Tiffani-Amber Thiessen keeps busy -- The ''90210'' star will play the victim in two summer TV movies
Most people simply check into a hotel; Tiffani-Amber Thiessen practically does the 100-yard hurdles through the lobby.
While on location for a TV flick last month in Lockhart, Tex., Thiessen, 21, was left pretty much alone by the locals — until prom week kicked in. ”All the high school proms were in my hotel,” she recalls. ”And one evening these kids spotted me walking around, so I had to find the stairs and run up 11 flights to my suite.” Later that night, as she was about to fall asleep, she heard some noise in the hallway: A mob of about 20 teens, dressed in tuxedos and gowns, had found her room and camped outside her door.
Just another perilous day in the life of a rising teen-TV queen. ”I have more zits now than I did as a teenager,” says Thiessen. ”Stress zits.”
After the Oxy 10-worthy pressure last season on Beverly Hills, 90210 of ”filling the shoes of Shannen Doherty — I heard that phrase, I think, a thousand times,” Thiessen might have been expected to take the summer off. Instead, she turned her career down the movie-of-the-week path trodden by her 90210 mates Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth. Thiessen plays two sexual-assault victims in a pair of way-heavy TV movies slated for the coming season: In NBC’s Scared by Love, she portrays a teen who is raped by a high school football star (real-life beau Brian Austin Green plays her boyfriend), and in ABC’s The Stranger Beside Me, she plays a rape victim who unwittingly marries a serial rapist (McKenna‘s Eric Close). Thiessen’s motive for the double jeopardy? ”I’m not the girl from Saved by the Bell, and I wanted to prove it.”
Of course, Thiessen had already buried her 1989-94 image as Bell‘s goody-goody Kelly about six thousand feet under last September, when she joined 90210 — and helped lift the series to its highest ratings ever — as Walsh family friend Valerie Malone, a guy-chasing, booze-swilling, pot-toking, college-sophomore hussy. ”The big joke on the set,” says Thiessen, chain-smoking and breakfasting on a bran muffin in a hotel suite in San Diego, where she’s making Stranger, ”is that Valerie has made a play for everyone but Mr. Walsh.”
Landing the role wasn’t automatic, even though Thiessen had inside connections in Green, whom she’s been dating for 2 1/2 years (the two share a spacious house in the Hollywood Hills with her two golden retrievers, Bonnie and Clyde; his rottweiler, Alik; and two cats, Sadie and Savannah), and in Spelling, who had guest-starred on Bell. ”When Tiffani’s name first came up I wasn’t sure she was right for the part,” admits Aaron Spelling, 90210‘s executive producer and Tori’s dad. ”But she obviously has played it wonderfully. She’s getting amazing fan mail.” Plus, Spelling continues, ”Tiffani doesn’t rock the boat. And frankly, after Shannen, it was important to have someone who would bring some quiet to the set. Before we hire now, we ask around. No more problems.”
Still, we’re talking 90210, so it hasn’t been that quiet. From the moment Thiessen crossed into the turbulent zip code, the rumor mill began churning. ”First [the press] wrote that I was having temper tantrums on the set, which I really found amusing,” she says. ”Despite what you read, we all get along, and it’s a very relaxed set.” Less amusing were the harsher tales, like the story that Green is gay and the two are merely a couple of convenience. ”We both laugh at that one,” Thiessen says. ”Can’t they be more original?”