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Tori Spelling: Back in the spotlight

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Tori Spelling knows how to make an entrance. On the set of The CW’s 90210 — or, in this case, a quaint bungalow in Venice, Calif., that doubles as Kelly Taylor’s house — Jennie Garth has just finished a scene with Jessica Stroup (Silver) and Tristan Wilds (Dixon) when a van pulls up within a few feet of the action. ”She’s here!” a crew member announces, as Spelling steps out with her own camera crew in tow. But the 35-year-old bestselling author and reality-show star is not only taping a special episode of Oxygen’s Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood, she’s also reprising her role as Donna Martin, TV’s virgin sweetheart. Anticipation for Spelling’s two-episode arc (beginning April 14) is high — a gaggle of paparazzi have already gathered across the street to capture the moment — but Spelling eases into the next scene with her old pal Garth as if she’d never left the zip code. ”I didn’t want to overthink this,” she admits later. ”I didn’t want to go back to playing funny, silly, ditzy Donna and not have her mature. She’s married. She has a baby now. But I found her quite easily. I forgot that Donna is me to the core.”

That’s because much like Donna — who, we’ll learn, now lives in Japan and works as a successful fashion designer — Spelling found happiness and success by leaving her comfort zone. Two years ago, she began filming the reality show with her second husband, Dean McDermott (season 3 begins in late May). Meanwhile, she’s about to follow her hit memoir sTORI Telling with Mommywood, about her frazzled home life with two children, Liam, 2, and Stella, 9 months. ”I call it my amateur attempt at trying to be a mom,” says Spelling, who relishes her new role as a writer. ”As an actor, you have fans. Now I feel like I have friends who come up and say, ‘I had this problem, and you write about that in your book.”’

Of course, Spelling has some problems her fans can’t relate to: namely, that her mother, Candy, just published a book in which she takes several subtle digs at Tori; Candy also recently told a reporter that she’s never met her granddaughter. Though Spelling declined to comment about her mother’s book, the explosion of fresh gossip about the rift is a painful reminder of a time she’d like to forget. ”For so much of my career, I was fighting everyone tooth and nail,” she explains. ”I would do something that I thought would be good, and it would always be turned around on me by the press.”

Even her negotiation to guest-star on 90210 prompted a flurry of headlines claiming Spelling had originally declined to appear because she wasn’t being offered as much money as Garth and Shannen Doherty. ”That was completely blown out of proportion,” insists Spelling. ”I don’t know what the other girls make. I was really sad for the fans — I don’t want them to think that this would ever be a money issue between the girls.” Besides, she adds, the reason for her reluctance was more cosmetic: ”I was sitting at home with a newborn. I had 40 pounds to lose!” (Insiders say Spelling’s pay is comparable to her former costars’.) ”I was relieved when it all came together,” says Garth. ”I’m just so happy she’s finally here.” The question is, For how long? The story line leaves open the possibility of Donna remaining in Beverly Hills, and the actress says she would return if asked. ”I always believe that everything works out when it’s meant to,” she says. ”And it’s perfect timing for me to come back now.”

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