TCA: How The CW got Shannen Doherty back on '90210'
After weeks of speculation, rumors and, presumably, haggling, Executive Producer Gabe Sachs said Saturday morning at the Beverly Hilton that Doherty's Brenda will join the previously announced returns of Kelly (Jennie Garth), Donna (Tori Spelling) and Nat (Joe E. Tata). Garth and Tata also will be in the pilot episode. Spelling will appear later.
Doherty did not appear at the CW TCA Press Tour session, which featured the series' regular cast -- in other words, none of the throwback ones. (But Tata -- already in character -- did help serve the buffet breakfast before the panel began until he was overrun by journalists.)
Doherty left the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" under unpleasant circumstances after the fourth season. But the character of Brenda -- and Doherty herself -- have loomed large in the popular imagination. After the press conference, Sachs said that it was CW President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff who wanted Doherty from the start.
“Dawn was very, very, very excited about the prospect of having Shannen on the show,” Sachs said. “And I think that generated conversations. Someone from Shannen’s camp introduced herself on an e-mail and asked, “Would you have dinner?” And I was like, ‘yeah.’ Then, of course, everyone from Paramount and CW are concentrating on this dinner."
The 3-1/2-hour dinner at STK went well, Sachs said. But the subject of appearing in his highly anticipated show didn’t come up until 20 minutes before it was over, he said.
“It was three hours of us getting to know each other,” he said. “We didn’t discuss this show at all until the last 20 minutes. “And I said: ‘You know, you’re coming into an environment that’s completely different. It’s not going to be that environment where there was any tension. That’s not what our world is. It’s not the way Jeff [Judah] and I produce shows. It’s a very warm environment. No one yells. It’s just a different beast.’ ”
After the dinner, Sachs and Doherty e-mailed each other a few times and then decided to get down to business on the telephone.
“We brainstormed and she was so excited,” he said. “She was like, 'This is so different.' We’re including her and I think her experience was producers and actors are very separate. We are very collaborative with actors.”
Sachs and fellow executive producer Jeff Judah said that Brenda -- who was always theatrically minded -- would return to West Beverly High as the director of the school musical. She will appear in "multiple episodes," Sachs said.
“Her concern was that she wanted to come in a way that would be real,” Sachs said.
During the press conference, one critic asked for a clarification about the specifics of the part, and when Sachs provided those details, said, “I was afraid you had hired her to be a director.”
Garth was the first former cast member to sign on. Kelly is now a high school guidance counselor who grew up living next door to Harry Wilson, played by Rob Estes.
Asked how she responded to the news that Doherty would also be back — the actresses famously do not like each other — Sachs replied:
“Jennie’s a big girl,” he said. “I love Jennie. I’ve known Jennie a long time. She’s a big girl. She’s smart and that will all be great.”
-- Maria Elena Fernandez and Kate Aurthur
Photo: Getty Images