Chicago Sun-Times July 13th 2006
Chicago Sun-Times July 13th 2006


PASADENA, Calif. -- She faces a roomful of reporters. Nervous in a chair, she places both hands under her legs to stop the shakes. These writers are members of the media that painted her as a pariah. Here, now, comes Shannen Doherty to ask for forgiveness.

She knows she shoulders responsibility for having instigated nasty stories in her youth -- when she was late to the set of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and didn't get along with some cast members. The situation when she broke a bottle on a guy's windshield. Moments, all of them, a decade or more old.

She's asked about her reputation, and she says her bad behavior is old news.

"I've tried desperately to be given a second chance with the media, and it has not been given to me. And at this point, I sort of have to walk away and go, 'You know what, I've got to live my life and I've got to do what makes me happy. And if people don't want to let go of stuff that happened 10 years ago, then that's their thing. It can't be mine.' "

Her mother's in the room. Her dad is ill, elsewhere. Bad press about her hurts them, she says. Once the eternal brat character in "90210" and "Heathers," Doherty fingertip-dabs at tears near the start of wrinkles on her 35-year-old face. The emotions look real, not like actor's tears.

Most questions aim not at her past but at her new show, "Breaking Up With Shannen Doherty," starting Aug. 22 on Oxygen. Doherty intervenes on behalf of women and men, telling their significant others they want to break up.

Getting personal

Like the press Doherty fed and fears, for "Breaking Up" she has become the bearer of bad news.

Personal questions come in bigger doses after the press conference. Has the press acted unfairly toward her?

"I hate to use the word 'unfair.' But again, I have to stand up and say it wasn't just the press. I played a huge part in it. A huge part," she says. "If I am creating some of the drama, you guys have a job to report it. [But] no one lets it die. ... Give me a chance to mess up again. Stop writing about stuff that happened 10 years ago.

"Just let me breathe and let my parents breathe. Let them pick up a paper that says one nice thing about me."

(I will say a nice thing. I have talked with actors who worked with her last year, and they say they loved working with her.)

Another question causes her lips to purse and chin to tighten, as though she doesn't want to cry. How was she touched by the death, a few weeks ago, of Aaron Spelling, who cast her in "90210" and dealt with her highly publicized contract disputes?

"You are talking about a man I have known since I was 18 years old that has played a significant, significant role in my life, that I owe a lot to. And no matter what people said about our relationship, I loved him dearly and he loved me dearly."

Ironic subject matter

The mood also breaks upbeat. Unashamed of having been divorced a few times, as noted in the media, she smiles brightly, talking about her role as a breaker-upper on TV.

"I'm gonna go help women and give them an outside, objective opinion and help them get over some guy treating them bad. Or vice versa. ... We are actually helping people. I really believe that. And the minute I think we stop helping people is the minute I won't be a part of it, anymore."

She wants a family, yet she has gone on just one date in the last year and a half.

"And it didn't go so well," she says and laughs a little.

Not dating is liberating, says Doherty, who will dish as a co-host on "The View" July 31 and Aug. 1.

"I do not need a man to make me happy. I think that we can all look back on my history and see that I am not a casual dater by any means. I have relationships. But I go from relationship to relationship. And to go that long without a guy ... it changes everything for you as a woman. It allows you to set those standards higher [because] you can say, 'I can be alone.' "

All by herself, she has realized something.

"I have discovered that I am a pretty damn good person."

She beams.

When she returns to dating with higher standards in mind, she says, she may find a suitable match.

"I gotta be honest with you: There are some men I have dated that I look back on and I shiver and think, 'What was I thinking?' We all make mistakes. And God knows I have."