Does the prospect of watching the Beverly Hills, 90210 cast play themselves in a meta dramedy about making a 90210 revival strike you as a little… poignant? Well, original 90210 heartthrob Jason Priestley gets it. “It’s inherently funny — a bunch of middle-aged people trying to go back and recapture the magic of their youth. It’s funny! It’s also a little bit tragic at the same time, but that’s what makes it fun,” he tells EW exclusively. “And you can’t have great comedy without a little bit of tragedy, right?” Priestley and his original castmates will play “heightened” versions of themselves in the new series, dubbed BH90210, which premieres Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 9 p.m. on Fox. EW got more details from Priestley about the unusual project, while also covering other important 90210-related topics including dolls, Brandon’s hair, and his character’s many, many girlfriends.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you explain the concept of the show in your own words?
JASON PRIESTLEY: [Laughs] Yes, that is a challenge all unto itself. The show is not unlike Episodes or Curb Your Enthusiasm. This show is following the lives of all of us — so Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling and Jason Priestley and Ian Ziering — as we all attempt to get a reboot of 90210 off the ground. Which is incredibly funny — the prospects of a bunch of fictionalized versions of ourselves trying to get this 90210 reboot off the ground, we’re telling this is in a very comical way. I think the opportunity to satirize the situation is something we all found very appealing.
Who initially came to you with the idea, and was your first reaction Huh???
Jennie and Tori approached us all about the prospect of doing it. And I think it was difficult for everyone to imagine and to figure out exactly what it was — until we all sat down together and started talking through the idea and talking about other ideas and what we all felt the show could be and what we all felt like it should be. That went on for months — we had months of creative conversations and we spent a long time developing the show that we took out to sell, and now we’re in the process of getting ready to go make, which is very exciting for all of us.
There was another version of 90210 that some of us were involved in, some of the cast members were not. The one that Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah created that was on The CW — I directed an episode of that show, and Jennie and Tori and Shannen [Doherty] actually appeared on screen. It was one of those things, but that show really had very little to do with the original show other than sharing a title with it.
This show is something that is far more personal to all of us — but also is not. Very little of it is actually based in reality. The construct of it is going to be a comedy, and at the end of the day, you have to make choices that are going to be the funniest choice.
How does “Jason Priestley” differ from you, the actual Jason Priestley?
He differs from me in every way — other than the fact that he is a TV director. That is sort of the one thing in my real life that we decided to hang the little slice of reality on. The rest of it is completely fictionalized.
We’ve got images of the promo shoot you all recently did together, with the 90210 dolls set up on the little Peach Pit set. What was it like getting together again for a shoot like that — and more importantly, do you still own a Brandon Walsh doll?
Getting everyone back together for the photo shoot was actually a lot of fun. Since all of us had been at one of those gallery shoots together, it had been 25 years, so it was really special. We all had a lot of fun that day, there was a lot of joking around. They had a hard time getting us to actually focus and do anything because we were all messing around so much.
Do I have a Brandon Walsh doll? I do! I have a complete pristine set of all of our dolls. They are safely secured away in a storage facility deep in the San Fernando Valley with a whole lot of other memorabilia. To have a doll made in your likeness is one of those rare things… I’m in a pretty small club of dudes that has a doll made in their likeness, right? It’s me and Luke Perry and Lee Majors, you know what I mean? There are a few other ones, but those are the only three that matter. I’m joking.
Do you think your hair can still do what it did back then?
[hearty laughter] Almost. Almost! Maybe not? Sure, yeah! I’m gonna say yes! Oh my God.
What does it mean for you to be working with this group again after all these years, especially after losing Luke Perry so recently?
Right. It’s incredibly special, and I think that we all appreciate it more, and appreciate our fellow castmates a little more now. When we were younger in our twenties, everything was just part of the job, right? Whereas now I think that we all have more perspective on things because we’re older and we understand more. Since I’ve worked on that show, I’ve worked on 100 other projects, and working on all those other projects gives you an appreciation for how special that time was. When we were all in the middle of it, it was so chaotic and it was so crazy at times, it was difficult to appreciate the specialness of that time. We all have a much healthier perspective on it now. All of my castmates, we all experienced something together that not a lot of people get to experience.
Do you have a favorite Brandon girlfriend who you would like to see return for the show-within-a-show?
[Laughs] Oh, my God, there were so many. My daughter now, who’s 11, has discovered 90210 and I’ve been having to re-watch the entire series with her, my 11-year-old daughter. And seeing it through her eyes has been really fun. But she’s always, “Awww, Daddy, you kiss a different girl in every episode!” She’s really funny.
I think Brandon’s girlfriend that America loved to hate, Emily Valentine, should come back and make an appearance in the new show. Because Emily Valentine needs a shot at retribution — or not!
For more details on the 90210 revival, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday.