New York Post PoPWrap blog January 18th 2011
I have, perhaps, spent more time with Shannen Doherty than any other actor in Hollywood. Not only did she rocket to fame on the show of my generation -- "Beverly Hills, 90210" -- but she went on to star in "Charmed," another huge part of my small screen education. And that doesn't even take into account the DVD's ("Mallrats," "Heathers") I have worn out with repeated viewings.
So when the chance to actually spend time with Shannen arose, I jumped. And then jumped again. And once more for good measure. After I regained my equilibrium, composure and professionalism, I sat down with the actress to talk about her work behind the camera in a terrific new web series called "Suite 7."
In addition to learning all about her director dreams and inspirations, I got Shannen's take on her career, her next step and whether or not it will include slipping Heather Chandler's oversize scrunchie back in her hair.
PoPWrap: How did the opportunity to direct one of these webisodes come about?
Shannen Doherty: I did a cameo in another one of Wilson's [Cleveland, writer] webshows and developed this great relationship with him – he’s pretty much the nicest guy and really supportive of creativity in general. Based off the “Charmed” episodes I had directed, he brought up the idea, which sounded amazing. It’s a great love and passion of mine. We struck a deal – I’ll act in one and direct one, and there you go.
PW: Was the casting of Brian Austin Green a coincidence or your doing?
Shannen: It was my casting. I adore Brian – we’re good friends and I’ve watched him over the years really grow up. He's no longer David Silver, he's become a man. I was dying to work with Brian today, so when this came up, I called, we talked about the project and he was dying to do it.
PW: You mentioned that your "Charmed" episodes kick started the idea for Wilson -- those were very effects heavy while this is very stripped down. Just two people in a room. Do you have a preference?
Shannen: It doesn’t matter to me – I loved the episodes of “Charmed” that I directed. My favorite was the last one I directed, which was also the last one I was in. I remember we had this brand new 80 foot crane. John Woo was the only other person to have used it, and I loooove John Woo. So I took the budget to Mr. Spelling and said, “if anything on this equipment list is over budget, I’ll pay out of pocket.” I just wanted to make my last episode phenomenal. And then I came in under budget [laughs].
PW: Unlike the Suite 7 short, you acted and directed on "Charmed" -- that always seems like an insurmountable task to me.
Shannen: It is and it isn't. You definitely get used to it, but it’s all about being well-prepared. I am, in case you didn’t know, a bit of a control freak [laughs]. So for me, it’s all about being super organized and I had storyboards for absolutely everything, there was no question of what I wanted the shot to be. It’s funny because I remember being in the editing room for first episode I ever directed and could tell that I wasn’t into it, acting-wise. During the scene, I was so distracted by whether or not the cameras were on their marks and things like that. Once I let it go, I could relax. It gets easier. I don't love combining them though.
PW: Do you have a motto as a director?
Shannen: To me, a director’s job is not only making sure your actors give a good performance, but also developing a look of the piece.
PW: What other directors do you look to?
Shannen: I can only hope to achieve something on par with Tony Scott one day, he is one of my all-time favorite directors. He does a lot of handheld to create even more chaos in the moment. It pulls you in as an audience member, you feel that frantic vibe. I did that here because it’s two actors in one room – I don’t care how great your actors are, visually, that could be a snooze-fest. You still gotta keep things moving. That’s why I went handheld.
PW: You've worked with, probably, hundreds of different directors throughout your career -- what makes one stand out to you over another?
Shannen: You have to be emotionally invested with your director in some way. Some director’s just let you know they believe in you so much, it frees you up to take risks. Others evoke a feeling of “all I want to do is please them.” It becomes your goal and if you don’t nail the performance, you know you’re not making them happy.
PW: Can you give me an example?
Shannen: Mel Damski was fantastic because he’d sit in a chair and read the newspaper. He’d almost never, ever comment on your performance. He’d print and move on, print and move on. So when you got that comment – that rare moment – it was beyond. He directed an episode of "Charmed" called “Primrose Empath” where Prue becomes an empath and after one particular scene he walked up to me and said, “that was phenomenal Doherty.” I just remember gasping. It makes you chase that comment with every episode you do with them. Maybe I should see a shrink to figure out why I feel the need to please so badly [laughs]. As I’m talking, all I can think is, god, it sounds like I’m such a people pleaser.
PW: I have to say, it's surprising that you not only remember the episode's plot and director, but also the title. Most actors can't recall that stuff on show's they're currently working on.
Shannen: I remember the things I want to remember and conveniently forget everything else [laughs]. My memory is fantastic in that way and I love it. I remember the good experiences and the directors I loved, and the episodes I loved.
PW: If given the chance to revisit a character from your resume, who would you pick?
Shannen: None of them. Zero. There are so many other parts I want to play so to redo what I’ve already done seems like I’m backtracking. Someone asked the other day about a “Heathers” sequel – I don’t get why anyone would do that. How do you follow that movie and make sure it’s as good as the first one? OK, sure – people grow up and are still Heathers in their life but hopefully they don’t deal with them the same way they did in high school. I also don’t think it’s a good idea, in today’s world of bullying, to give Heathers-type people a platform. It’s perfect for that day and age, but it should remain a cult classic.
PW: So then why did you return as Brenda on "90210" last year?
Shannen: That was very different. I said no when it was first brought to me. I lived with her for three years too many. I couldn’t stand her. I didn’t want to put that skin back on. Then someone showed me all the fan petitions to bring Brenda back. That’s when I realized that I have a 29 year career because of the fans. It’s hard to sit down with every fan and thank them personally, so I thought if this is what they want to see, I would give it a try.
PW: Were you happy with the role this time?
Shannen: People grow up and evolve – Brenda wasn’t a bad person, she was kid. She had drama. S*** wasn’t working for her [laughs]. But I always believed that Brenda was passionate about her actions and would fulfill her dreams. So when we developed her, we talked about making her a mature woman who learned from all these bad experiences. I feel everything they wrote for her was dead-on. It might have been boring without the pot-stirring, but I thought it was realistic. People evolve and grow. That wasn’t a choice I made as an actor, that was a choice I made as an actor saying thank you.
PW: So what kinds of roles are you looking for now?
Shannen: It’s a feeling. It’s also about working with certain directors. The Tony or Ridley Scott’s of the world. The David Fincher’s of the world. I also love Joe Wright, who did "Pride and Prejudice." I’d love to try something in that genre as well. Then you have the other side of the spectrum, I’ve never played a complete strung out drug addict. I want to keep moving forward and play new characters …but with that said, if Ridley Scott directed a "Heathers” sequel, I’d be like, “where do I sign?” [laughs]