(unedited copy of article taken from Fudge Magazine’s Dec-Jan ’09 issue)
By Angelique Manalad
Tagged as Hollywood’s Next Big Thing after landing the lead role in 90210, the spin-off of the hit teen drama of the 90s, Shenae Grimes found herself in the middle of pressure, hype and the ever conspicuous eye of the US media.
Although not new to acting, as she already achieved minor-league fame with her starring role as Darcy on the Toronto-based teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, there was something about playing in 90210 that makes her feel that everything is still too far-fetched to be happening to her.
As the Executive producer Gace Sachs said, “It’s going to be a contemporary version of the original, there were so many kids who were addicted to the original and are now adults. We are going to make this about the kids today. It’s going to be sexier, a bit controversial and it has a harder edge this time.
90210 also give way to the much-awaited reunion of former Beverly Hills, 90210 stars Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty. Many devotees of the show will definitely enjoy watching them reunite as they resume their roles as Kelly Taylor and Brenda Walsh.
The story focuses on the life of the Wilson family with Shenae playing the part of Annie Wilson. The family moved to Beverly Hills in order to look after Annie’s grandmother played by Jessica Walters, forcing her to abandon her life back in Kansas and face a new school where her dad was accepted as the principal. Problems arose as they entered West Beverly High, Annie and her adopted brother Dixon meets their new classmates.
In an exclusive interview with Shenae we were able to ask her the feeling of a 19-year-old girl living in the spotlight under the sought after zipcode.
What do you enjoy most about playing Annie Wilson?
Shenae Grimes: I think my favorite part is Annie’s relationship with her family. The Wilson clan is a very tight and that’s so refreshing to see on TV. They are a family who really gets along, really leans on each other and tell each other their secrets. And that is so rare these days. I feel like teenagers get so disconnected from their mums and dads because they are too concerned with their high school lives. But the Wilson kids always retreat back to their parents at the end of the day, which is so nice to see. I love Rob Estes (Melrose Place) and Lori Loughlin (Full House), who play my parents. And Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), who plays my grandmother, is the most hilarious woman on the planet! Any scene with her is a good time.
How much is Shenae Grimes like Annie Wilson? What do you two have in common?
Annie and I are different in terms of our interests and style. But at the root of it, we are very similar. We both come from a grounded point of view so we’re not easily swayed by the materialistic world. As for high school, I did that a while ago and Annie is currently dealing with the things I overcame during that time.
You had your first taste of fame playing Darcy Edwards on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Which character do you prefer – Darcy or Annie?
I think they have a lot of similarities. The character that I played on Degrassi was also a sweet, wholesome girl who struggled with the peer pressure of high school. But the storylines in Degrassi were much more extreme. In a way, it was more challenging for an actor because the issues were so outlandish. But I think Annie is much more fun because she’s more real. She doesn’t waiver as easily to peer pressure.
What can you tell us about your other co-stars?
Lori and Rob have become quasi parents to me. They are always there whenever I need to talk about something. They are always helping me out and getting advice. They have made it a priority to watch out for me because I don’t have my family out here. I’m a young girl away from home for the first time. I lucked out so much with my cast. They are unbelievable. Dustin [Milligan] is such a comedian; I’m always admiring his wit and charm. Tristan [Wilds] is a phenomenal musician, which is something not a lot of people know. I am constantly in awe of his writing, poetry, lyrics and voice. Ryan [Matthews] is a brilliant actor and Jess [Stroup] is just so cool! She knows a million things about fashion and music and is just so in-tune with everything that’s going on in pop culture. I am constantly trying to soak up tips from her on music and bands. It was so awesome working with original cast members Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty! I’ve worked with them for months now so they are just Jennie and Shannen to me, but it’s still weird. I have these moments when I look over and say, ‘Wow, she’s the original Brenda, and that’s Kelly Taylor!’ I was a fan of the original so it’s a big deal. They went through all of this 15 years ago, so they can tell us how to deal with it. We really all look to them for advice on how to handle everything that is coming our way. We are definitely handling it better with their help.
Did you know any of them before you met on set?
We first met each other at a Malibu mansion after we had been cast. Actually Tristan had just got the part that day, so it was crazy! You really only have each other to lean on so we bonded really quickly. Obviously we turn to our family and friends, but no one else is going through the mayhem that we are right now. There’s no time for cattiness or anything like that because we are so dependent on each other.
Who are you closest to in the cast?
Jessica Stroup is my girl. We met at the screen test before either one of us were cast and exchanged numbers. We were actually testing for the same part. I was trying for Silver and Annie so we were competing against each other, but we totally hit if off from day one! We just celebrated our birthdays together. We are new to this Hollywood thing so we spend days together on the couch just chatting about how crazy everything is. And Tristan is my on-screen brother. A hug from him calms me down. He’s the one person who can tell when I’m stressed and can take me out of whatever I’m feeling and just calm me down.
What have been the best parts about the shoot so far?
The most memorable moments are the birthday celebrations. We always do fun things. For Tristan’s birthday, Dustin decorated [Tristan’s] trailer with girly My Little Pony decorations. It was hilarious and Tristan kept them up for way too long! For AnnaLynne’s birthday, we made her a pyramid of these chicken burgers that she’s obsessed with, stuck candles in them and presented them to her like a birthday cake. Then there have been times when we’ve had to pull all-nighters and [by the end of it] we’re delusional and don’t remember our names anymore. But that’s when we just start joking around to try to keep each other awake.
Catch 90201 every Tuesday at 9pm on STAR WORLD & 10pm on CHANNEL [V].