Believe it or not, it's not easy being Tori Spelling. Despite the advantages that winning a virtual genetic lottery has afforded her, she carries a burden few people could possibly fathom -- that of simply being Tori Spelling.
For roughly a decade, Spelling played Donna Martin, the good girl next door who inspired vice while retaining her virtue on dad Aaron Spelling's teen melodrama "Beverly Hills, 90210." During that time, her character was the subject of an unforgettable "Donna Martin graduates" rallying cry, became addicted to painkillers, dated an abusive singer-songwriter, succumbed (finally) to the charms of David Silver (Brian Austin Green) and got married.
Since the series concluded in May 2000, Spelling has appeared in "Scary Movie 2" and a handful of TV movies, including "A Carol Christmas" and "The Family Plan," but she has struggled to be taken seriously. Unable to find just the right role to turn around the press and public's perceptions of her, she simply quit looking -- and that's when the ideal role found her.
Beginning Sunday, April 2, Spelling will play a fictionalized version of herself alongside Loni Anderson, James Carpinello, Cleo King, Brennan Hesser, Jeanetta Arnette and Zachary Quinto in VH1's scripted comedy series "So NoTORIous." The show, which tackles topics ranging from Spelling's supposed feud with former "90210" co-star Shannen Doherty to tabloid rumors of plastic surgery and eating disorders, is the result of the actress coming to grips with who she is and what people think of her. Both are subjects about which she hasn't always had a sense of humor.
"I got to the point where I thought, 'You know what? I'm always going to be Tori Spelling whether I do good work or, in [people's] eyes, something they don't like. It's not going to matter,' " she says. "I'm sick of fighting this. If they want to poke fun at me, if they want to laugh at me, great. I'll turn it around and laugh with them."
And this time, she's doing things on her own. A quick scan of the "So NoTORIous" credits shows that Dad has no hand in the production -- although he is represented as an unseen character (In a nod to one of Aaron Spelling's best-known series, his voice can be heard over a speaker as he addresses his "Angel"). It's a small first step as Tori tries to distance herself from an at least partially undeserved reputation as Daddy's little girl.
"My favorite is, 'So, what's it like to live in that big house that your dad has?'" she says, referring to the common misconception that she still resides in the family mansion. "And I always say to them, 'OK, forget who I am; can you imagine any woman at 32 years old still living with her parents?'"
Though Spelling now lives on her own, "So NoTORIous" often harkens back to a time when she didn't. One of the show's most consistent sources of humor is a series of childhood flashbacks reflecting on Tori's relationship with her eccentric mother, played by Anderson. Spelling says the scenes, which she insists are played up for comedic effect, portray her formative years as far more unusual than they actually were.
"To me, [my childhood] was normal; that's all I ever knew," she explains. "It wasn't [glamorous] to the extent that people think it was. There weren't movie stars and television stars traipsing through my house every moment of the day. My parents tried to give us, to the best of their ability, a normal life outside of the life they lived and what my dad did."
Lest anyone forget that her childhood and what her dad did eventually did collide, syndication currently is keeping "Beverly Hills, 90210" alive on networks such as SoapNet. Much like the flashbacks on her new series, reruns of her old series ensure that Spelling's past remains part of her present.
"I do [watch the '90210' reruns], because of my TiVo," she admits, laughing. "I'll put my name in, in case any of my movies or anything new comes on that I want to see, and it will record all the '90210s,' so I have to go through and erase them all. And I'll see one and be like, 'I could use a little break time. Let me check that out.' It's so funny to watch when I haven't watched it in so many years. I'm like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe that hairstyle. Oh, my God, why did I wear that?' It's so great for me; it's like having a yearbook, but it's on TV."