Shannen Doherty has now followed in the footsteps of her former “Beverly Hills, 90210” co-stars Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth by starring in a reality show about her life. In the TV series “Shannen Says,” Doherty’s wedding preparations to her third husband, photographer Kurt Iswarienko, are chronicled. The couple actually got married in 2011, but “Shannen Says” premieres April 10, 2012, at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time on WE tv.
Not coincidentally, Doherty worked with celebrity wedding planner David Tutera, who happens to have his own WE tv reality show: “My Fair Wedding With David Tutera.” WE tv is also the network for “Bridezillas,” the reality shows about difficult brides-to-be as they throw tantrums and have other emotional meltdowns while they plan their weddings. Given that Doherty has her own reputation for being a difficult diva, was she a “bridezilla” on “Shannen Says”? She talked with journalists in this conference-call interview to give her perspective of the show, her relationship with Iswarienko, and her “Beverly Hills, 902010” character Brenda Walsh.
You’ve done reality shows before, but “Shannen Says” seems like one of your most personal yet. And your fans know and love you from different roles over the years. But this is a chance for them to really get to know you. So what would you say is the biggest misconception about you?
Yes, I’ve done reality shows in a sense. I did “Scare Tactics” and I did “Breaking Up with Shannen Doherty,” but it was never about me. I was simply a host or I was guiding somebody else through their own real process. But I’ve never ever, ever opened my life up. So this is a whole new thing for me. And certainly a whole new thing for my now husband.
And I guess the biggest misconception would be that I only have one side to me. Seems to be the biggest one and that people don’t ever consider how old I was when some of the crazier stuff happened, which by today’s standards is incredibly tame. And they don’t consider that I have grown up and that there is a softer more vulnerable side or they don’t consider what was behind some of the antics when I was very young. And that doesn’t really do them justice nor myself justice.
What compelled you to do “Shannen Says”? Whose idea was it?
It was mine. And it was shared with my husband as well. It was one of those moments where we were on vacation and maybe we had drank one too many margaritas and thought it would be kind of interesting to work together.
And we’re very, very big fans of Anthony Bourdain. And we love his show “No Reservations.” But also the “Deadliest Catch” is one of our favorite shows. And I remember watching that show and thinking wow, they do it right. You know, you get so invested in these guys and what they’re going through and losing their dad. And it’s raw and it’s emotional and it’s gritty.
And then Anthony Bourdain who’s snarky and intelligent and cutting edge and it’s shot so well. We were kind of intrigued by the idea of bringing that sort of different — I don’t want to say “quality” — but it’s a different kind of a quality to celebrity reality TV. And that’s what first started the thought process behind doing it. And then and sort of knowing that we’re getting married, it became even more evident that it was something that we should do just to sort of chronicle this time in our lives and let brides – future brides and future grooms know that not just you that goes through the stress.
It’s not just you who has emotional breakdowns or the relationship can sometimes take a few hits because of the planning of the wedding or just the melding of lives. It happens to everyone. And when I wrote my book, I think that also helped because it was the first sort of crumble of the wall that I had erected around myself and kind of let people in. And the response is so overwhelming and the letters from people really kind of got to me that I had shared enough of myself that they could really relate to it and they felt like they had a partner and a friend in what they were going through in their life and somebody that understood.
How did you meet Kurt? Was there instant chemistry?
I met Kurt on a photo shoot. I requested him to shoot me for a cover of a magazine. And yes, there was instant chemistry. I think we may have finally actually started dating, which was two months after that. He said to me, “I’ve missed you since I was a child.” And it was just sort of very like poetic thing is that we had in another life had known each other. There was such a connection there that it was about time we finally got together.
But it was two months after the shoot … I was in the middle of working and not really in the right mind frame for a serious relationship. And he was in the middle of a separation himself. So we didn’t even discuss it at that time. I think the chemistry was there but that’s all it was. Just sort of to ourselves we could acknowledge it, not to each other. And then I worked again with him two months later and we were both in much better places and it sort of all came out.
How are you enjoying newlywed life?
Ah, that’s great. Real time things couldn’t be better. I’m slightly exhausted today, to be honest with you. I think the plane landed at something like 11:45 from New York. And I woke up an absolutely panicked college student, to be honest. I woke realizing that the publicity tour had taken me away from class for a couple of days and that I was quite behind.
So I’m in the middle of writing this very serious paper and quite stressed over it. So that’s the current state. But the other current state was married life is amazing and I can only say that because of my partner, because of Kurt. He woke up this morning and went surfing.
And it’s the little things. It’s when he comes home and the first thing he does is comes in my office and wraps his arms around me and says, “I love you. I missed you.” You know, even though he was only gone for two hours. It’s a relationship I’ve dreamed about my entire life and it’s the closest thing that I’ve ever had to what my parents had, which was so unbelievably beautiful and special. So married life is phenomenal.
Do you have a lot of gay fans? Do you have like a gay wedding planner or a gay best friend forever?
All of the above, my dear. I have several gay best friends and one of my best friends is Timmy, who is a fashion stylist in New York. And he’s actually on the show with me. So there’s my wedding coordinator.
Looking back on the Dylan/Brenda/Kelly love triangle from “Beverly Hills, 90210,” have you ever been asked whose side do you understand more, Brenda’s or Kelly’s?
I have never been asked that question. It’s a good question, by the way. I understand Brenda’s side, and it’s not just because I played her. It’s because I think it speaks to me as a human being. My girlfriends and I have always had a pact our entire lives that it’s much like the guys have bros before whatever they say, which is something not very nice.
But it’s the same with us girls. You know, it’s friends before boyfriends. And there’s an honor code. It’s if you spotted him first, he’s all yours. Go for it. And we would never sort of do something like that scenario was back then.
And I actually remember getting that storyline and being incredibly upset about it. And it wasn’t because Brenda was losing Dylan. I thought that it was really wrong that we were putting that out there, that we were saying like, “Yes, it’s okay for a best friend to fall in love with her best friend’s boyfriend and cheat with him.”
Where’s loyalty? Where’s friendship? And isn’t loyalty the most important thing in this world? Isn’t it? Along with love. I mean those are two of the – the things I grew up valuing the most. You know, those are the morals and everything that my parents taught me. So, for me, it was really disgusting at the time.
I certainly think that it was a smart storyline looking back on it because it’s real and there are women who don’t have an honor code and there’s men who don’t have an honor code. And I get it. But I definitely understand Brenda far more than Kelly. I definitely understand why she didn’t speak to them and why she was really upset and hurt and angry and it made her feel vulnerable and like she’d been she couldn’t trust. I mean if you can’t trust you best friend, who can you trust?
And by the way, Brenda looked better in the spring fling dress, don’t you think?
Thank you. I know. Poor Brenda. She never got to be the princess. I can say it’s all okay because Brenda is in London. She has a child and she’s successful and very content. What I loved about through the new “90210” is how the producers back then who were the producers, they really took my opinion into consideration and where Brenda would be.
And I was like, “She would not be the sort of antsy teenager anymore. This is a girl who moved away and went to London and followed goals and her passion and her dreams.” And living overseas I think she would be a much more sophisticated calm person and she’s also had some success. But it’s kind of like she would have grown up. And I loved playing her in the new “90210” because it was just such a different level that she was at that it was a joy.
And Kelly has Dylan’s love child, which is so fitting.
Right. It’s perfect. And all is well in the world.
What were your initial concerns about filming “Shannen Says”? And what have you hoped that people would see when they watched it?
I think the initial concern is always the same thing is how much privacy and how much of myself am I giving up. And then what goes hand in hand with that is that whatever you do, at all costs, you want to be authentic and truthful. And for us Kurt and I really made a pact about this and said if we’re going to do this, then we have to do it right. And the only way to do it right is to be ourselves. And that means bearing the good, the bad and the ugly.
And again, with some of that comes fear and trepidation because I couldn’t go into it saying, “Oh, I want to change people’s perception of me,” because that would mean that I took a step into it in a very sort of dishonest way, and that I would be conscious of the image that I was portraying. And I didn’t want to do that.
But the fear comes from when you’re 100 percent yourself and people still hate you and you’re like, “Oh my gosh. This really sucks.” So it was hard but ultimately it was incredibly rewarding because we did stay honest and we did stay truthful and we did stay authentic. And we do fight.
Some people are gong to say that it’s too soft and some people are going to say, “She’s too bitchy,” and some people are going to say that I’m too demanding. And some people are going to be like David who claims that it’s the determined person being stubborn. On a side note, he’s a Taurus, which everybody knows Taurus are the most stubborn people there are. So that’s a stubborn man, being even more stubborn with me, which is interesting.
I would say I’m not stubborn. I do think that there’s a clear difference between determined and stubborn, as the Webster’s English dictionary would point out as well. I think that’s very telling. And I love David [Tutera] and we had a great time. But David, he was cautious in meeting me too. And I think that that was David’s first reaction to me is everything that he had heard.
And in the show I think you see that relationship change and I think you see it grow, just like you end up seeing the truth behind my relationship with my now-husband. Yes, we may fight. You know, it’s not all roses and rainbows and butterflies. It is a real, honest relationship.
And it doesn’t mean that we’re pulling each other’s hair out. It just means that when we have an issue, we don’t always come at it from a very calm, rational place. Sometimes we get really upset. Sometimes he sleeps elsewhere and I cry or whatever it is. And again, I think that that’s what makes the show different and interesting and something that I’m really proud of is because it just stayed honest all the way through.
How is his knee? Is he OK?
His knee is good. We had a debate about why he should go ahead and get surgery. He doesn’t think he should because he can still surf and paddle board with it so he’s fine. And I’m like, “No, you’re making it worse and worse and worse. And pretty soon, surgery is going to be a must have. And it’s going to be a much worse surgery because you will continue damaging your knee.” So he’s not listening to me at the moment.
How are your relationships are with your former “Beverly Hills, 90210” co-stars? Have you been in touch about your various shows?
Yes. I think that you have to be supportive of each other and just in my opinion supportive of anybody who’s in the same field of yours; supportive of people in this world in general. In general, we have so much hatred and anger out there as it is, why add fuel to the fire. I happen to watch Tori [Spelling’s] show. And I think it’s incredibly charming and endearing and I can’t wait to see Jennie’s show.
I did the new “90210” with Jennie [Garth], and there was something very different about our friendship. And we were able to look at each other as grown women and really acknowledge that we liked who the other person was now as adults. So I think her show’s going to be great. And as far as the others, I speak to Brian [Austin Green] all the time.
And I saw Ian [Ziering] a week ago and it was awesome. He’s a sweetheart and he stays so young-looking, it’s ridiculous. I’m incredibly jealous. But yes, I mean I just think that you have to be supportive of everything and everyone in this world at this point.
What was the most unexpected craziest thing that happened during your wedding planning that hopefully the camera saw?
The camera saw pretty much everything. I think the craziest thing was two weeks prior to the wedding my wedding dresses showed up and they were completely wrong. Wrong to the point of I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I just did both.
And I was an absolute hysterical mess at the house. And my husband looked at me and he was, like, “Is this a joke. Like I don’t understand what’s happening right now. Like you’re a mess and you’re wearing really, really ugly dresses.” But I had a savior called Monique Lhuillier who swooped in and definitely saved the day.
What do you think you are going to be most surprised when they see “Shannen Says”?
I think the honesty even though I’m known for being brutally honest. I don’t think anybody would assume that I would put my life out there and my emotions and my heart and my soul out for I mean basically on a chopping block right now.
And I don’t think anybody would expect me to do something like that. And the show, it’s nothing if it’s not honest it’s just so raw and there’s not a moment. I’ve now seen all eight episodes, and I was sort of really touched by them and petrified all at the same time and very scared because there’s no barriers between who I really am and what they captured.
It’s just completely me and it’s my relationship with my mom was it’s captured so sort of gritty and with Kurt and with my friends. I can only say that it’s just unbelievably authentic where it’s left me a bit paralyzed at times watching the show. So I think that that’s what people will be the most surprised about.
This is your third marriage. What’s different about planning for a wedding especially given that it’s on TV and that it’s going to be for a huge audience?
Everything. What’s different about planning our third wedding, I think it’s what’s different about this wedding. And because this is for real, you know. I met a man that just lights me up and that’s one who makes me laugh and makes me smile, who makes me happy, who drives me to frustration to tears and then to laughter all over again.
I met someone who challenges me intellectually, who stands up for himself, that just makes me a better person. And I think I do all that for him. And I also met my partner, you know. I met my soul mate. I met the one person that I can be around 24/7 and not want to go crazy and lock myself in a room.
We hang out. We’re apart and we’re miserable. It’s a totally different thing. So planning a wedding was meaningful and significant and it’s also the only time that I declared my love for somebody in front of my family. I salute my family from the South, infamous marriage. I my mom was there to bear witness. Family was there. We had 167 guests that I proudly stood up in front of and said “yes.” I’m with this man and I’m going to do everything in my power to stick with him.
And through good and bad, we’re together. We’re getting through all of our problems and we’ve made a commitment to each other. And that’s huge. I don’t think I’ve declared myself to anyone but Kurt.
For more info: “Shannen Says” wbesite