Nineteen years after its finale, Beverly Hills, 90210 returns to Fox tonight—kind of.
The new iteration, BH90210, reunites the entire original cast of the hit series—minus the late Luke Perry. But instead of playing their characters, they “are fictionalized versions of themselves” as the actual actors, said Tori Spelling, who played Donna Martin and helped developed the new series. “We wanted to leave it to the audience to decide what’s real.”
The cast—Gabrielle Carteris, Brian Austin Green, Shannen Doherty, Ian Ziering, Jennie Garth, Spelling and Jason Priestley—all of whom are also executive producers, talked about the new series, debuting tonight, at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A.
After 10 seasons on Fox, the original 90210 ended its run in 2000. Pretty much since then, the cast has been asked about potential reunions or revival. Most of them said no, until now. “The time is right,” Ziering said.
“Everybody has talked to us about doing a reboot for a long time,” Carteris said. “I don’t think we ever thought in the end that it would be actualized. It was a great journey.”
While talks usually involved a straight revival of the series, “We wanted to do something fresh and groundbreaking, like the original,” Spelling said.
That led to BH90210, which was originally “a half-hour, and we thought it would be more of a comedy,” Spelling said. But she and Garth worked with Fox to “set a tone that was different from what’s out there … a blend of comedy, and drama and soap, all mixed into one.” Garth refers to it as “a soap-edy.”
Doherty, who left the series after Season 5, had originally intended to skip BH9010. “I definitely wasn’t going to do it,” she said. “It wasn’t, at that moment, what I wanted to be doing.”
But that was before Perry died tragically in March following a massive stroke.
“When Luke passed away, things drastically changed for me. It was a way to honor him,” she said, adding that it allowed the cast to heal together.
Before Perry’s death, Garth and the BH90210 producers “had conversations with him and he was supportive of” the new series, which he only would have been able to guest star on given his commitment to The CW’s Riverdale.
Technically, 90210 has returned before, as a reboot that debuted in 2008 on The CW and ran for five seasons. It featured some of the original cast, including Spelling and Garth, but most others stayed away.
“Once I saw that pilot episode, I realized it had nothing to do with what we had created,” Ziering said. “They were using Beverly Hills, 90210 to lure people in. That was more of a soap opera [while the original series] was more substantive.”
Continued Ziering, “No one’s going to make a remake of that show. With all due respect, often imitated but never duplicated.”
While Fox is positioning BH90210 as a limited series, the cast hopes it will become an ongoing show.
“We would love to continue to work together. It’s been such an amazing experience,” Spelling said. “We have so many stories to tell that we think it can keep going on season after season.”
Added Carteris, “This has been breathtaking. I don’t think I can say in words how meaningful this experience was.”