Michael Cudlitz had a recurring role as Tony Miller during the first few seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. Since his days of jock straps and proms with Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty), Cudlitz has appeared in a number of programs including Band of Brothers, Prison Break, 24 and CSI. Cudlitz now stars alongside Benjamin McKenzie (Ryan, The O.C.) on the NBC cop drama Southland.
Cudlitz was generous enough to answer a few questions via e-mail about his teen drama experiences.
TeenDramaWhore: You starred in 11 episodes of 90210, and your character is perhaps best-remembered for taking Brenda (Shannen Doherty) to the prom. Do you have a favorite 90210 scene or memory from your time on the show?
Michael Cudlitz: I think it was 14 episodes… but I could be mistaken. [ed. note: IMDB says 11] At the time, I was also the construction coordinator on the show. So my good memories, go beyond just acting in the show. My favorite memory would have to be the first prom [ed. note: episode 1.20, Spring Dance], before I was cast on the show. We were working at the Universal Hilton and the cast was being housed in the hotel. Let’s just say, the hot tubs were full and the bathing suits were scant.
TDW: You were last seen in the premiere of season 4. Was there a possibility of continuing on or, at least, interest on your part to do so?
Cudlitz: At the time I was starring with Ben Affleck in my own series “Against the Grain.” So leaving the show was a very logical progression.
TDW: Are you still in touch with any of the 90210 cast members?
Cudlitz: Yes. I’m very close with Luke Perry [Dylan]. I bump into Brian [Austin Green, David], Jason [Priestley, Brandon] & [Gabrielle Carteris, Andrea] periodically. And I share mutual friends with Mrs. [Jennie] Garth [Kelly].
TDW: Are you still recognized for your role?
Cudlitz: Absolutely…….. Up until “Band of Brothers” I thought my tombstone would read “Here lies Michael Cudlitz. Yes, he took Brenda to the prom.”
TDW: What do you think is 90210’s role in television/teen drama history?
Cudlitz: That’s a great question. When the show first started it was nothing more than a teen soap opera. When [Charles] Rosen was brought on as the head writer/show runner, I think he saw an opportunity to deal with actual issues that were affecting teens at the time. Not just just your typical high school teen age “hormonal” crap. He took important issues that teens were facing in all socioeconomic classes, and dealt with them in a very realistic head-on fashion. Trying to explore all sides of the issues and not always having an answer. Because of this, I think it was one of the first shows to realistically deal with what teens actually go through.
TDW: Did you keep up with the show even after your time on it? Did you expect the show to have such longevity–10 years of original episodes, plus countless airings in syndication. Do you watch reruns of the show?
Cudlitz: No, I didn’t keep up with the show. For as good as the show was, eventually the teens grew up, and the show ran it’s course.
TDW: When you were cast on Southland with Ben McKenzie, were you familiar with his role on The O.C.?
Cudlitz: I never saw the O.C. I think I was 40 at the time…. ( not the demographic FOX was looking for….LOL)
TDW: Do you think your respective teen drama experiences give you and Mr. McKenzie something extra in common?
Cudlitz: Sure… that kind of “celebrity” is reserved for rock stars and young people. It is a very humbling, surreal experience. I’m sure for Ben much more than me.
TDW: What can we expect from your character next season on Southland?
Cudlitz: More bad-ass television….( If I told ya. I’d have to kill ya.)
TDW: What other projects are you working on?
Cudlitz: Southland is consuming all my time right now. But, I have some projects that are coming out soon. “Surrogates,” a sci-fi thriller starring Bruce Willis is coming out in September. And I also have completed two indies: “Tenure” starring Luke Wilson, and “Stolen Lives” staring Jon Hamm and Josh Lucas.
Be sure to check out Southland’s season 2 premiere on Friday, September 25.