One week from today, we'll get to see what this updated 90210 is really all about. For some more hints, I spent some time at the TCA press tour chatting with star Shenae Grimes — who previously played Darcy Edwards on Degrassi: The Next Generation — about her role as Annie Wilson, the new girl in the hottest zip code around. Here are highlights:
Did you ever watch the original 90210?
Yeah, my mom raised me on that show. I watched it all my life.
So what did you think when you first heard there was going to be a new 90210?
I thought, awesome! Super excited to watch it. And then when they called me to audition on tape, I was like, ha! OK, whatever, if I can find the time — it doesn't matter if I put it down or not, cause no one's gonna see it, whatever. And I crammed to put it down one day, got a call the next day saying — I actually auditioned for Silver originally, and then I got a call the next day saying, "They want to try you out for Annie." I was like, what? Whoa, hold on, step back for a minute. Literally never thought I'd hear anything ever again. I didn't even think the tape would get watched. But things happened, and here I am, and it's the most surreal thing in the world for a kid from Canada.
You did several seasons on Degrassi. Being a kid from Canada, where Degrassi is a big deal, what was that like?
Degrassi's the be-all and end-all for Toronto's youth actors. There's not a lot of great material at home, and the stuff that there is, it's cute, but you're always playing 14-year-olds. No one has roles that are hearty and challenging for young actors there. So Degrassi was really it. I mean, that's the show that everybody's trying to get on. I finally did, and I had to work my way up the food chain, and it took me a few years to "prove myself" for my producers, but I finally did, and I felt like, seventh season, I had the best storylines in the world. It doesn't get much more challenging than that. I felt like it was time for me to, you know, step off a little bit and let some of the new kids come in, cause it's the pinnacle for young actors.
More from Grimes on Degrassi and 90210, so read more.
The sense that I always had is that Degrassi in Canada is sort of like what 90210 was here.
Oh, absolutely. And I couldn't be more proud of both. I look at Degrassi as like my boot camp to prepare me for this. It was a groundbreaking thing. You couldn't throw more at a high school student, and they did it — they brought things to the table that people hadn't seen on TV before.
So, tell me a little bit about Annie.
Annie's the Kansas City gal who's been picked up by her dad and thrust into the Hollywood life for her grandma. The whole point is you're watching her and the journey that she takes, this crazy new world, the transition that she's making and how she handles it all. It's a big, big change. Everyone's asking me, "What did you do to prepare for the role?" and I'm like, "I'm doing it right now, man!" I'm from this small town and coming to Hollywood. And we don't have celebrity back home, there's no such thing as that! So this is a new world for me, too, and I'm trying to meander my way through it.
A lot of people are looking at the show and going, "Oh, she's the Brenda." Do you think that's fair? Can you do that with this show?
No — I mean, obviously, it's a family, and I'm the daughter, and so they will say that, which is totally cool and fine. But no, all the characters are very new and very different, not based on anybody. They've got a lot more layers, and they're not as stereotypical and one-note, necessarily, as they were before because kids have a lot more going on these days than they did back then.
Were any of the people in your cast people you had watched as a fan? I know for us in the US, Lori Laughlin is Full House —
Aunt Becky, are you kidding me? I saw her at the screen test, and I was like, "Oh my God, I saw Aunt Becky!" I didn't even put it together that they were casting her as the mom, and we totally look alike! I couldn't ask for better fake parents — I'm very flattered. And I've got Rob Estes as my dad. Hello, I watched Melrose Place growing up, so I was a big fan. And, you know, Freaks and Geeks with the producers, and I'm catching up on The Wire now.
OK, so sell me on the new 90210. Best reason to watch?
Everything about it's going to be amazing — the clothes and the music and the storylines and the actors. If that all doesn't entertain you, there will be much more that will. It's going to be a hot, hot show, and we're going to live up to everyone's expectations and then some.