Shannen Doherty's Life And Career Growing Up In Hollywood

Shannen Doherty is a screen icon who had amassed a whopping 85 acting credits to her name as of November 2022. Just a few of her most recognizable roles include her breakout performance as Brenda Walsh in "Beverly Hills, 90210," and her three-year stint as Prue Halliwell in "Charmed," as well as appearances in cult classic films like "Mallrats," "Heathers," and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."

However, despite all of her success as an actor, she has experienced plenty of on-set drama which once threatened to derail her career. Through the years, Doherty has repeatedly made headlines for all the wrong reasons as folks couldn't resist dissecting her shaky relationships and feuds with co-stars like Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, and Alyssa Milano. She has also experienced her share of personal hardships, but even so, Doherty has managed to maneuver around the negative and continue doing what she loves most — acting.

Here's a look back at Shannen Doherty's life and career growing up in Hollywood.

Shannen Doherty found acting as a child

It's no exaggeration to say that Shannen Doherty has been an actor her entire life. Growing up in Tennessee, she liked being a loner but she couldn't resist the pull of acting and starred in a bunch of plays. When she was just seven, her dad moved the family to Los Angeles, California, and her love for the craft deepened. After starring in a number of commercials, she got her first TV role aged 10, appearing in two episodes of "Father Murphy" — and never looked back. 

The following year, she landed a recurring part on "Little House on the Prairie," which made her a household name. As Doherty told SPIN, it was the show that pushed her to really pursue acting. "I used to watch 'Little House on the Prairie' and I wanted to work with Michael Landon really desperately," she gushed. "After that, acting just became this thing that I did."

Then, at 19, she became a bonafide celebrity when she was cast to play Brenda Walsh on "Beverly Hills, 90210." She appeared in over 100 episodes of the series and it was around that time she realized that she was perfectly suited to acting. "When I hit 18, I really understood what it was all about," she told SPIN. "If you're at all self-conscious, acting is the best thing that you can do because you never have to be yourself."

She wasn't ready for the Beverly Hills, 90210 fame

When Shannen Doherty was just 20 years old, "Beverly Hills, 90210" entered its second season and exploded in popularity. Although she had been working since the age of 10 and had been involved in a number of successful projects, the teen drama brought a different level of fame — and scrutiny.  "With all great things comes a little bit of backlash," she told Digital Spy. "I definitely don't think I was ready for it." In 1992, she elaborated on the extent to which her life had changed, telling Rolling Stone, "We get accosted in malls. Basically, it takes over your life."

It didn't help that the cast was asked to film a grueling 36 episodes a year and that folks assumed Doherty was stuck up and difficult, just like her character. "You're being written about on a regular basis and 98% of it is complete lies, so it's very hard to read about yourself and not have a reaction," she once told The Sydney Morning Herald. There were no social media platforms back then, and she felt like she didn't have a way to share her side of the story — all she could do was look on as tabloids continuously painted her in a negative light. As she told Rolling Stone, she felt the accusations were simply unjust. "If you consider 'difficult' being a strong woman who sticks up for herself, yeah, I admit to it," she quipped.

She racked up a bad reputation

Fans were shocked when Shannen Doherty left "Beverly Hills, 90210" at the height of its fame. Despite being with the show since day one, the actor tapped out after four seasons because she was so miserable. As she told Entertainment Weekly, her fame was proving to be too much. "The sacrifice at the time seemed too large to me — the sacrifice of a camera pointed in my face 24 hours a day while I was desperately trying to grow up, to figure out my spirituality, to figure out my boyfriends," she explained. 

What's more, she hated the new scripts and openly criticized them. "I was very undiplomatic," she admitted to SPIN. Her brazen attitude caused issues with her castmates and she once nearly had a physical altercation with Jennie Garth. Executive producer, Charles Rosin went as far as to tell Entertainment Weekly, "Her lateness was appalling, and she had a callous attitude and an indifference."

Beyond the on-set drama, Doherty's reputation was also tarnished by numerous run-ins with the law. During her time on the show, it was discovered she wrote $32,000 worth of bad checks. Then, in 1992, she was cited (but not charged) for misdemeanor battery after allegedly shoving a woman in a Hollywood nightclub. Five years later, she was sentenced to anger management counseling for smashing a beer bottle on a car window, and in 2000, she was arrested for DUI for which received three years' probation. Trouble always found her. 

The Charmed set was anything but

Shannen Doherty may have thought she was leaving on-set drama behind when she walked away from "Beverly Hills, 90210," but it simply followed her to her next hit show. In 1998, the actor joined the set of "Charmed," opposite Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano, and the series was a hit. Although it ran for eight seasons, Doherty left after just three due to on-set tensions. She was once again depicted as the villain in the scenario.

Speaking to Details magazine (via New York Post), the star slammed executive producer, Aaron Spelling, with whom she'd previously clashed on the "90210" set. "The lack of appreciation he's showing for me as a human being and as an actor is overwhelming," she proclaimed. She then went after a co-star — purported to be Milano — and stated that despite the high-paying and relatively easy nature of the gig, the person in question did nothing but complain about the job.

Indeed, Milano later seemed to agree that Doherty wasn't to blame. "I could take responsibility for a lot of our tension that we had," she told ET in 2021. "I think a lot of our struggle came from feeling that I was in competition rather than it being that sisterhood that the show was so much about, and I have some guilt about my part in that." As for Doherty, she simply wants to move on. "Let's just let it be," she told Fox News.

She wasn't afraid to tackle a reality show ... or three

It takes a lot to deter Shannen Doherty. In 2006, she launched a reality show called "Breaking Up With Shannen Doherty," which aired for one season and pretty much bombed. In the series, the actor met women who needed help ending bad relationships, whether with a roommate or a lover, and she did the breaking up for them. Unfortunately, the negative tone really missed the mark. "[It] operates on the flawed principle that it is fun to watch relationships come asunder," Susan Stewart wrote of the show for The New York Times. "... However, dying relationships tend to devastate those in them and bore everybody else."

The harsh review didn't stop Doherty from trying reality TV again. In 2010, she joined "Dancing With The Stars" at the behest of her dad but, unfortunately, she was the first to be eliminated. Even so, she had no regrets. "I made my dad proud, that's all that really matters," she told People. "... It pays off in seeing my father's face and the joy that I brought him."

Doherty finally scored a reality TV hit in 2014 when she and "Charmed" costar Holly Marie Combs went on a road trip for Great American Country's "Off The Map With Shannen & Holly." Doherty had a great time filming the show, telling Business Wire, "Not only did we do some amazing and fun things, we also met really interesting, lovely people."

She tried her hand at writing

In 2010, Shannen Doherty decided to embrace her reputation as a bad girl and tell her entire life story in a memoir titled, "Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude." The book took a look back at the good and the bad in the actor's life and career, to highlight Doherty's evolution over time. While promoting the tome, the "Heathers" star explained to Parade that her mission was to show folks that she had matured and mellowed, without forgetting about her past. "I have a rep. Did I earn it? Yeah, I did," she said. "But, after a while, you sort of try to shed that rep because you're kind of a different person."

Explaining the book's title, she told the mag she feels like she herself has morphed from a bad girl to a badass. "It means owning who you are and being compassionate and knowing when you've made a mistake and not repeating it," she noted. While her approach to writing was humorous and sometimes ironic, she strove to be honest about everything. That included not skipping any of the mistakes of her young life because they made her into the adult she is today. "I had this amazing career in front of me and because of some things I did, my career really suffered," she admitted. "Thank God that I've had some second chances."

Why she went public with her cancer journey

Shannen Doherty was faced with the biggest battle of her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early forties. In August 2015, she chose to go public with the diagnosis and revealed she had undergone a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Deciding to be fully transparent about her journey, she then revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Admitting she was scared of the unknown, she told ET, "Pain is manageable ... living without a breast is manageable, it's the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love." Doherty underwent chemotherapy and radiation and on Instagram in 2017, she shared that she was in remission. Cautiously optimistic, she wrote, "As every single one of my fellow cancer family knows, the next five years is crucial."

Sadly, Doherty's cancer did return and, once again, she chose to be honest in the hopes of helping others. In February 2020, the actor revealed she had stage four breast cancer, per Today. Since then, she has shared unfiltered photos and updates of her treatment, including the tearful day she had to shave her head. As she explained on Instagram, "I hope I encourage people to get mammograms, to get regular checkups, to cut thru the fear and face whatever might be in front of you."

The heartbreaking reason Shannen Doherty never had kids

Just like her career, Shannen Doherty's love life has had its share of drama. The actor's first two marriages dissolved within months, starting with her union to fellow actor, Ashley Hamilton – the pair wed in October 1993 but divorced in April 1994. Eight years later, Doherty said "I do" to professional poker player, Rick Salomon but they annulled their marriage within nine months. It wasn't until she met and married photographer and cinematographer, Kurt Iswarienko in October 2011 that she found a true life partner. Speaking with People in 2019, Doherty admitted that they had their hardships, like any couple, but shared how Iswarienko was there when she needed him most. Recalling her 2015 breast cancer diagnosis, she told the mag, "Cancer solidified us. Kurt and I have a much deeper appreciation for each other now."

But while their bond strengthened, their plans to start a family were challenged. As Doherty told Health (via Yahoo!), "The hormones I went on threw my body into menopause instantly." That meant she would have to take estrogen pills to try to reverse the menopausal effects, which in turn could cause a higher risk of her cancer returning. Unwilling to take that chance, she began considering other avenues, but she simply wasn't sure. "We're having conversations about an egg donor, maybe adoption, but there's fear there," she said. "Am I going to last five years? Ten years? I certainly wouldn't want my 10-year-old burying a mother."

She became a reboot queen against her will

Given the fact that "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Heathers" made Shannen Doherty a star, you may be surprised to learn that she wasn't all that excited about either project being rebooted. First, there was Paramount Network's "Heathers," which premiered in 2018 after some controversy that almost saw it shelved for good. As Doherty told Entertainment Weekly, she first heard about plans for a reboot when she was undergoing chemotherapy. When first asked if she'd like to participate, she responded, "No. I don't know how you could ever, ever remake it." However, she changed her mind once she read the script and eventually agreed to a cameo. Even so, she was adamant she didn't want to rehash any of her other acting credits, quipping, "Somebody asked me, 'Would you do the 'Charmed' reboot?' and I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't be the reboot queen!'"

So when she was approached about appearing in 2019's "Beverly Hills, 90210" reboot, "BH90210," she initially shut it down over concerns that she would become renowned for rehashing her greatest career moments. This time, the loss of a dear pal would make her change her mind. Following Luke Perry's death, she agreed to take part, telling Us Weekly, "I thought it was the right time to do it, to honor a friend and be with my friends, recreating something that was special to America, special to the world, and most importantly, special to all of us."

She refuses to let cancer slow her down

A year after revealing that she had stage four breast cancer, Shannen Doherty told Variety exactly what that meant. Opening up about her diagnosis, she shared how she learned that her cancer could be treated but never cured. However, she refused to despair. Rather than backing down, Doherty decided to focus on doing what she loves most and vowed to continue working. "The best example that I can continue to set for other people with cancer, and to the outside world who doesn't have cancer, is to show them what a cancer patient looks like," she told the mag. "We are employable."

Indeed, she filmed three movies in 2021. Doherty also revealed to the outlet that she had her sights set on choosing a book to turn into a film that she planned to helm herself. "I'm a total nerd when it comes to cameras and lenses and lighting — creating a mood and a tone," she gushed. "When I direct, I'm probably at my absolute happiest."

Showing just how resilient she is, Doherty shared a health update on Instagram in March 2022 using the hashtag #cancerslayer. Sharing two intimate selfies of herself masked up and rocking a cute heart-adorned IV bandage at a health appointment, she wrote, "Early morning doctors visit for scans. Blurry eyed. Hair askew but the new bandage wraps made me smile!"