Glamour April 9th 2012
Beverly Hills, 90210 was everything to me in high school. It was my favorite show and it legitimately taught me so much about friends and relationships. But while there were so many Shannen Doherty/Brenda Walsh haters back in the day--I was always on Team Brenda.
So, when I was invited on a conference call last week with other reporters to chat with Shannen all about her new WE reality show Shannen Says--I was paralyzed with fear and excitement. Almost seven years ago, I got to interview Luke Perry and being in the same room as Dylan McKay was one of the most surreal experiences ever for my inner fourteen-year-old. Getting on the phone with Shannen brought back that same rush of "how did I get here?"
Let me say that I know Shannen has always gotten a "bad girl" rap from her diva like antics on the Beverly Hills, 90210 set that eventually led to her departure from the show to her quickie marriages to even badder boys like Ashley Hamilton and Rick Salomon. So, I was absolutely intrigued to hear that Shannen was documenting the planning of her wedding to fiance, photographer Kurt Iswarienko on Shannen Says. And she shared with us on the call that one of the reasons she decided to open up her life on a reality show is because there are so many misconceptions about her out there.
"The biggest misconception would be that I only have one side to me. Seems to be the biggest one and that, you know, people don't ever consider how old I was when some of the crazier stuff happened, which by today's standards is incredibly tame. And they don't consider that, you know, I have grown up and that there is a softer more vulnerable side or they don't consider what was behind some of the antics when I was very young. And I mean that doesn't really do them justice nor myself justice."
I watched the first episode and there's no way to sugar coat it--misconceptions or not--Shannen is tough.
My mouth dropped to the floor in one scene where she chastised her fiance for choosing to play football with his friends one weekend instead of looking at wedding venues with her. "If they can find someone to replace me on 90210, then they can find someone to replace you [for football]." Harsh, yes, but just a little funny too. The thing is, Shannen and Kurt do talk things through and make up and you can really see the love and commitment there. I can't fault Shannen for her brutal honesty because if you have to hold back with the one you love, then what is the point? I would be a liar if I told you I didn't say things to my own husband that shock the hell out of me as they pour out of my mouth. Here's what Shannen told us all on the call about that:
"In the show you end up seeing the truth behind my relationship with my now husband and how, yes, we may fight. You know, it's not all roses and rainbows and butterflies. It's a real honest relationship and that doesn't mean we're pulling each others' hair out. It just means that when we have an issue, we don't always come at it from a very calm, rational place. Sometimes we get really upset. Sometimes he sleeps elsewhere and I cry or whatever it is. And again, I think that that's what makes the show different and interesting and something that I'm really proud of is because it just stayed honest all the way through."
But, there was no way that I was going to have this opportunity to talk to Shannen Doherty AKA Brenda Walsh and not get to hear her talk about that character. Quite honestly, I was in awe of the relationship between Brenda and Dylan. It was the first TV relationship that I watched really evolve from a casual teenage romance to a full on love story. I was almost fourteen when the show premiered so this was my first glimpse at the decision making process behind losing your virginity and the consequences that follow. I was crushed when Dylan and Brenda broke up. But when Dylan chose Kelly over Brenda? I was just as hurt, confused and devastated as Brenda and fearful that a best friend of mine could ever do such a thing. Like I said, I was young and 90210 had a real impact on me. So, I couldn't believe it when Shannen was asked THE question that has been on my mind ever since this scene shattered the relationship between Brenda, Kelly and Dylan forever:
The question was . . .whose side did you understand more, Brenda or Kelly's? Guys, I never in a million years thought Shannen would answer. I totally thought she would hang up the phone. But, not only did Shannen have an answer--she revealed how deeply that break-up affected her.
"I have never been asked that question. It's a good question by the way. I understand Brenda's side and it's not just because I played her. It's because I think it speaks to me as a human being. My girlfriends and I have always had a pact our entire lives much like the guys have 'bros before' whatever they say--which is something not very nice. It's the same with us girls. You know, it's friends before boyfriends. There's an honor code. If you spotted him first, he's all yours. Go for it. And we would never do something like that scenario was back then."
What guys, it gets better. Shannen delved even deeper!
"I actually remember getting that storyline and being incredibly upset about it. And it wasn't because Brenda was losing Dylan. I thought that it was really wrong that we were putting that out there, that we were saying, 'Yes, it's okay for a best friend to fall in love with her best friend's boyfriend and cheat with him.' Where's loyalty, where's friendship? And isn't loyalty the most important thing in this world? Along with love, those are two of the things I grew up valuing the most."
But wait, there's more!
"So for me, it was really disgusting at the time. I certainly think that it was a smart storyline looking back on it because it's real and there are women who don't have an honor code and there's men who don't have an honor code. And I get it. But I certainly understand Brenda far more than Kelly. I definitely understand why she didn't speak to them and why she was really upset and hurt and angry and it made her feel vulnerable. I mean if you can't trust you best friend, who can you trust?"
I have to say, I was surprised that Shannen had so much to say about how that storyline went down--it's obvious that she's given it a lot of thought over the years. The other thing that Shannen has given a lot of thought about over the years is her relationships with her fellow cast mates. Rumors always swirled that Shannen went head to head with Jennie Garth and later had a falling out with best pal Tori Spelling. Well, I'm happy to report that the girls are still in touch and dare I say it, even friends! Shannen even watches Tori's reality show and can't wait for Jennie's to debut later this month.
"In general, you know, we have so much hatred and anger out there as it is, why add fuel to the fire. You know, I happen to watch Tori's show. And I think it's incredibly charming and endearing and I can't wait to see Jennie's show. I did the new 90210 with Jennie and there was something very different about our friendship. We were able to look at each other as grown women and really acknowledge that we liked who the other person was now as adults."
And finally, Shannen revealed the input she had with the producers in deciding on where Brenda Walsh would be today when she did indeed revive the character a few years ago for the new 90210.
"I was like, Brenda would not be the sort of antsy teenager anymore. This is a girl who moved away and went to London and followed goals and her passion and her dreams. And living overseas I think she would be a much more sophisticated calm person and she's also had some success. She would have grown up. And I loved playing her in the new 90210 because it was just such a different level that she was at that it was a joy."
Well, am I the only original Beverly Hills, 90210/Brenda Walsh fan that was thoroughly satisfied by Shannen's open and honest answers about that time in her life? And trust me, you should watch Shannen Says--will you be tuning in tomorrow night at 10 p.m. ET on WE? Finally--let's hash it out--were you team Brenda or team Kelly back in the day??