To say the series Beverly Hills, 90210 was a pop culture phenomenon is an understatement. At its height, the series was a ratings winner for the young FOX network and influenced everything from fashion to music.
Even though the series went off the air officially in 2000; it still has an extremely loyal and loud fanbase to this day. On the outside, it seemed the series and its young stars could do no wrong, but as we all know, thing are not always what they seem.
The Lifetime network offers a look behind the scenes with its upcoming television movie The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story. During the shows ten year run, there have been catfights, hook-ups, arrests and more craziness then you can shake a mega burger at.
Playing the role of Shannen Doherty is Canadian born actress Samantha Munro. She may be best known for her work on the hit series Degrassi: The Next Generation, but has also appeared on shows such as Rookie Blue and Lost Girl. She can be currently seen playing Stacey on the Netflix series Between.
Today, we sit down with Samantha as she talks with us about how she prepared for the role, what she learned playing Shannen and how she thinks social media would have affected the show and the actors if it had existed back when Beverly Hills, 90210 was on the air.
Pop Culture Principle – Where you a fan of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 series?
Samantha Munro – I had heard of the show religiously, but I had never actually turned on my computer and watched it. After I got the part though, I binged watched it like a crazy person and it was awesome. So yes, I have watched the show and I can see why it was so successful.
Pop Culture Principle – What was the audition process like for the role?
Samantha Munro – I did a self-tape here in Toronto and then they said that they were interested, but I was actually backpacking through Europe at the time. I ended up calling the director and she did an audition with me in my rinky dink little hostel and I felt really embarrassed, but she didn’t seem to mind and I got the part. So, that was really cool that I booked the part from a really sketchy little spot in Rome which was really neat.
Pop Culture Principle – Besides watching the series, did you do anything else to prepare for the role?
Samantha Munro – Yea, our producers put together a huge 100 page booklet for us on interviews and any information that they could find on our characters. So we all studied the material that was given to us two or three days before we started filming. I tried to find interview s with Shannen, but most of them had been taken down or lost in cyberspace I guess. There really weren’t many interviews with her from that time period in her life and at that age. I did find a lot of interviews about her time on Charmed, but not many from her 90210 days, so I was very grateful to have that information booklet.
Pop Culture Principle – Is your preparation different preparing for a role that is based on a live person as opposed to a fictional character?
Samantha Munro – Well, it’s definitely more nerve wracking because they can call you if they are angry. It’s really great mimicking someone who is alive because there is so much information available to you and it’s not just coming out of your head. You know how you are supposed to move and you know how you are supposed to sound, so that part I was really grateful for.
It’s funny; I would say the winner who looked most like their character was Abbie Cobb who played Jennie Garth. All of the cast would go out for dinner and people would not know what to do when they saw all of us out together. It was really funny.
Pop Culture Principle – Beverly Hills, 90210 became a cultural phenomenon during its run. Why do you think the series became so popular?
Samantha Munro – It was the first of its kind. In Canada, we grew up with Degrassi, but this was the first show that kind of dealt with teen issues and it was the first show that went to those dangerous places people didn’t want to talk about. You had the rape story line with Jennie Garth, there was the kissing at prom and the pre-marital sex, so I think that shook all the parents up and the kids loved it. So, the success is because the show was edgy and also that the show wasn’t designed for adults, but was designed for kids. Aaron Spelling really hit the nail on the head with the series.
Pop Culture Principle – Brenda Walsh was a very polarizing character on the series. Fans either loved her or hated her. How well does the story portray that part of the 90210 history?
Samantha Munro – There are a couple of scenes in the movie where Shannen gets upset because the press really gets to her. It’s really hard for these kids because there is no manual on how to behave or what to do with fame and fortune before you turn 25. So, I really did end up sympathizing with her in the end and if somebody put me in her shoes, I don’t know if it would be any different to be honest. She was just acting like a person reacting to all this negative press that she was getting. There was that I Hate Brenda newsletter that was going around at that time and that has to be awful for any actress to deal with, so I don’t blame her.
Pop Culture Principle – Sometimes fans have a hard time separating a character and the actor who plays that character. Do you think that was one of the major issues for Shannen while she was on the series?
Samantha Munro – I think so, yes. She really was a very strong actress and I think it was probably really hard for her that people couldn’t separate the two. I used the example earlier today of Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. I absolutely hated that character, but the actor who played him was so good and he was just doing his job.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you think Shannen’s behavior in her personal life also contributed to the drama she was dealing with away from the series?
Samantha Munro – Oh I would definitely say so. Like I said, I really did sympathize with her. We really didn’t get into her personal life in the movie, just kind of how she behaved on set. I definitely think the way people talked about her triggered things that she did in her personal life and that kind of leaked onto the show as well. I would say it was a downward spiral for her and she finally was removed from the show.
Pop Culture Principle – Did you learn anything new about the series or the cast while working on the movie?
Samantha Munro – A couple of things weren’t addressed in the movie. I think Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth and Shannen where all in committed relationships on and off throughout the show. All of those make out scenes that you saw in the show- I think they were just cuts of things that maybe could have happened over time. I think that might upset fans a bit when they find out that it wasn’t true that so and so made out with so and so. We didn’t know either so we were just like; who do you want to make out with today? Ok and go. So, I learned that part was a little stretched, but man it was fun and I had a good time filming.
Pop Culture Principle – What did you enjoy the most about stepping in the world of Beverly Hills, 90210?
Samantha Munro – It was a little mind blowing to be honest. The world that they lived in was really quite beautiful. The fashion, the scenery, the beach and the cars, it was all so beautiful. Where I live in Toronto, we don’t have the beach and that kind of view, so for me that was one of my favorite parts for sure.
Pop Culture Principle – The cast of the series didn’t have any guidelines on what to do with their sudden rise to fame. What are your thoughts on that?
Samantha Munro – Yea, they definitely didn’t. It’s not the kind of thing where you can go ask your mother for advice about because your mother is just as clueless. The people that you do go ask their advice will go sell your story to the tabloids. So, I do sympathize with these kids a lot and especially with Shannen. She wasn’t supposed to be vilified or picked on in the movie, she was just entertaining.
Pop Culture Principle – Social media is such a huge part of our culture today. How do you think it would have played a part with the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 if it existed back then?
Samantha Munro – I think the wonder of Instagram and Twitter is that as an actor, you actually have some control over the way the world views you. You are able to project the image of yourself that you want everybody to see. I think that would have been a little bit more handy for some of these actors and they might have felt like they were a bit more in control, so I think it would have been helpful for everybody. Social media can be nasty, but as far as that goes, they might have had more of an opportunity to express themselves as opposed to just sitting back and letting everything hit them.
Pop Culture Principle – Beverly Hills, 90210 to this day still has a huge and loyal fanbase. What would you like the fans to take away after they watch this movie?
Samantha Munro – I would like to say that we don’t want to upset any of the fans and that this is just supposed to be fun. Take it with a grain of salt and enjoy yourself; that is how it was meant to be viewed. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story premieres Saturday, October 3, at 8pm ET/PT only on Lifetime. We would like to thank Samantha Munro for sitting down to talk with us about this project. If you would like to keep up to date with all of Samantha’s latest projects and news, you can follow her via her official Twitter account here.
**All photos courtesy of Lifetime**