When you think Tori Spelling, two things generally come to mind: her virginal Beverly Hills, 90210 character Donna Martin, and her 10 TV movies with insta-classic titles like Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? Funny enough, when Tori Spelling thinks Tori Spelling, two things come to mind: being typecast as the virginal Donna Martin, and starring in a slew of guilty pleasures/TV movies with insta-classic titles like Co-ed Call Girl. Maybe that’s why the sixth episode of her new show, so noTORIous — VH1’s faux-reality sitcom in which the actress plays a more comically hapless version of herself lands TV Tori on set in Ottawa, portraying a plucky forensic pathologist in Heartbreak Homicide. ”We work my TV movies into almost all of the episodes,” Spelling says with pride. ”They’re my bread and butter. I love them.”
Luckily, she has affection for most things she’s been mocked for, from her dubious bra size to assumptions that Daddy bought her a career. ”My reality is the misconceptions about me,” says Spelling, 32, who pitched so noTORIous while carrying around a folder full of Tori-centric tabloid stories. (NBC developed the pilot for fall 2005 but ultimately passed.) Of course, how much the sitcom resembles her real life is a closely guarded secret. ”I keep hearing, ‘That can’t possibly be true,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, yes, it is,”’ she says. She denies reports that parents Candy and Aaron are angry about their onscreen alter egos, portrayed by an over-the-top Loni Anderson and a Charlie’s Angels-style voice in an intercom (Mark Capri). ”People are assuming the mother character is my mother. She’s not. The only real characters on the show are me and [pet pug] Mimi LaRue.”
Still, it’s not like Spelling is hurting for real material — especially given her aforementioned telepic career. ”Audiences could never relate to me as anything other than Tori Spelling,” she sighs. ”But TV movies don’t have to be relatable, because you’re, like, being stalked with amnesia.” Since we relate to Tori best when she’s dealing with ESP or homicidal boyfriends, we asked her to look back at her most memorable TV movies.
A Friend to Die For (1994, NBC)
Spelling plays high school cheerleader Stacy, who teases the uncool new girl in school, Angela (Life Goes On‘s Kellie Martin). Since no bad deed goes unpunished in TV movies, Stacy ends up on the sharp end of Angela’s knife.
”I was just psyched to get it. It was the first time I was playing evil. I already had the stigma of being Donna Martin. I would go to auditions and [casting agents] would be like, ‘We don’t see you as a bitch.’ I was like, ‘Great. No one’s ever going to see me as a bitch…”’
Co-ed Call Girl (1996, CBS)
Spelling soon owned the woman-in-peril genre. In Awake to Danger, she emerged from a coma with amnesia. Deadly Pursuits found her working for the Mob. Call Girl veered in a slightly different direction: Spelling played Joanna, a brainy student hustling for extra cash.
”I was like, ‘Ooh, I get to play a hooker…yes!’ Every girl — deep down — wants to play a whore. Right after we filmed my first bed scene, the producer said, ‘Tori, it’s network [TV]. You can’t show your tongue.’ I was so mortified.”