“I was one when the show came out,” Shenae Grimes explains, “but my mom raised me on it basically. I still watch the reruns today.” Grimes, a Canadian-born actress known for her work on Degrassi: The Next Generation, plays the naïve Annie Wilson who moves from a small town in Kansas to Beverly Hills with her parents and her adopted brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds).
While this plot line might seem pretty familiar to anyone who watched the previous series (the Walsh family moved from Minneapolis to Beverly Hills, bringing their two children, Brenda and Brandon), the producers maintain that while the new series gives credit to the older series through starring roles and guest appearances by actors from the original show such as Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth, the new show is in no way a “remake.”
“It is a complete original invention,” Jeff Judah says. “There will be, though, somewhat of an homage to the original show. We'll be using people from the previous show in the new one, and they will organically work with our characters.”
Fans and critics alike will be excited to see a new spin on characters from the original show. Doherty will take on her role again as Brenda Walsh, returning to Beverly Hills High as the drama teacher directing the high school’s musical. Garth will be making her return as the high school’s guidance counselor, working alongside Rob Estes, who plays Harry Wilson, the father of Annie and Dixon and also the principal at their high school. Even the beloved hangout The Peach Pit is making a reappearance, but its ambiance will be updated to fit the tastes of a new generation.
“The Peach Pit was very important to us,” Gabe Sachs explains, “and every interview we have, they go, ‘Is there a Peach Pit?’”
Sachs and Judah took this concern of fans everywhere to heart, making sure not to leave out this favorite hangout or its friendly proprietor. The lovable Joe E. Tata, who played Nat, will still be the owner of the Peach Pit, despite its new makeover. Instead of being cutesy soda shop/hamburger joint, producers have decided to make it a swanky coffee house to rival the clubs that the youth of L.A. clamor to get in to. Fans surely won’t be disappointed with this transformation.
As for the one of the new stars on the show, Shenae Grimes admits she had an easy time relating to her character Annie since she too is experiencing the feelings of being a fish out of water. Grimes explains that working in L.A. on such a huge show is nothing like working in Canada, where she grew up and filmed the series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
“It's a big culture shock,” Grimes tells Dish. “There's no such thing as celebrity back home. Hockey players are a big deal, but actors—I mean, I didn't get recognized in Canada very often. If I did, nobody would approach me, let alone take my picture when I wasn't looking or anything like that. So, this whole crazy hype and everything that's been going on has been a little overwhelming, to say the least, but I'm just rolling with it.”
Actor Tristan Wilds, a native of Staten Island, New York, also explains his feelings about working in L.A. on 90210, which is certainly a big change from working in Baltimore on the HBO hit The Wire. His character Michael on The Wire was a kid who had grown up on the streets, struggling to stay out of trouble while being forced to take on the role as a father figure to his younger brother, and Wilds feels the situation of his old character is quite similar to the struggles his new character faces.
“I can say it's been a transition nevertheless, but it's been an easier transition than what I thought it would be. The characters Dixon and Michael are somewhat alike. They both grew up in bad environments, and they both had to grow up by themselves very quickly. From Dixon, moving from group home to group home and Michael living with a drug addict mother and raising his little brother, it's similar to an extent that they both had to teach themselves how to grow, how to live by themselves. It's been a transition, but it's been quite easy.”
So, how will this new series hold up against its predecessor? Both executive producers agree that they are ready for the challenge, knowing full well that anything they do will be judged by the previous show’s success. Not only that, but in recent years there has been an influx of new shows surrounding teenage characters. What was new when Beverly Hills, 90210 emerged is now a tried and true equation to make a successful television series marketed to teens. How can these producers make what’s old seem new again?
“It's difficult,” Judah concedes. “There are a lot of shows like this. I think one of the reasons people loved [the original show] so much was it was really one of the first ones to focus on teens and the young group could sort of see their lives. One way we're doing it is we're just trying to tell the best stories we can. It's grounded with real character stories and emotional stories, and whether these kids drive Maseratis or whatever mansions they live in, we want people in Iowa watching going, that's how I feel when my dad gets mad at me, that's how I feel when someone doesn't like me. We're trying to just really tell truthful, emotional stories.”
Don’t miss the exciting two-hour premiere of 90210 on Tuesday, September 2 at 8pm et/pt on The CW!