News Roundup: One Tree Hill, 90210 and The O.C.

12 07 2010
  • There’s revised cover art for the One Tree Hill Season 7 DVD and a look at the back over is now available, too.
  • SoapNet has a new quiz entitled, Which Beverly Hills 90210 Girl Are You? I got Andrea and was told, “Brainy and awkward, you might be overlooked by guys — but don’t worry! You’re too great to be passed by for long, and when you find love, it’ll be the real deal. Mostly.”
  • Jason Priestley (Brandon, Beverly Hills 90210) won the Best Actor Award for Call Me Fitz at the Roma Fiction Fest 2010 Awards.
  • In an interview about Covert Affairs, executive producer Doug Liman (executive producer, The O.C.) talks a bit about working with Peter Gallagher (Sandy, The O.C.) on The O.C.
  • Covert Affairs, which features Gallagher, premieres tomorrow night on USA along with the season premiere of White Collar, which features Tiffani Amber Thiessen (Valerie, Beverly Hills 90210) and will feature Hilarie Burton (Peyton, One Tree Hill).




News Roundup: Gossip Girl, The O.C., 90210 and One Tree Hill

16 03 2010
  • Last night’s Gossip Girl (1.7 million viewers) stayed the same in the ratings compared to last week, making that two weeks in a row with a record-low. Meanwhile, Life Unexpected had a nice increase in ratings, which The CW (rightfully) bragged about in a press release, while also spinning GG’s numbers.
  • At work today, Gossip Cop and I busted Access Hollywood and OK! Magazine for citing one of the fake Twitter accounts for Chace Crawford (Nate, Gossip Girl).
  • Zap2it has an interview with Aaron Tveit (Tripp, Gossip Girl), mostly about Ugly Betty.
  • Hilary Duff (Olivia, Gossip Girl) and Chris Carmack (Luke, The O.C.) star in the TV movie Beauty & The Briefcase, which will air on ABCFamily April 18.
  • Benjamin McKenzie (Ryan, The O.C.) wrote a piece for TVGuide.com about tonight’s episode of Southland. Apparently this is the third week he’s done this. News to me!
  • Bonnie Somerville (Rachel, The O.C.) and Matt Lanter (Liam, 90210) each participated in a short trivia game with DailyFill, where the questions happened to be predominantly about our teen dramas!
  • The CW Source, BuzzSugar and TeenTelevision.com have spoilish interviews with Tristan Wilds (Dixon, 90210).
  • Alloy and TV.com have spoilish interviews with Michael Steger (Navid, 90210). Really not happy with the factually-inaccurate and insulting answer he gave to the last question in the latter one. (BTW, have you read my interview with him?)
  • Crushable.com has a post highlighting “5 Dudes Who Are Way Too Old To Be Playing Teenagers on TV,” including Trevor Donovan (Teddy, 90210) and making references to Steger and Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris, Beverly Hills 90210).
  • The Walshes ranked 49th in TV Guide Magazine’s list of Top 50 TV Families.
  • For the week of February 22, One Tree Hill had one of the top 10 biggest gains when DVR ratings were factored in.
  • Hilarie Burton (Peyton, One Tree Hill) posted a new vlog earlier this month on the SoGoPro site.
  • Kate Voegele (Mia, One Tree Hill) is going on tour with Jordin Sparks.
  • Michaela McManus (Lindsey, One Tree Hill) has been cast as one of the leads in the CW pilot Nomads.




Exclusive: Charles Rosin Talks Beverly Hills 90210, showbizzle and More

14 03 2010

Think the Spellings are the only real-life Beverly Hills 90210 family? Think again. Meet the Rosins: Charles, Karen and their daughter Lindsey.

As you may recall from my previous interview with Charles, he was the executive producer of Beverly Hills 90210 for its first five seasons. Karen wrote nearly 20 episodes between 1991 and 1994 and Lindsey had a memorable cameo in Episode 2.o6, Pass/Not Pass, as a little girl asking Brandon (Jason Priestley) to dance the hukilau at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.

I mentioned in January that my interview with Charles was one of my highlights of TDW Year One. I never dreamed I’d interview him once–let alone twice and this time in person. But that’s exactly what happened in January on a weekday morning in New York City, where Charles, Karen and Lindsey came to promote their new media venture, showbizzle.

Charles and I sat down to talk about showbizzle and, of course, Beverly Hills 90210.

TeenDramaWhore: If you had to give your elevator pitch for showbiz, what would you say?

Charles Rosin: Showbizzle is a digital showcase for emerging talent that combines a webseries called showbizzle with a platform for talent away from the immediate pressures of the marketplace. So it’s two mints in one: it’s a show and it’s a resource for emerging artists. The show is populated by emerging artists and it was really conceived by emerging talents, namely Lindsey Rosin being the first one to be showcased, as the writer and director of the majority of the shows. So that’s the basics of it.

Unlike so many people who do webseries, what they’re hoping is “Oh, everybody loves our webseries and we create so much action and energy, FOX or The CW will find us and want to put us on the air.” We’re not interested in that. If we wanted to do something specifically for broadcast or cable, we would go into the room with those people and say “We think this works for your medium because…” But we like this form, the potential of it, the idea that you can just do what you want to do and not have to go through committees. From a business standpoint, there’s ownership potential that works in the current marketplace.

So the premise of the webseries is that Janey, a young wannabe screenwriter, who is very plugged into the culture of Los Angeles, sits in a coffeehouse in L.A. trying to write her screenplay and looking forward to all her friends who stop by and interrupt her from that. That’s the basic premise of it. What is a lot of fun about it is that for someone like yourself and the audience that you know, that although you meet all these disparate characters doing these short little two-minute snackable, for-the-digital-world kind of stories, you start to realize these characters are related and there is a serialized story. It builds to a serialized place. We’re fans of that. We try to do it with humor and insight and with a lack of snarkiness that is so prevalent in the digital world. We try to do a show that’s engaging.

One of our slogans is, “Just take a little bizzle break.” The one thing about all media, all the shows you cover–and thanks for even thinking about showbizzle in relation to it–is what they really are is diversions. Somehow in the last 20 years, the importance of the television business, the shows that are made, have been thrown so far out of proportion because of the material value of it. But all they are–we have a lot of issues going on the world–is just a little place to get a respite, to get a chuckle or a laugh. One of the things that Lindsey really values is when her friends say, “That happened to me” or “I’ve got a story.” The whole social network aspect came from Lindsey saying, “We should ask our viewers what’s happened to them,” because even though it’s very specific to Hollywood, because that’s where we’re set, at the same time trying to get ahead in life and figuring out what you’re going to do and using every connection you have when you’re kind of an adult but not really an adult, is something [everyone goes through] and we wanted to explore that.

TDW: How did showbizzle start? Who came up with the idea?

Rosin: The origins of showbizzle go back to a day in December in 2005 when Disney announced they were selling Lost on iTunes, which effectively meant the end of the syndication model that financed network television. Producers would make X number of shows and if they had enough, they could sell them to the local stations and other places, and that’s how the revenue would come back to the companies and people would profit from that. Fortunately, I benefited from that twice. Once from [Beverly Hills] 90210 and more recently Dawson’s Creek, which moved into profit because of the syndication of it. But when you sell something prior to syndication, it dilutes the value of the syndication and to do something that as dramatic as to put episodes on iTunes the day they’re running or the day after they run is a fundamental change.

I started thinking about that and how network television was going to be changing. In the spirit of “everything old is new again,” I started thinking about branded entertainment, which goes back to the pre-network era, where with the television of the 50s, companies–Chesterfield Cigarettes, Lucky Strike, Kraft, General Electric–would come in and buy the half-hour or the hour and be totally associated with the show, whether it be variety or comedy or drama. They all had that. That’s how the revenue was derived. I started to think about what company had the resources to do this and is currently not an advertiser on network television. I realized that anyone who was going to put their name above an entertainment project was going to do it and want total ownership and control and then go to a network or then go wherever they want to go.

So I approached Starbucks about a project called Starbucks Presents. We did this in the winter-spring in 2006. We were trying to create a social network for the people who use Starbucks, in store or at home, and program hours of different ways to do things. At the core of it was a daily soap opera about what goes on in a coffee house. Showbizzle is the distillation of that idea. By the way, Starbucks’ response was “Don’t bother us. Come back to us in 5 years. We’re in the music business.” They’re no longer in the music business. They’re still in the coffee business.

TDW: Where does the name come from?

Rosin: Well, we wanted to call it hollybizzle for a while but it was taken. So, showbizzle, not quite show business. And certainly Snoop Dogg is very “fo shizzle” and made my kids laugh. We were sitting around the dinner table–I have two other children besides Lindsey–and we came up with that and said let’s see if that one will work. We like the name quite a bit. It’s friendly and open.

TDW: What is your role on a day-to-day basis? Is this now your full-time gig?

Rosin: I teach at UCLA and I still develop shows. I was very active in the business from the late ‘70s to about 2005. Found my name wasn’t on the lists that I liked anymore and this was a place to do it on my own. The idea to get more sponsorships, provide things for the community–that is where I spend a lot of my time [with showbizzle]. I think like 85, 90 percent of the time I still do other forms of writing and developing other projects as well. I like teaching and I like doing this. If J.J. Abrams called, I’d answer.

TDW: What is Lindsey’s role?

Rosin: I get to refer to her as “the talent.” She’s the writer and director. The other woman who did a lot of writing and directing for the first season is a woman named Arika Mittman and Arika just won a Humanitas Prize for an episode of South of Nowhere that she did. Arika was my assistant on Dawson’s Creek. She’s terrific and very talented and gets along very well with Lindsey. Arika, she’s someone who in a different lifetime would’ve been head of daytime. She plotted the serial a little bit with Lindsey. But Lindsey, I say to her–sometimes to her consternation; it’s a family business and all–anytime she’s involved with the site, it’s better on all levels.

TDW: What has been the response you’re getting from people in the business?

Rosin: I think they admire the effort and realize we’re pioneers. This is not formed. People haven’t done things like this. They always ask, “How are you going to finance this?” and I kind of talk about it but steer away from it a little bit. It’s designed to be branded entertainment and we’re here in New York now to try and find brands. We’re hopeful that we can and we present something that has potential and is different. There’s certain things we did in the first year–we did a lot of monologues; we didn’t emphasize the cinema. We’d like to have a little more production value. Lindsey has a lot of ideas for the second season. We know where to pick up the show and what kind of sponsors we’re looking for. Forms follows function, after all…

TDW: You mentioned finding sponsors. Is that what you did on this trip?

Rosin: One of the most difficult aspects of doing webseries is, whether you’re doing six episodes with friends in your dorm room or if you’re trying to do something to ultimately become a daily habit on the web, is to get the levels of support that you need. When you do branded entertainment, you want to get to brands. Brands have not been oriented to this. So we’re starting to see the change and transition as more and more brands advertise or consider sponsorships and realize that it might be worthwhile to look at certain web series, to brand projects and put their name above the title and all that. It’s a question, though, of “how do you get access to that?” One of the ways is you do something and it goes viral and they come to you and say, “How do you do that?” The other way is to do some work, you put it together, you have more ideas, you go to the brand and say, “With your marketing support, we do A, B, C, D and E” and that’s the method we chose. Creatively, I think showbizzle is somewhere in a middle ground or at least between premium high content and user-generated. We want it have the feel of an independent but be scripted.

There was an event [this week] called Brand In Entertainment, which was an event to meet people who are independent purveyors of content and meet brands and those that are interested in the sector or interested in tipping their toe in. It’s a risk-adverse world, especially after the financial meltdown. It’s all going very slowly. But I had meetings with one or two other people who have access to brands and I wanted to let them know what we’re doing. It was a business-oriented trip.

TDW: You mentioned that you have people who are just starting out in Hollywood playing the characters in the webseries. Is anyone getting “noticed” from it? Any success stories?

Rosin: The thing that’s interesting is remember my original definition: digital showcase, emerging talent away from the immediate career pressures of the marketplace. So really, it’s only about a creative expression. Too much discussion in Hollywood has moved away from any form of creative satisfaction and is only based on business elements. That’s why you always hear about returning an investment and all that. Well, what about creative satisfaction? So the goal of [participating] is not necessarily to further a career but to allow them to perform. We are going to try and accelerate it. We’re going to formally announce soon that we’ll have a rotating group of casting directors as residents and we’ll supply short little monologues and encourage our community to perform them, upload the video and guarantee them that the ones the casting directors like the most, they will comment on them and be on the homepage. You get on the digital showcase. You’re in our community and now you get to be singled out. That might help.

This time last year, a cute little blonde came in and started [working for us], making calls to colleges for outreach. She was really nice. One weekend she told me she had to go to New York. For my class at UCLA, I was putting together a list of what [new] shows [the networks] had ordered so we could [evaluate] them and I saw the girl’s name. It was Brittany Robertson [Lux on Life Unexpected]. She was the girl making our calls. I had Subway sandwiches with her for weeks. I sent her an e-mail and said, “Either you get major kudos or someone has stolen your name!” Now she didn’t perform on showbizzle and I don’t think necessarily that people have seen someone on showbizzle and said, “I need that girl or that guy,” but I think it gives people the confidence to be that girl or that guy.

In the second season we may go after a few names that people know to play little characters. It’ll probably make a difference. Two of the biggest names so far have been Fran Kranz, who was on Dollhouse and was just terrific, and James Eckhouse [Jim], who isn’t in the same demographic. But people can come [to showbizzle] for various reasons. As Lindsey likes to say, they can choose their own adventure. They can focus on getting industry resources or they can focus on the show, they can express themselves, they can take a bizzle break from all the troubles in life.

TDW: What lessons from Beverly Hills 90210 have you been able to apply to showbizzle?

Rosin: The main thing I learned from [executive producer] Aaron Spelling is you make a show for an audience. The audience satisfaction really matters. We continue to adjust to what our audience is looking for, what they say they want. The other thing, which I always like to say, is showbizzle is low-budget production. We were able to do a little content for not very much money but still paid people and all that. 90210 was lower-budget production. We had much less money in the first two or three years than what was there afterward. When we built the college set, that was a big thing for us. We didn’t have big restrictions. The first few years we did. We learned how to do something economically and you learn how someone is paying for all this. Usually that someone is your corporation, whether it’s Disney or Fox or Aaron Spelling. In the case of showbizzle, it’s us. You have to be prudent. Production we were able to handle very well. It’s the digital stuff, the Web site stuff that sometimes spirals out of control.

TDW: I was curious to know if you and Karen were already married when you started working on the 90210 or if the relationship was born out of the show.

Rosin: I met a really cute girl in 1976. We were married a year later in 1977. We’ve been together a long time.

TDW: That is a long time.

Rosin: Yes, we’re very old.

TDW: I know she’s had a career of her own but she wrote close to 20 episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.

Rosin: She wrote the best ones. It was an interesting thing. Mr. Spelling had had a bad taste in his mouth about putting a married team on a show from when he did Dynasty. He never really wanted to let Karen come on the staff and be a permanent part. It allowed her to stay home and raise our kids, which is a great thing but at the same time, she really deserved a lot more recognition as a writer, as a writer-producer, and didn’t really get that from 90210 and I always feel badly about that. But it was circumstances beyond our control. I really love collaborating with her, and I really love collaborating with Lindsey, because you find out with writers, all writers have strengths and all writers have weaknesses. A lot of writers who really excel at dialogue have trouble organizing the story, the scene dynamics. That’s what I do in my sleep. But I’ll struggle over dialogue for hours and hours. So it was a really nice fit with us. One thing I would to say anyone who is starting out and is thinking about collaborating, is that you have to feel whomever you’re collaborating with brings more to the party than you do. You’re not carrying them but you’re benefiting from them. And that’s my relationship with Karen as a writer. Anytime we work together, it gets better.

TDW: I know you did commentary for the earlier seasons of the DVD sets.

Rosin: Karen and I were asked to do it on season 3 and I did an interview for season 4.

TDW: Since season 4, there’s been no extras. We’ve had seasons 5-9 with no extras.

Rosin: Want my opinion? Because there’s nothing to say. The show ended with season 5, in my opinion. Season 5, if you were going to do one, the person you’d need to talk to is Luke [Perry, Dylan] because Luke was so important in those first 12, 13 episodes where he has his money stolen and has his whole depression and anger, leading to the crashing of his car. Luke drove those first 13 and it was a pleasure to do them with him. He had such intensity. If he’s not going to talk about it, then what are you going to say? Tiffani [Amber Thiessen, Valerie] would’ve been the other person to talk to for season 5.

TDW: Some of us have also been upset with the cover art and that many songs have been replaced on the DVDs or scenes were cut because of songs issues.

Rosin: Knowing how much Mr. Spelling cared about the audience, the fact that the music isn’t up to the standards that we had, he’d understand it as a businessman but he’d be rolling over in his grave.

TDW: I heard you were once working on a 90210 spin-off concept with Aaron.

Rosin: When we were thinking about moving forward with the college years, we also proposed they could spin-off a West Beverly High series but they didn’t want to do that at that time. Then in the year 2000, Spelling wanted to do it and I was hired to do something on it but it didn’t turn out to be what they were looking for. It was like 90210, the next generation. I think it had the exact tone of the high school shows but it was just for a different generation of high schoolers. Instead we have this bastardized version that’s on now.

TDW: What was your reaction when you first heard about the one that’s on now?

Rosin: The first reaction was that it just shows how important the brand is and how much branding means. Every generation has the right to do anything. I don’t own it. It was Viacom, Spelling. Darren Star created the show. It was more his world than it was mine. I was there to do something much specific. But now I’m more excited by a show like Life Unexpected than recycling shows from a different era just because of their title. I don’t feel [the new show] has that much in common with the original other than it has a high school premise and it’s in Beverly Hills. But tonally, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t have that much in common.

TDW: Not sure if you’re aware but they recently killed Jackie Taylor [Ann Gillespie].

Rosin: Why?

TDW: They did this whole cancer storyline.

Rosin: I understand that. When you run out of ideas, you get people sick. No offense to Joey [E. Tata, Nat], but we were struggling and had to do 32 episodes. So Nat’s going to have a heart attack [Episode 4.18, Heartbreaker]. If you see characters getting sick like that at random, it’s usually evidence of a bankruptcy of ideas, in my opinion.

TDW: It came out recently that Rob Estes [Harry, 90210] is leaving the show and people are very surprised. “He’s supposed to be our patriarch. He’s supposed to be our Jim Walsh.”

Rosin: I would imagine that you do things like that when you realize a few things have happened. After the 5th year when I left [the original], so did Gabrielle Carteris [Andrea] but so did Jim Eckhouse and Carol Potter [Cindy]. At a certain point, you get to be a mature show. You realize you have to cut your overhead a little bit. You realize the storylines are going to move into a different direction and things are going to be different. So you do make adjustments. Why did Estes leave? Maybe he was profoundly unhappy with what they’ve done with his character. I wouldn’t know that but that’s usually why actors leave. They weren’t satisfied. The show thought they were paying too much money. He wasn’t being utilized, etc.

TDW: It came out recently that Jennie [Garth, Kelly] is sort of cutting ties with the show as well. The media went crazy with it.

Rosin: I only have admiration for Jennie. I don’t see her that often but I know she’s raising a wonderful family. She has political and social issues she’s very committed to. I really admired her on Dancing With The Stars. She wouldn’t have been able to do that at 21, 22. To have that courage, I admire that a lot. Jennie was very loyal to Mr. Spelling, very loyal to 90210 and I’m sure that led her back to [the new show] in a way. One thing you realize is that people do for their careers what they think is best, both in getting in with things and getting out of things. And I never like to comment on that because at a certain point they thought it was a good idea.

TDW: Are you in touch with anyone else?

Rosin: I am. I’m in touch with the guys. Luke, not as much. Hopefully will get back in touch pretty soon. But Jason Priestley [Brandon] I consider a really good friend. I love Ian Ziering [Steve]. He actually helped on showbizzle, doing an interview. And Jim Eckhouse I actually put in front of the camera. So those are the guys pretty much. And I keep in touch with Gabby through her husband, who is my stock broker.

TDW: I spoke with [writer-producer] Larry Mollin recently and he expressed some interest in doing a panel to talk about the show.

Rosin: If you ever want to do something like that, you let me know.

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index





News Roundup: Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and 90210

12 03 2010
  • The TV Addict has a graphic demonstrating the question many have been asking: why was Gossip Girl renewed and why is One Tree Hill on the bubble when OTH outperforms GG?
  • Kelly Rutherford (Lily, Gossip Girl) is on the cover of the April issue of Working Mother magazine. Looks like they posted the full interview online.
  • OneTreeHillBlog.com posted a wonderful picture of the cast in Utah.
  • The Park Record has another article about OTH filming in Utah.
  • Danneel Harris (Rachel, One Tree Hill) got one of the lead roles in Friends With Benefits, an NBC pilot.
  • Jennie Garth (Kelly, Beverly Hills 90210) was on the WPIX Morning News today and made some interesting comments about 90210.
  • PopEater has an interview with Garth.
  • TVGuide.com says new episodes of 90210 + Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea, Beverly Hills 90210) on Criminal Minds + Ian Ziering (Steve, Beverly Hills 90210) on CSI: NY all on the same night = Best Nostalgia Trip of the week.
  • Jason Priestley (Brandon, Beverly Hills 90210) will guest co-host the fourth hour of TODAY on Monday.
  • PEOPLE.com has an article on Jason Lewis (Rob, Beverly Hills 90210).




Exclusive: 90210’s Michael Steger Talks Navid’s Future, Journalism and More

7 03 2010

I first interviewed Michael Steger in spring 2008, shortly after The CW announced they ordered their 90210 pilot as a full series. He and the rest of the cast didn’t know much about their characters yet but he did know this: he’d sort of be Andrea Zuckerman version 2.0, via his association with the West Beverly Blaze.

I was sold. After all, Andrea had been the Beverly Hills 90210 character I identified with most (at least until she got pregnant and married–in that order–while a freshman in college…can’t say that happened to me!). A season-and-a-half later, I’m more than pleased to see Steger’s character Navid Shirazi still has the journalism connection.

While chatting on the phone earlier this week, Steger shared with me his favorite real-life journalists, filled me in on Navid’s storyline for the next few episodes (is there a possible battle of the red-heads brewin’?) and expressed where he’d like to see 90210 to go in season 3.

TeenDramaWhore: I’ve been reading up and watching the other interviews you’ve done lately. There’s a clip showing Navid by the lockers in school, wanting to plant some drugs on Jasper [Zachary Ray Sherman].

Michael Steger: I end up finding a way to get cocaine and I have a plan to use it to get Jasper kicked out of school. I’m trying to recruit Dixon [Tristan Wilds] and Liam [Matt Lanter] to help.

TDW: What is his motivation? Is it strictly because he wants his own revenge or is it out of concern for Annie [Shenae Grimes]? Or both?

Steger: I think it’s a little bit of both. I know Jasper pushed me down the stairs and no one else believes me. I also caught him selling drugs to Adrianna [Jessica Lowndes] and he’s also hurting Annie. So there’s a lot of reason for Navid to have pure hate for this guy. There’s a lot motivating Navid.

TDW: Is Navid any way connected to the Adrianna-Gia [Rumer Willis] romance?

Steger: I think Navid is questing his manhood. His self-esteem is really hurt. He’s asking himself a lot of questions, like “Does she not like men because she was with me? What’s going on?” He’s kind of perturbed a little bit that they’re together. He’s not used to it.

TDW: I’ve also heard that Navid gets a girl of his own.

Steger: Yes. Coincidentally, we’re both dating red-heads. I end up dating my star reporter, Lila [Amber Wallace (Glenda, One Tree Hill)], who’s almost as ambitious as I am. She works for the Blaze. I went through so much with Adrianna and Jasper and it’s made me completely devoted to journalism.

TDW: Speaking of journalism, I really like the journalistic side of Navid, for obvious reasons. I was wondering if you have a favorite journalist or someone in the media world you really admire.

Steger: Yeah, absolutely. Love Charlie Rose. Every time I catch him late at night, I really enjoy watching him. The questions he asks–I think he’s so smart. Diane Sawyer, love her. I really enjoy Bill Maher. I don’t know that he’s necessarily a hard-hitting journalist. More like a personality.

TDW: Going back to the show, I heard that the season finale is called Confessions. So I’m wondering how Navid figures into that. What might Navid be confessing?

Steger: Ohhh, you’ve got the good questions! He does have a confession. I can’t say what. It’s such a good episode. I think the fans are really, really going to like this one. A lot goes down and you see everybody’s true colors come out. He’s going to take everybody by surprise.

TDW: Is there anything in particular you’d like to do in season 3? Any storylines you want to tackle?

Steger: I’d like for the Blaze to showcase more hard-hitting issues, bringing hot topics to the forefront and educating our audience. I feel like there’s so much out there kids should be aware of. For instance, what’s going on in Haiti and different things around the world. I think those topics should be intertwined in storylines to get people aware. We’re part of pop culture and as much influence as we can impress upon kids, the better. So I would say promote more positive messages, because I know we’re busy always pushing the envelope and all the drama but it’s always good to throw some good examples in there.

TDW: I think that’s a really good idea. Something else I’ve heard from readers is that they want to know more about Navid’s family. We’ve seen your parents briefly here and there but will we see them again, maybe in a larger capacity?

Steger: Yeah, I think so. The writers, we’ve been talking about diving more into Navid’s relationship with his dad and the porn industry and how dysfunctional it is and how Navid feels about it. It’s almost like Navid is trying to escape that and wants to find success in something he finds classy and artistic. I think there’s a lot of room for stories with his family. He has to deal with this materialistic life as best as he can but it’s overwhelming. He drives a Lamborghini; he lives in a mansion. It’s a lot to deal with. It’s a lot of pressure for him.

TDW: You’ve already finished filming for the season, so what’s next for you?

Steger: I went to New York right away to see a bunch of theater. Now I’m getting back to my actor roots, looking for jobs and projects to get involved with. I’m having a great time. I’m really excited for this break.

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index





News Roundup: One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, 90210 and The O.C.

9 02 2010




Exclusive: James Eckhouse Looks Back on Beverly Hills 90210

7 02 2010

There may be five other teen drama dads–Harry Wilson, Rufus Humphrey, Dan Scott, Sandy Cohen and Mitch Leery–but it’s likely none would exist if it weren’t for one Jim Walsh.

Jim, the very first teen drama dad, was played by James Eckhouse. We saw him deal with the stress of raising teenagers (twin teenagers, at that!), keep the romance alive in his marriage and get so many promotions that his job sent him to head the company in Hong Kong!

In our exclusive interview, Eckhouse recalls his audition, discusses how the show impacted his life and reveals whether he’d participate in a reunion.

TeenDramaWhore: You grew up in the Midwest and then came East for college. What made you then decide to head West for acting?

James: Eckhouse: Well, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. I went to MIT, ostensibly studying physics and biology or whatever but I was always doing theater, oddly enough. There was a great little theater company with a lot of people who were Boston-area actors. There weren’t that many of us dweeby MIT types who were interested in drama. I was doing a lot of plays. After a couple of years, I realized my heart was more into theater. There was a teacher there whose name was–he’s a pretty well-known American playwright–A.R. “Pete” Gurney. He wrote The Dining Room, Love Letters. Pete was kind of instrumental in saying “You know, I don’t think this is what you want to be doing”–being a scientist, which I loved but it wasn’t what I knew my heart’s long-term passion was about. So I did drop out and I moved to Chicago and got involved in a lot of theater in Chicago. It was a great time. It was just the blossoming of Chicago theater. I decided to get some training and I wanted to get to New York so I was very fortunate to get into Julliard. So then I went to Julliard for four years in the theater department. After I graduated, I did just tons of regional theater all over the States. Lot of off-Broadway, a little Broadway. That’s how it all started.

TDW: Do you remember what your audition for 90210 was like? They had a originally cast another actor in the role and had done some filming.

Eckhouse: That is true. They had actually started the process and the guy was a wonderful actor. I guess it just didn’t quite match the rest of the family. Nothing to do with the talent of the actor. He’s a very talented actor. What happened, actually, is I got a call and I was on my way to do another audition that I thought was more important and far more likely for me to get and I told my agents I wouldn’t audition for this thing. I wasn’t that interested. And they said, “No, no, no. You have to go.” And I did and I got called back.

I finally got into the final call backs and there I was–there were three actors, 2 of whom I knew well, who were very, very WASP. Very patrician. And I went, “Oh, this is ridiculous. Why is this Jew from Chicago going to be doing this part?” And I went in and auditioned with Carol [Potter, Cindy], actually, since she was already cast and they had started to shoot the pilot or they had a shot a version of the pilot. This is a funny story. I met Aaron Spelling and sat in the room and read with Carol. We both knew we had great chemistry together. We hit it off right away. But be that as it may, I came out of the room going, “There’s no way they’re going to cast this dark-haired, balding Jew in this role.” And sure enough, when I left the room, Aaron turned to the people who were there–and Carol was there–and said, “You know, there’s something about that Eckhouse character!” and Carol said, “Well, yeah, ‘cause he’s Jewish!”

It’s a long process to get on these series. They have these network auditions that you do where you go in and now you do the audition in front of a large part of the television network. In this case, FOX. I remember coming home and thinking, “That was terrible!” I called my agent and said, “Well, I really blew it. I didn’t do very well.” And he said, “Well, I’ll call you back.” He called me back two hours later and said, “Well, you’re right. You really weren’t very good.” And I said, “Aw, okay. So I didn’t get it.” And then he said, “But they cast you anyway.” So I got the role and hopefully I proved them right in having me do it. So we actually had to go back into the pilot that had been shot and insert me into it, which was kind of interesting. A lot of that was hard because some of the sets from the pilot weren’t there. They had changed them already into the permanent sets. But it was great. It was fun. I got on the show and became “the dad.”

TDW: When did it hit you that the show was becoming huge?

Eckhouse: We had done a season and went into the summer season, which put the show ahead. We had episodes that were airing in the summer. Other networks weren’t doing it. It was a very clever move by FOX. Up until that time, Jason [Priestley, Brandon] and I would take bets on when they would pull the plug. We were convinced. Five more episodes at the most. FOX was a fledgling network. They were just barely making it. Aaron was known for the soap operas of the 80s and he was looking for a comeback, too. He was well-known and sort of an icon but I think people had sort of written him off.

My wife and I and my two sons, who at that point were very young, were driving up to go to a vacation place in our beat-up old white car. We stopped somewhere in a little, sleepy town. I said we had to “graze the kids,”–you know, let them run around and all that sort of stuff. I’m pushing my little son; he was like 9-months-old or something. And I’m pushing him on the swings and I notice this couple. This girl and this guy. Maybe 100 yards off. Really far off. But they’re kind of looking at me strangely. And I’m thinking, “Why are people looking at me in this little town?” So I keep pushing my son on the swing and like 10 minutes later my wife is striding over to me with this look in her eyes. She’s got my other son in tow and she grabs me and grabs my younger son and says, “Just start walking!” I said, “What?!” “Just start walking! Go to the car!” “What’s going on?” “Just! Start! Walking!” I grab my son and I think, “What, is there a tsunami in the middle of the desert?” and I start high-tailing it to the car. I look back and there’s literally like 45 teenagers just coming at me. I was like, “What the bleep is going on?!” I had no sort of concept at that point that I was–you know, you forget that you’re doing the show and you’re in people’s living rooms every week. I know that sounds naive but you’re so busy doing the work, you’re not really thinking about what the effect is. I had two young kids. I’m doing all this remodeling in my house, which I did myself. I was not in “TV star” mode at all.

I looked around and we get in the car and people are thrusting stuff at us. “Jim Walsh! Jim Walsh! Autograph!” Had I been a little more prepared, I would’ve stopped and said hello and organized it a bit and signed autographs. But it was just so terrifying. And my kids were wide-eyed and didn’t know what was going on. We threw them in the car and just drove off. That’s when I knew my life had changed.

TDW: You also directed three episodes [Episodes 4.06, Strangers in the Night; 4.29, Truth and Consequences; 5.19, Little Monsters]. Do you remember what that was like?

Eckhouse: That was the best. That was just fantastic. I direct now quite a bit. It opened the way to something that was sort of a passion that I knew was in there and I knew that was where my life probably lay or was the direction I wanted to go in. It was a struggle to get them to let me direct, I have to say. They were worried about the rest of the cast wanting to direct which, of course, finally did happen but not for a long time. I had to go back and take some directing classes–which I had already done before but that’s okay–and prove to them I was really interested, which I was absolutely passionate about. What happened, actually, is the very first shot of the first scene I was in the scene. It was really tricky, actually. It was an interesting initiation into it. One of the directors had dropped out and they needed somebody and they came to me in the makeup chair one morning and said, “How would you like to start directing three days from now?” I was like, “Ohhhh…Jesus. Okay, fine.” Usually you have seven days to prep and you shoot for eight days. So I had three days to prep, which was obviously truncated, to say the least. But I stepped into it and loved it and got tremendous support from the crew and, I would say, most of the cast. I went on to direct a couple of more and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

TDW: At what point did it become clear to you that Jim and Cindy weren’t really wanted anymore?

Eckhouse: That’s a loaded question! I was well aware that my shelf life on the show was limited because the show was about the kids; it wasn’t about me or us. Originally it was but, you know, people want to see young faces, not old faces, on television. So it wasn’t really any kind of surprise or anything like that. I was glad to be on it for as long as I was. But after five years you re-negotiate your contract. Your contract is for five years. So that means if a show’s successful, it starts to become very expensive to have that large of a cast as regulars. It’s really strictly a financial thing, which now that I direct and produce, I completely understand. They wanted me to sort of sign on for a certain number of episodes and I had felt I really had done wanted I wanted to do. I did some directing. I was running a theater company at the time in Los Angeles. I loved the income but knew I had to move beyond it. I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being associated with being “the dad from 90210”–not that that’s so bad; it’s a great thing, but I knew I needed to move on.

TDW: Carol came back in season 6 with you [Episode 6.16, Angels We Have Heard On High]. You came back in season 7 without her [Episode 7.24, Spring Breakdown]. And then you both came back in season 8 [Episode 8.32, The Wedding]. Did the first two have to do with your schedules not aligning or was it storyline dictated or…?

Eckhouse: I’m sure it was just storyline. Carol and I are very close. We were very lucky to have each other on the show. Our chemistry was great. We loved each other’s families. It was really fun working with her.

TDW: When you look back now, do you think the show gave a realistic depiction of parent-child issues? ‘Cause many teen TV dads are compared to Jim Walsh and they’re held up to this Jim Walsh caliber.

Eckhouse: Hm. That’s interesting. I should ask you that. How do you think they’re held up? It’s an interesting question. I’m sure in some ways it looks pretty naïve today. But people still come up to me and say they really appreciate the show. It wasn’t so much “Oh, I’m a good dad” or “a bad dad.” It wasn’t about that. I think what it did is it opened the way for families to have discussions that they might not otherwise have had. It was a show that some families could sit down and watch with their teenage kids. Maybe not teenage–that’s probably stretching it. Maybe their seventh or eighth grade kids, before the proverbial “S” hit the fan, you know? It was a vehicle for a family to sit down together and actually watch something that would bring up issues. It’s not necessarily that we tackled them in the most realistic of ways. I will say that my first season and second season were far more insightful and more compelling and more daring than the last three, which became, to me, more of a soap opera.

I think in the beginning [Charles Rosin, executive producer], god love him, really was trying hard to make every show about an issue. He and I both had kids the same ages, were very much involved in education and obviously knew what it was like to grow up as a teenager and so forth. That was his passion, to bring up teenage drinking and suicide and drug use and pregnancy and all that sort of stuff. I think the first two years we did go to places where other shows hadn’t gone to. How it holds up now, I have no idea. I think probably now shows are allowed to be a lot more hard-hitting because of the influence of cable and the web and all that. The network shows have to be more daring. They have to go more towards [shows like] Sopranos and Oz and Hung, that go where the network show can’t go. So I think that it’s challenged them. I’m sure they’re probably a lot more racy and daring than we ever were.

TDW: Do you have a favorite episode or storyline?

Eckhouse: My favorite episodes were when I was the coach, when I was the baseball coach [Episode 1.20, Spring Training] and when I was the hockey coach [Episode 2.19, Fire and Ice]. I spent three days down on a field in Beverly Hills with the UCLA team as ringers playing my heart out. Sweating, driving the makeup people crazy because I just wanted to keep playing baseball when I wasn’t on camera and I couldn’t care less. I was just having a ball. And then when we were doing the hockey episode, I hadn’t played hockey in a long time but I got to play hockey with the UCLA hockey team. So those were my favorite episodes.

TDW: Do you have any thoughts on the new 90210? They mentioned your character last year in a really terrible dream sequence.

Eckhouse: Oh, really? I didn’t even know that. I haven’t seen it. I have no interest.

TDW: You’ve been doing some stuff with Charles and showbizzle, right?

Eckhouse: I did. I did an episode of showbizzle with his daughter and him, which was just a hoot.

TDW: What exactly did you do? And for those that don’t know, what is showbizzle?

Eckhouse: Showbizzle is kind of this combination of reality and fiction, where they do a series of interviews with young people, mostly, who are moving to Los Angeles–actors, would-be directors, producers–dealing with the show business, dealing with “the biz” and their escapades. So they’ve created these characters that people can actually write to–they’re fictional characters played by actors and the actors write back as if they’re the characters. And every week they’re putting up new episodes and it kind of combines reality because some of the people actually tell their own stories, some of the guest people. I came on and did this wonderful monologue about being a sound guy so completely not who I am but it was fun. It was scripted but I got to play around with it and Chuck’s daughter, Lindsey, is fantastic. She’s so talented and, of course, I’ve seen her from the time she was a little girl. So to see her grow up and now be a writer and a director in her own right is really exciting.

TDW: Are you in touch with anyone else from the cast or crew?

Eckhouse: I see a few occasionally. I saw Ian [Ziering, Steve] up at Sundance a couple of years ago and that was fantastic. I go over to Jason’s house and play with his little kids some times. Luke [Perry, Dylan] came to see a play I was in. Gabby’s [Carteris, Andrea] kids go to the same school that my kids went to so I got to see a lot of her. Tiffani [Amber Thiessen, Valerie] and I were part of the same theater company so we got to see a lot of each other. So it’s great.

TDW: That is great. This fall it will be 20 years since the show debuted.

Eckhouse: Wow. That’s scary.

TDW: Would you be willing to participate in some reunion event, like a panel?

Eckhouse: It depends upon the circumstances. Probably not. I understand in fans’ minds it’s nice to have that continuity but for an actor, you need to reinvent yourself and I’ve kind of moved on to other areas like directing and so forth. So it depends on the circumstances. I’d have to see what it was. But I don’t think they’re going to be asking me, to be honest. The show was carried by the kids, as it should be.

Come back next week for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index








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