “Charmed” (which she exited after three seasons). Now Doherty and most of her “90210” colleagues are back, but playing themselves, in Fox’s “BH90210,” which premieres Aug. 7 — five months after the death of co-star Luke Perry.

What was your initial reaction to the idea of reuniting as versions of yourselves on “BH90210”?

I said, “No.” It had zero to do with the cast or anything else. It had everything to do with the fact that I just couldn’t foresee myself doing another “90210,” or playing a heightened version of myself. It wasn’t for me at that point in my life, and it remained that way for a long time. They were kind enough to keep coming back to me and asking. 

What changed?

When Luke passed away, I looked at it quite differently: more from the perspective of honoring Luke, his memory, and through a show that he was an integral part of. What an opportunity to be given for us all to band together, be around each other while we mourn and grieve the loss of someone who mattered to all of us deeply.

Was there any concern that people’s hearts wouldn’t be in it as much now that everyone’s coping with his loss?

We all have moments throughout this filming, where one of us will just get emotional out of the blue, because there’s something that somebody says that reminds us of Luke. Our first episode, we definitely honor him.

What’s it like to play a parody version of yourself?

There are tidbits from our lives that maybe we took, and then we exaggerated it to a ridiculous degree, where it’s no longer us. There is definitely poking fun at some of the stuff that’s been said about us, or some of our life situations, whether it be divorces or my big epiphanies after cancer. It’s fun, but it’s definitely a character.

How do you feel now about the legacy of “90210” and your role in it?

There is a very deep gratitude and appreciation for “90210,” for everything that it provided for me, for the opportunities that it gave me. I feel very blessed that I was a part of this show that made such an impact back in the ’90s, that really took a stance on a lot of issues that weren’t being discussed at that point in time, and we were brave.

With ‘90210’ also came a lot of personal growth, or lack of growth, or trauma, or whatever it is. For me, I think I was very confused back then about what I wanted for myself, and the attention was way too much. I didn’t always handle it the well. And in truth, I was just shooting myself in the foot because the more I fought it, the more the celebrity took over versus the actor, and then the press ran with it.

How difficult was it for you at the time?

It was an incredibly difficult time to read about yourself in such a way that you know that probably 85%, 90% of it isn’t true. It becomes a snowball effect, and you can’t seem to get away from it. And it’s honestly traveled with me for a large chunk of my career. There’s also a little bit of trepidation about going back into ‘90210’ because it seems to be that show that triggers old responses or old behavior from journalists. It’s as if 90210 makes other people go back to the ’90s and think that everybody is exactly the same as they were then and that none of us have grown.

There was plenty written back in the day about rifts on set. How would you describe the relationship now among all of you?

I think we’re all really close. There’s an appreciation where we’re all much older now. There’s a scene between myself and Tori, Jennie and Gabrielle where we address the big fight that Jennie and I had back in the ’90s. And it’s funny because as we’re rehearsing it, we were all dying of laughter. We were all like, “Oh, my God, is this really what happened?”

Your cancer is in remission, but you had a bit of a health scare last year. How are you doing now?

I’m doing fine. I get checked on a regular basis. I’m overly cautious at this point. I think I live my life carefully but very optimistically. I definitely value every second that I have and my relationships have changed for the better. Cancer really brought that home for me of valuing every single second.

You appeared in the earlier “90210” reboot and in the “Heathers” remake last year. What do you make of audience fascination with reboots?

Maybe the material back then was just really good — I’m not sure. I think that we’re all nostalgic for a different era. I’m definitely scared of being the Reboot Queen. What was appealing about “BH90210,” I looked at what they were doing and I don’t even know if you could call it a reboot. It’s really a brand-new, fresh show that takes you on a deeper look into stuff that happened back in the ’90s and the people who are around today. And then after that, I pretty much cannot do another show that would even be considered a reboot.

Things You Didn’t Know About Shannen Doherty

Age: 48 Birthplace: Memphis Career surprise: “I’ve never considered myself funny enough to do comedy.” Personality trait no one knows: “I’m incredibly shy.” Social media she prefers: “Instagram. I’ve always believed that a photo says more than anything.” 

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