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The Conversation: Actress Shannon Doherty

By Sarah Morgan

The 43-year-old actress is best known for playing teenager Brenda Walsh in hit Nineties teen show, Beverly Hills 90210, and supernatural drama series Charmed.

Does it feel almost 25 years since Beverly Hills 90210 started?

No, I can't believe it, and it makes me feel very old!

How did you get the role?

I auditioned a couple of times. To be honest, I thought I blew it, I was very nervous. They had a reading with different guys and with Jason Priestley, and they'd flown in a girl from New York to audition. Traditionally, in those days, if they were flying someone out, they were the first choice, so I thought, 'She's going to get it'. The casting director came after me and asked where I was going. I said, 'I know I didn't get it, so I'm just going home', and he was like, 'Oh no, you're staying, you got it'.

What made the show so special?

It was just really relatable. It was the first show for teenagers, the first show that dealt with young people's problems honestly. Parents felt good about being able to sit down and watch it, and it would open discussions about what young people were going through at that time.

What kind of reaction did you get from UK fans?

UK fans in general are die-hard fans, incredibly supportive. It didn't matter there was an accent, it just mattered that everybody felt there was something relatable. That is one of our biggest fan bases.

Was it difficult to deal with the media attention so young?

Yeah. We didn't have social media then, so some really bad trash magazine could write something bad about you and there was no way to combat it. But now, with social media, you can instantly combat it.

Do you ever regret leaving the show?

In some ways I do, in others I don't. The parts I got to play afterwards were a challenge, like Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind. I got to work with Kevin Smith, which turned into a long-lasting relationship – we did a little show not so long ago and we're talking about doing a movie in October. So I look at that and think, 'Wow, if I'd carried on with 90210, I probably wouldn't have done Mallrats, and I wouldn't have the relationship I have with a person that I consider to be a terrific writer, director and actor'.

You've been acting since you were very young. What got you started?

I was doing church plays and somebody saw me and my brother and thought we'd be really good at it. My mom said no, so for two years we carried on doing church plays. But she saw we were really dedicated and good. I did everything that my brother did because he was older and I looked up to him – he was kind of my hero. So if he wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be an actor; if he wanted to play football, I wanted to play football – it was one of those situations. He later went out of the business and into politics, but I stayed acting.

Do you have a dream project?

The project I'm working on now is kind of a dream project because I really wanted to showcase the USA, to boost our economy and show people there's a lot to see here. It's interesting to see my baby being born, and I hope people will like it. I'm also developing three new TV shows. As far as acting, yes, of course, I'd love to work with Ridley Scott or Darren Aronofsky or Martin Scorsese or any of these directors I admire. But the other dream project is me directing. I think Kathryn Bigelow is a phenomenal director. I only hope one day to have a thimbleful of her talent as a director.

What is the project you're working on?

It's a travel show. Myself and Holly Marie Combs, who was in Charmed with me, travel six dates per season, and show all the amazing things off the map that you wouldn't normally do.

You recently worked with James Franco on his film Bukowski as well...

I did, yeah! James is a genius. He's a great director and actor. So when James contacted me to do a very small part – like you might blink and miss me – I jumped at it.

Have you got anything else coming up?

I have the movie with Kevin. I'm in the middle of developing shows for television. More important than acting is that I sit on the advisory board for Sea Shepherd. I'm going to the Faroe Islands, and then to Taiji in Japan to see dolphins in captivity. I'm passionate about it.

The plug

Shannen Doherty was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and enjoyed a number of roles as a child actor before landing her breakthrough part in Beverly Hills 90210, in 1990. She is married to photographer Kurt Iswarienko, her third husband. Beverly Hills 90210 is currently showing on the CBS Drama channel, weeknights at 9pm

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