When Beverly Hills 90210 premiered in 1990, no one could have known how popular the show - or its stars - would become. For 10 seasons, Beverly Hills 90210 brought drama to the small screen weekly while plenty of it played out behind the scenes as well.
Bad behavior, romances, rabid fans - these all contributed to tensions among the cast members while simultaneously building perpetual bonds and long-lasting friendships. During the 1990s, 90210 was THE show about growing up and finding your path. Here are a few details about the not-so-visible dips and bumps that sprung up in 90210 along the way.
Stories about Shannen Doherty's behavior on the set of 90210 and behind the scenes earned her a "bad girl" reputation during the 1990s. According to Larry Mollin, a producer and writer on 90210 from 1993 to 1997, "the writers loved Shannen...[but] she's tough on set." Mollin continued:
She just kind of pissed everyone off eventually and she pissed off the most important person, which was, you know, Tori [Spelling, Donna]. And not only that, she introduced Tori to a man who beat her. So that pretty much put the death card on her. So that was pretty much that.
The drama and tension surrounding Doherty finally reached its breaking point when she showed up on set one day having cut her hair. Again, Mollin explained:
In the middle of a show, she cut her hair and totally screwed us up for continuity so everyone was pissed off at her. Like I said, not the writers so much, but the producer people. And the other kids were out to get her head, because she had pissed everybody off, and they basically went to the old man [Aaron Spelling] and said she had to go.
Aaron Spelling did fire Doherty, later hiring her on Charmed, and replaced her with Tiffany Amber Theissen on 90210. He later said Doherty "thought it was time to go. And the cast did too."
For her part, Tori Spelling later admitted she'd played a large role in getting Doherty fired. "[I was] a part of something, a movement, that cost someone their livelihood.... Was she a horrible person? No. She was one of the best friends I ever had.”
Beverly Hills 90210 made Luke Perry a heartthrob. Fans were so taken with him that they fainted and made it unsafe for him to make public appearances. In an interview Perry gave to Rolling Stone in 1992, he recalled, "I had a girl in Denver, she just wasn’t breathing,” he says. “She fainted right in front of me. And I was going, ‘Hey, hey, breathe, hey, hey.’"
On another occasion, he had to sneak out of a mall in Seattle in a laundry hamper. As a result, he decided that photo-ops and the like weren't worth it anymore and he was "through with the laundry mass-transit system."
The fans went to great lengths for the show, but it didn't just stop with ambushing Perry. Mark D. Espinoza, who played character Andrea Zuckerman's husband, Jesse Vasquez, on the show, remembered the day he told his sister he'd be on the show:
I called my sister the day I found out I got the job, and she said, "Oh my gosh! I can't believe this'".... She flipped out. For them, it was the biggest thing in the world. They were far more excited than I was. Then my sister tells me, `You know, we named Gabrielle [their daughter] after Gabrielle Carteris." She and her husband had been watching the show since it began. He is still a rabid fan of Gabrielle Carteris.
Ray Pruitt - Donna Martin's boyfriend - was played by Jamie Walters starting in Season 5 of 90210. The guitar-playing singer was shown pushing Donna (Tori Spelling) down a flight of stairs at the end of the season, something that bought him no favor from viewers. Larry Mollin explained, "We had this whole plan. He was going to go to rehab because he was an abused child. We were going to redeem him because we liked him. He was a wonderful kid."
Unfortunately for Walters, they couldn't save him in time. Mollin revealed that fans wrote to Aaron Spelling, complaining about the character of Ray and the whole plot surrounding his relationship with Donna:
There was a lot of mail to the old man–“How can Donna be so stupid and be with this guy?”–so we came in to start the new season, which was right after since we only had like a week or two off because we were doing 32, and he goes “You have to get rid of him.” And we go, “What are you talking about?” He said, “You have to get rid of him. Everyone thinks Tori’s stupid.” There was no arguing with him. That was all he cared about. So we had to fire him.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly after his exit, Walters said, "It’s fun to play a bad guy, I won’t lie to you.... I just had people coming up to me all the time. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without little old ladies smacking me over the head with their purses and telling me to start being nicer to that nice little blonde girl on TV."
Jennie Garth, who played Kelly Taylor on the show, wasn't the first choice for the role. Garth indicated in her memoir, Deep Thought From a Hollywood Blonde, that she was a novice and producers were looking for "seasoned actors." Garth managed to get some face-time with Aaron Spelling, however, and soon found herself opposite one of those seasoned actors - Shannen Doherty.
Garth and Doherty were at odds while filming 90210, even coming to blows on occasion. According to Garth:
I don't know why it is, but there is a universal truth that when you put three teenage girls together, some serious sh*t is going to go down.... Poor Tori, the youngest of the three of us was, inevitably, often caught in the middle and she was always trying to smooth things over, trying to get Shan and me off each other's backs and get along, but her efforts usually failed.
Tori Spelling's efforts to mediate the tension between Garth and Doherty did indeed fail, especially when the two came to blows on one occasion. Garth remembered that they "took it outside" but that they never actually fought because "the [security] guys...held us back."
Spelling hid in her dressing room as the scene unfolded, later shedding light on the cause of the argument. Spelling recalled, “You guys were teasing each other and she, like, pulled your skirt up.”