"Beverly Hills 90210" stalwart Jason Priestley recently got some advice on the set of his new film, "Love and Death on Long Island"
(now open in New York and Los Angeles). His veteran co-star, 58-year-old John Hurt, said, “There are many, many opportunities out there on film and on stage. You might want to think about leaving that show.”
Recent reports suggest that Priestley, 28, may in fact be reducing his role on “90210” next year. But in an interview with EW Online, the boyishly handsome actor cagily avoided discussing specifics about his plans. Still, he couldn’t mask his apprehensions about the series. “I’ve been very loyal to the show, and I feel like I’ve really wrung every bit of experience and knowledge out of the show that I can,” he said, murmuring the word “Ouch!” when mentioning that “90210” was entering its ninth season.
On “90210,” Priestley has served as an actor, director, producer and executive producer, but his work has come with the fear that he will forever be branded as Brandon. “The whole teen idol thing really made me uncomfortable,” says Priestley, who has also directed a music video for the rock group Barenaked Ladies. “I’ve always thought I had much more to offer than just that.”
In “Love and Death,” Priestley takes a dig at his own idol status, playing a heartthrob star of such cheesy films as “Hotpants College 2” and “Skidmarks,” who becomes an object of obsession for a British writer (Hurt). “I’ve done my share of movies like ‘Hotpants College 2,'” says Priestley, whose first starring role in the wake of “90210”‘s fame was 1993’s “Calendar Girl,” in which he and his buddies cruised Hollywood in the early ’60s searching for Marilyn Monroe. “To go back and revisit a place where I was in my life a number of years ago and make fun of that situation was a great opportunity for me,” the actor says.
During the past few years, Priestley has been concentrating on film roles that value script over sideburns. Even if movies like 1995’s “Coldblooded,” in which he played a nerdy hitman, don’t get much attention, they point his career in the right direction. “It’s easy to play a character on TV that people associate with, and it’s easy to carry that type of character over into movies, and it’s very easy to do movies of the week until we’re all sick of them,” says Priestley, who filmed four independent films last year. “But I’ve tried to do material that I find more interesting than that.” Put another way: Once you’ve tasted the fruit of film, it’s tough to go back to the Peach Pit.