PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS MCPHERSON
MOST ACTORS HAVE A LEISURELY MORNING before the big interview. By the time Shannen Doherty arrives at Castaic Lake park, the rustic Santa Clarita hiking-and-fishing retreat, she has already been sentenced to three years of probation, a $1,500 fine, and, in lieu of jail time, some serious community service.
What an interesting six months it's been for Doherty. Last May, the beleaguered brunette was exorcised from Charmed, the kittens-with-cleavage Aaron Spelling production where she practiced white magic for the past three seasons. Then came December, an unjolly month that found the 30-year-old witch-manque arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, an offense that entailed a ten-hour layover in the county lockup. Nevertheless, like a road-tested professional--Doherty started working in Pepsi comercials when she was 10--she's here today to plug two high-profile upcoming projects: Miramax's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Another Day, a Francis Ford Coppola TV movie for USA. Basically, Doherty is prepared to spend a chatty afternoon spread on a blanket looking casually carnal in a slip dress, trying to erase the memory of that 9 A.M. visit to Ventura Superior Court.
"I'm sooo sick of defending myself," says the former 1988 youth Ambassador for the American Lung Association as she fires up the first of many Marlboro Lights. "It was an exhausting, exhausting year," Doherty adds. " And then I made the biggest mistake of my life."
During her fabled 90210 phase, Doherty was a party girl with a purpose-slamming kamikazes at the Roxbury, allegedly threatening to run over her ex-fiance Dean Factor (who later got a restraining order against her), and marrying Ashley Hamilton after a two-week courtship. But since then-well, at least, since 1997, when she was forced into court-ordered anger-management therapy for throwing a beer bottle at a man's car outside a bar- Doherty's pagan impulses had remained in check.
Until that unfortunate evening three days after Christmas. "I went to a bar and drank too much," she admits. "But I was with a sober friend who was driving. Afterward we even went to Jack in the Box. I thought 1 was fine, I really did. Then I got in the car."
Before you could say "I hate Brenda," the LAPD pulled her over, a Breathalyzer test was refused, and Doherty was in jail. "How could I be so stupid?!" she shudders. "I was completely devastated and humiliated. I couldn't leave my house for a month."
Taking a giant swig of her non-diet 7-Up (Memphis-born Shannen is an out-and-proud eater whose fave meal is deviled-SPAM sandwiches) , she begins, for the first time, to tell how Charmed became jinxed. It all began four years ago when she reunited with Spelling, who dismissed her from 90210. Before filming began, former's the Boss star Alyssa Milano joined the cast. At first, all was sisterly-Doherty even performed bridesmaid duties at Milano's wedding. But as the show aged, it seemed as if Milano had pulled a single white female, snagging the juicy endorsement deals and push-up-bra magazine covers. Only that wasn't the problem.
"I think my passion for my work was too overwhelming," says Doherty of the fur-fly that became the Charmed set. Doherty claims the issue was one colleague's work ethic. "I mean, what do we do?" she continues. "Say a few lines, sit in our trailers, and get paid a fortune. That's really rough. And yet there was a person there that bitched about her job, day in, day out." According to Doherty, a "mediator" was brought in to diffuse all the poisonous estrogen. To this diplomat she said, "Are you supposed to be my shrink? Because I've already got one."
Exchanges like these apparently so riled Milano, Doherty says, that the comely newcomer announced that she would not return to the show if Doherty stayed on. Doherty insists that she was the more politic star; to settle things, she took the matter up with the serge suits at Paramount, threatening to quit unless "changes" were made, though she says she wanted Milano to stay. "I would never wish another actor out of a job," she adds. “I think it's terrible karma." (Milano's reps did not return phone calls.)
Six months later, at the end of the season, came a frilly pink slip. Though Doherty claims that she actually wanted to leave the show, she remains bitter that she's yet to hear from Spelling and that no one sat down with her to explain what happened. "You know what?" she says. "The lack of appreciation he's showing for me as a human being and as an actor is overwhelming." (Spelling's office issued a terse "No comment.")
Others believe Doherty has her charms. "I worked with her for three years," says Charmed witch No.3, Holly Marie Combs. "I don't think she's difficult at all." Ditto Another Day producer Shannon O'Connor: "People think I'm full of shit-and admittedly, I'd heard a lot of bad things-but this girl is a delight to work with." Doherty's delights were not lost on Kevin Smith, who first hired her for 1995'S Mallrats. "She was the best person who came in:' he says, "and we saw a lot of people, including Alyssa Milano." In Jay and Silent Bob, Smith has cast Doherty as ...her own persona. "Everyone loves a villain. Based on what she went through on 90210, it's easy to believe she’s a bitch," he says, "and it's not like she didn't necessarily dream it. Do I think she's a bitch? Absolutely not .”
Lighting a final cigarette, Doherty leans back and looks forward. "I don't want to be known anymore as that girl who plays a witch, " she says. "I want to be known as that girl who can act her ass off," noting that her “dream role" would be the lead in a film like Silkwood or Frances. "I bet I'll be thanking Aaron Spelling very soon for this 'mutual' decision of ours," Doherty says. Packing up, she reveals there's a new man back home waiting to eat supper at her 25-acre ranch in Ventura County (she'll say only that he's an "amazing" actor).
Then she smiles. "You know, I'm feeling real1y mellow now-that Bob Marley lyric 'Everything's gonna be all right' keeps playing over and over in my head." She laughs. "God, I think I'm turning into Ally McBeal.'