American Way: Jennie From the Block

Jennie From the Block
American Way

March 2009
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Jennie Garth returns to her home turf on the CW hit 90210.

Ask Jennie Garth if her three daughters — 11-year-old Luca Bella, six-year-old Lola Rae, and two-year-old Fiona Eve — have watched her work the halls of West Beverly Hills High on the CW’s racy 90210 reboot and you’ll get a resounding, “Oh God, no! No, no, no, no, no!”

Granted, theshow, an updated version of the 1990s Aaron Spelling high school soap opera, deals withmore mature topics than, say, Hannah Montana does. But Garth’s daughters, whom she has with husband Peter Facinelli, weren’t even allowed to watch her family-friendly sitcomWhat I Like about You, which aired on the CW’s former incarnation, the WB.

“My husband teases me because I’m so conservative about what I let my girls see,” she says. “To each their own, but when it comes to our girls, I’m very protective. So they’re not watching 90210, nor will they be.”

Audiences almost didn’t get to see Garth return to her old zip code. When producers first approached her about the remake, she turned them down. “I was just like, ‘No! This shouldn’t be done,’” recalls the 36-year-old, who spent 10 years as Kelly Taylor on the original series. “But then, I realized that the show would go on. I figured, why should I let it go on without me?”

So Garth, fresh off a stint on Dancing with the Stars, signed on — with the caveat that long-suffering Kelly would put her years of trauma (which included alcoholism, drugs, and an up-and-down relationship with Luke Perry’s Dylan McKay) to good use as the school’s guidance counselor. “I want Kelly to be some sort of voice of reason,” she says.

That levelheaded attitude is a reflection of Garth’s real-life down-to-earth sensibilities. She says she’s happiest on her days off, when she can prepare meals for her kids and shuttle Luca to guitar lessons. A self-professed “country bumpkin,” Garth grew up as the youngest of seven kids on a horse ranch in Illinois. “[It was] about as far from Beverly Hills as you can get,” says Garth, who landed her signature role at age 17. “I had no idea what I was getting into. The girls on the show now are so savvy. Me, I tend to dive in headfirst and when I’m in the middle of it, look around and think, ‘Where am I?’ But I always end up on the right side of things.”

For now, that means stepping into Kelly’s shoes again, and Garth is finding the fit much more comfortable the second time around. “All of a sudden, it’s happening again,” she says. “I’m on the hot new show — and it’s 90210. It’s sort of déjà vu, but I’m in such a different place now.”


We asked Garth to dish on the people who share her screen life and her home life.

On costar Shannen Doherty (Brenda Walsh), whom Garth reportedly feuded with during Beverly Hills, 90210:

“There was some trepidation [about working together again] at first on my part, but it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. We’ve both grown up a lot, and I don’t care about the drama now. In the end, it’s so comfortable to have someone familiar on the set.”

On her TV baby daddy

“I didn’t know who the dad was until I read the script. I think that the fans wanted it that way, so that’s why they went with it. I want Dylan [McKay, who was played by Luke Perry] to come back. It would make the fans so happy. But it’s his choice.”

On her real-life baby daddy, Peter Facinelli

“We’re total opposites. He’s the city guy, and I’m the country girl. But for us, it works. We’ve been married for, like, 80 years in Hollywood years. It’s incredible.”

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