61st Montecarlo Television Festival: in conversation with Jason Priestley

At the 61st Montecarlo Television Festival, we met Jason Priestley aka Brandon Walsh and we talked about television and new generations.

How does it feel to be back?

I love this place. This time I’m here with my all family. It’s a dream.”

A dream like being part of something big like 90210?

“Well, the fame that we experienced on Beverly Hills 90210 was very sudden. And it was very surprising. And it was shocking. I mean, you know, that show became such a hit so quickly and really floundered through its first season, and then all of a sudden, because of those summer episodes that we did, the show became a massive hit. Suddenly we couldn’t go to a shopping mall or we couldn’t do normal things and then that continued for a very long time. And I think that you can never prepare for that kind of fame; especially when you’re a young person and you dream about what you hope your career might be, you would never have the audacity to dream of fame like that, nor I think would you ever want to dream of fame like that because it’s almost like you’re too famous for a period of time. There are different levels of fame and that kind of super white-hot fame it’s too much. You can’t ever go and do anything or enjoy anything or hang out with your friends without everything becoming a scene and a situation where everybody wants pictures, autographs, and things. And all you want to do is just sit down and talk to your friends. You can never do anything. So it becomes very difficult. I think it was a time that was somewhat difficult to manage. The good news was that we were at work so much of the time that was actually very easy to manage; and then, outside of work, I would just try to stay home as much as I could; and eventually, everything sort of and all went back to normal. But it took a little bit of time. It was hard to stay down to earth, but I think that the most important thing, for me anyway, was to have a group of friends that were real friends that I could rely on and that I could spend time with and that I could talk to and that I knew weren’t people that were just hangers-on and that would protect you. I think the biggest thing is to find that group of people that are not on the payroll, and that want to be with you for the right reasons.”

Once you said that what makes you alive is to have a lot of interests.

“That’s right. I think it’s important to have many interests, right? For example, I like acting, but I love directing and I love cooking, and I used to love driving race cars, but I love skiing, and I love water sports. It’s important to be a complete person, to have many interests, like a Renaissance man, right? And I try to teach my son the same thing. I’m always like: you need to have many interests read books, you can’t just always have your face shoved in your phone, right? That’s what I try to teach my kids. You have to do many things, and you have to have many interests because that’s how you build a complete person.”

Who are your absolute favourite writers and directors?

“Who are my favourite directors? Oh, well, I love Orson Welles, and I love Howard Hawks and Ridley Scott.”

Movie or tv series?
“I enjoy working on TV series. Like I love the long character arcs, and I enjoy the long-form storytelling. It’s something that I’ve been doing for a long time, and so, I enjoy it but I like making movies too. I mean, they’re very different processes, right? I enjoy them both.”

Do you like playing the villain?

“I do like playing the villain. Yeah. These guys are always more fun, you know? What is a virtuous person? The great thing about villains is that most villains don’t see that there’s more than what they’re doing, right? They think they’re virtuous as well. A lot of villains are just sociopaths. They don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing.”

You began your television career in the nineties, how do you think teen dramas changed since then?

“Well, you watch Beverly Hills, and then you watch Euphoria. I think kids are so different now, but also the way growing up and how we think about young people, really changed. I mean, something is really shifting between television, the way we saw it and how we imagine younger people. I think that the world’s very different now than it was in 1992. In those 30 years, the world has changed exponentially, and the experience of young people has changed along with it. They have access to so much with just a click, right here, right now. They have access to so much information but also to so much disinformation; access to bad people, access to bad things, access to all of it right here. And I think that a show like Euphoria is very representative of the experience of young people today. And I feel like a platform like HBO Max, where they broadcast they have the ability to show it for what it really is and what’s really happening. Whereas, you know, our show back in 1990, we were on a network television series where we were very hamstrung by what we could actually show. And I feel like we pushed the boundaries as far as we could. And we talked about as much stuff as we could: we talked about teen sexuality, and we talked about rape. We talked about people’s mental health issues and about bulimia. A lot of kids are still having a lot of those issues, but there are a thousand more issues that they’re having now. It seems like what we dealt with back in 1990, has become so much more amplified because of the times that we live in. I think that a show, like Euphoria to me is super important because like our show back then, it gets people talking about what our young people are facing because it’s scary, and I fear for them. I think it’s important for parents to watch stuff like that so they can talk about it with their kids. Like, are you going through this? Yeah. Are you having it? Is this happening at your school? In the same way, our show did for a lot of parents and kids, but of course, times are different. And of course, the challenges and the problems are way exponentially worse than they were back then.”

You wrote a book about your life.

“It was an idea that we started talking about at dinner. A friend of mine said: hey, have you ever thought about writing an autobiography? And of course, at dinner, I said, no, I would never do that. And then of course, by the end of the dinner, I was sort of like, well, maybe I should write one. And then I ended up writing one. My wife said: Honey, you, you know, you’ve had 13 concussions. Maybe you should start writing things down before you start forgetting stuff. It was difficult. It’s hard writing a book; it’s hard to figure out what to put in and what to leave out, especially when it concerns other people. You have to be very careful. I tried to make it fun. So it was difficult, but it was cathartic, I guess.”

One last question. Do you remember what you bought when you got your first salary?

“Yes, I didn’t buy anything. I just put them in the bank. I saved all the money from my first TV series and from BH90210, and I bought my first piece of real estate. I’m that kind of guy. Super boring. Not even a McLaren, just a piece of real estate, super boring.”


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