“I don’t think Brenda was a complete brat,” Doherty says. “She was fueled by her insecurities: not being from Beverly Hills, not feeling safe in that environment. And then the love of her life was stolen from her. That can really injure a young girl’s esteem.”
Alas, poor Doherty was playing the role of a lifetime as her TV and real-life personae began to merge. There was boy trouble and more boy trouble. Doherty’s relationship with Dean Factor, heir to the Max Factor makeup fortune, ended when a restraining order was filed against her after she allegedly tried to run him down with her car. (Her memorable line: “If I really wanted to run him over, I wouldn’t have missed.”) Then there was a teen-angst-worlds-colliding liaison with Judd Nelson. Next Doherty met George Hamilton’s son, Ashley. They married after two weeks; the union lasted all of seven months.
Her chaotic personal life exacted a professional toll. Amid rumors that she was consistently showing up late to the set, Doherty left Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1994, after the fourth season. She lay low for a while, except for a winning turn in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats in 1995 and an appearance in Playboy. Then, in 1998, Aaron Spelling cast her in Charmedas an actual witchopposite Alyssa Milano. Just as the “Shannen is back” story line began to gel, she quit, reportedly because she was at odds with Milano.
But that was seven years ago. Since then Doherty has, much to her relief, fallen off the tabloid radar. “I have a great life now,” Doherty says. She owns three horses and rides them obsessively, and her parents live a five-minute drive away. “If you could see me with my horse Picasso, how I call his name and he sticks his head out of his stall and then licks me from the neck upthat’s what my life is like now,” she says. “It’s really kind of boring.”
An obvious question arises: If Shannen Doherty is so happy with her placid life, why is she raising Brenda Walsh from the dead?
Doherty is greeted like an old friend at the Greek restaurant where we meet. She orders a salad, subtracting four ingredients and adding five, punctuating her request with pleases and thank-yous. She has been acting since the age of 7, and, perhaps because of this, she teeters between charmingly innocent and girl-in-a-bubble oblivious.
“I don’t spend any time on the Internet,” Doherty says. “I used to, but then I’d cry myself to sleep, thinking everyone in the world hates me. So I stopped. But when the news came that they were bringing back 90210, friends started e-mailing me stuff from fan sites that said Brenda had to be on the show. I can pay my mortgage and ride my horses because of those fans. This is how I can repay them.”