US September 1998

US September 1998

IT HAS BEEN COUNTLESS NEWS CYCLES SINCE SHE MADE A Screaming headline - long enough for the furor that once surrounded her to die down to a barely audible hum. But Hollywood has a good memory for bad publicity, and whether it's fair or not, Shannen Doherty still carries more baggage than an airport skycap on the day before Thanksgiving. In 1990, when at age 19 she joined the cast of the pioneering teen soap Beverly Hills, 90210 as naive Minnesota transplant Brenda Walsh, Doherty burned herself into the collective consciousness as the archetypal modern-day "bad girl." She was the stuff of a tabloid editor's dreams: a brash young star with a knack for get-ting into spectacular kinds of trouble and an irresistible urge to shoot her mouth off about it.

Like a Girl Scout going for some demented merit badge, Doherty steadily ticked off nearly every item on the Young Hollywood scandal checklist. She allegedly showed up late on the 90210 set, threw tantrums, and feuded with co-stars Jason Priestley, Luke Perry and Jennie Garth. There was a parade of doomed relationships - three engagements in as many years, with one ending explosively when, in 1991, fiancĪ Dean Factor filed for a restraining order against Doherty, alleging that she tried to run him down with her car and "threatened to hire a few guys to beat me up and sodomize me on the front lawn." In 1993, Doherty married aspiring actor Ashley Hamilton, son of the perpetually tanned George, but the union collapsed after five turbulent months. Doherty was widely reported to be an out-of-control partner, a vindictive harpy with a violent streak, a profligate spender who owed money all over town and, perhaps most unforgivably in liberal Hollywood, a Republican Through it all, the line between the actress and her 90210 persona blurred, as Brenda became progressively more villainous - inspiring an underground zine called the I Hate Brenda Newsletter.

The actress had come a long way to attain such infamy, Born on April 12,1971, in Memphis, Tenn., Doherty was raised in an observant Southern Baptist family; her mother, Rosa, was a housewife, and her father; Tom, ran a trucking firm. At age 6, Doherty and her family (her older brother, Sean, is now in politics) moved to Los Angeles, and within a few years, the aspiring actress graduated from church plays to a part on the NBC series Little House: A New Beginning She followed that up with the equally wholesome family drama Our House in 1986. But it was after her 1989 role as a catty high-school social climber opposite Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in the black comedy Heathers that Doherty's career hit its stride.

In 1994, Doherty left Beverly Hills, 90210 under what was rumoured to be a cloud of ill will. Brenda was packed off to London and only rarely spoken of again, while Doherty retreated from the glare of the spotlight, starring in a slew of made-for-TV movies with words like passion and obsession in the title and taking a supporting role in the 1995 comedy Mallrats. To industry observers, a rapprochement between the actress and 90210 creator Aaron Spelling seemed as likely as Ozzy Osbourne's being named spokesman for the National Audubon Society.

It comes as no small surprise then that Doherty is now returning to TV in Spelling's latest project, Charmed, a Wednesday-night series on the WB network about three young sisters (played by Doherty and newcomers Holly Marie Combs and Lori Rom) who discover they are witches. For his part, Spelling insists his relationship with his Beverly Hills, 90210 star was never as rocky as everyone believed. He debunks reports that she was fired from the show and says, in fact, that the two briefly discussed the possibility of her returning to 90210 this season. "We had a few bumps along the road, but golly, who doesn't?" Spelling says. "Everything Shannen did was blown out of proportion by the rag sheets. And the more you read, the more you believed, which is the way our town functions. I assure you, if she had done something really horrible, I would have been an idiot to want to work with her again."

Poolside at a Los Angeles hotel, over cappuccino, french fries and many Marlboro Lights, Doherty smiles far more than one might expect from the young star with the famous scowl, though there is a slight wariness behind her hazel eyes. At 27, she is more comfortable discussing her passion for horseback riding and her renewed respect for the actor's craft than, say, the current status of her on-again, off-again relationship with director Rob Weiss (Amongst Friends), 31. Still, while she's clearly intent on looking ahead, Doherty is not running from her past - nor does she feel the need to ritually beg forgiveness for her youthful transgressions in order to win back the public's favor.

"I think she's made her peace," says Charmed co-star Combs, who has been a friend of Doherty's for the past five years. "It's been a long time, and she's been out of the spotlight, and I think that was a good thing. This is the happiest she's been since I've known her."

"What you see is what you get with Shannen," says Spelling with obvious affection. "She won't play games with you and Say, 'Oh, please like me.' You'll walk away loving her or walk away hating her. But she won't lie to you".

A lot of people are surprised to see you working with Aaron Spelling again. Should they be?
Well, I'm not surprised at all, because things were just never that bad. When you're the two people in the relationship and you know what's going on, it just seems like, what are all these people talking about? To everybody else, I'm sure it seems shocking, but it doesn't seem like any big deal to me. The only thing that was a big deal was the anxiety of, like, "Oh, my God, they're going to have a field day with this."