Press Tour: Jason Priestley returns to '90210' as a director
A familiar face entered the Peach Pit on Monday (Jan. 12) afternoon.
Brandon Walsh may have spent many hours working behind the counter at the Peach Pit, flipping burgers and washing dishes for Nat, but this wasn't Nat's Peach Pit and this isn't Brandon's "Beverly Hills, 90210."
No, walking into this new Peach Pit, really Hollywood's Cafe Kokomo, was Jason Priestley, who's on the eve of directing his first episode of The CW's "90210."
"I start on Thursday," Priestley said.
He continued, "I've been on the set all week. It's great. It's a really good show. I'm not telling you guys anything you don't know. It's a big show. It's a much bigger show than our show was, back in the day. They actually shoot on proper soundstages. The sets are all adult-sized, as opposed to the cobbled together sets that we used to shoot on. It's a very impressive production. They have an incredible production staff over there and I'm going to have a lot of fun over there."
One of the differences, obviously, is the Peach Pit, a major centerpiece for the early seasons of FOX's "Beverly Hills, 90210," but a bit of an afterthought on the new show, at least until The CW needed a location for a Television Critics Association press tour party.
"This is a far more upscale version of the Peach Pit," Priestley reflected. "I find myself, when we're in production meetings and I hear people talking about the Peach Pit, I find myself smiling and laughing a lot. And I'm glad it's not me who has to work at the Peach Pit anymore, to tell you the truth."
Is there anything else on the new "90210" world to generate nostalgia for Priestley, who played Brandon Walsh for more than 240 episodes?
"Really, the only continuity on the show is Erin Silver and Kelly Taylor," Priestley noted. "That's really all there is. For me as a director, it's just about getting into the show and digging into the storylines and understanding the interrelationships between all the characters and then shooting a great-looking show. That's my job, right?"
Indeed, in addition to acting on shows like "Love Monkey," "Medium" and "Side Order of Life," Priestley has worked steadily as a director, most recently helming multiple episodes for ABC Family's hit drama "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."
"I look for things that are interesting," he said. "Directing this show is certainly something that's incredibly interesting to me. It's been a lot of fun so far. I look forward to getting on the floor on Thursday morning and getting to it. I've know Lori Loughlin for 10 years. I've known Rob Estes for 15 years. A lot of the people in the production staff I've known for a long time and worked with on several other projects. It's not like I'm going into this not knowing anything or not knowing any of the people. It's been a very comfortable place to go to work every day and it's going to be a good episode."
Priestley can't say much about his "90210" episode, though he admitted he'll get to direct fellow original Jennie Garth in some scenes, adding, "The episode I'm directing is a big episode. It's a very ambitious episode."
And has he been subtly approached about making an on-camera appearance in the future?
"No, I haven't been," Priestley said. "I think that this new version of the show really stands on its own two feet and I really think that if you bring back too many of the old characters, it sort of muddies the waters and doesn't allow the show to be its own show, which is what it needs to be."
So far, the appearances by "BH90210" originals have been limited to Garth, Shannen Doherty and Joe E. Tata, though Tori Spelling's expected to reach a deal to return any day now. In the past, Priestley has repeatedly said that he wouldn't be back as Brandon.
That wasn't his line on Monday.
"Well, you know..." Priestley paused, looking for the right words. "I never say never, right? If Gabe [Sachs] and Jeff [Judah] came up with something really interesting, then we'll see what happens."
That's an interesting development of sorts, I guess.
Priestley added, "90210, it's just a title at this point in time. This new show is a very, very different animal from we were making 18 years ago. It needs to be. Television has progressed and audiences are much smarter and much hipper than they were. So the show has to be a different show and for that I'm grateful. If I was just going back to shoot an episode of the old '90210,' like I shot 18 of, it wouldn't be much of a challenge for me as a director. This is a whole new show and it's been good."
It's unclear when Priestley's episode of "90210" will air. The show's next original episode is set for Tuesday, Jan. 13.