Secrets Of The Cast Of Melrose Place

Starting off as a spin-off of producer Aaron Spelling's hit "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Melrose Place" was nothing less than a '90s cultural phenomenon. Series creator Darren Star told Rolling Stone in 1994 the when the series began, the plan was to come up with after school special-esque storylines, but obviously, that did not stick. "Now we try to write the shows as fun, trashy and compelling as we can. It's a delicate balance," he said.

Featuring a group of attractive twenty-somethings living in a Los Angeles apartment complex, the series premiered on Fox in 1992 and lasted seven seasons. The show brought explosive drama and literal explosions season after season. Naturally, the campy show turned into a Wednesday night obsession.

While the show often featured over-the-top mayhem, there was some real trouble brewing behind the scenes that was kept under wraps. A number of cast members moved on to successful careers and celebrated milestones after their stint on the steamy soap. Others, however, faced some of the most challenging times of their lives. We're here to give you the low-down on all of it.

Heather Locklear turned the show into a hit

The first season of "Melrose Place" didn't exactly hit the ground running. "It was very boring," Heather Locklear told The New York Times in 2009. "It was all nice people, and, really, there are some bad people in the world." To boost the sagging ratings, Aaron Spelling called on the "T.J. Hooker" star to shake things up. As conniving ad exec Amanda Woodward, Locklear succeeded in delivering the sizzle to the show and ratings soared, the uber producer explained in a 2012 interview with the Television Academy.

"Amanda Woodward was not conceived as a villain," Darren Star told TV Line in 2017. "She was just going to be Alison's boss for a few episodes, but then Heather came in and said 'Hello,' and it just seemed devious," he said, adding that Locklear was having such a good time on the show, he decided to roll with it. Unsurprisingly, she was down to stick around longer than initially planned. As she told "Good Morning America" she was thrilled to be a part of the "Melrose Place" legacy.

In the years following "Melrose Place," Locklear's career carried on, but behind the scenes she struggled with legal troubles and substance use. In an October 2021 interview with People, Locklear seemed to be in a better place, marking over two years of sobriety. "I feel young. I'm a young 60," she said. "It's all about perspective."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Several cast members hooked up in real life

Off-screen romances happen all the time, but there is a lot to unpack with the "Melrose Place" roster. Early on, Courtney Thorne-Smith and Andrew Shue dated. Later in the series, she moved on to Grant Show. "Show and Courtney Thorne-Smith were together and when they weren't, we were all pretty sure that's why she left the show," writer-producer Charles Pratt Jr. told Vulture in 2014. Show also dated Laura Leighton and when they became a thing, they wanted their characters to link up too, which didn't happen. Back then, the show was filming 34 episodes per year, so actors were working all the time. "They get a lot of money. They start dating each other — and that's always a disaster," Pratt Jr. added. Leighton wound up marrying cast mate Doug Savant in 1998. "We were friends on the set, but then it became, 'Oh my God, this person I think is so perfect is right here,'" Savant told People.

"The best thing that happened to me as a result of 'Melrose' was meeting my wife," he added. Josie Bissett and Rob Estes were married when the show premiered, and split in 2006. Both "The Wedding March" star and the "Silk Stalkings" actor have since remarried. Heather Locklear connected with former co-star Jack Wagner in 2008, and announced their engagement in 2011. A few months later, Wagner called it off, citing the pressures of planning a wedding and blending their families, according to TMZ.

Grant Show hit 'a low point' after Melrose Place

For Grant Show, playing Jake Hanson on the hit series was, without a doubt, his breakout role. In 2021, he was even recognized as one of the "Iconic Leading Men of '90s TV" by ET. "I keep waiting for someone to say they made a mistake," Show joked about being named to the list. "I have been fortunate. The icon wasn't me, it was Jake."

In fact, it was the role of the bad boy with a sensitive side that plagued his personal and professional life for years to come. "A few years after 'Melrose Place,' when the luster of 'Melrose Place' wore off and what was left was just the stink and I was just doing bad TV movies, that was a personal low point," Show told The New York Times in 2008. The "Swingtown" alum added that he didn't work at all for a while, presumably because he had been pigeonholed as the "Melrose Place" guy. Once he shook that notion, everything began to fall into place — and no, not the one on Melrose.

Show got his start on "Ryan's Hope," and helped to launch "Melrose Place" when Aaron Spelling cast him as Jake on "Beverly Hills, 90210." Following his time in the "90210" universe, he's gone on to appear on "Private Practice," "Devious Maids" and five seasons of "Dynasty" as Blake Carrington.

Josie Bissett grew tired of being the 'nice one'

Josie Bissett was the resident good girl Jane Mancini on "Melrose Place." But playing nice wasn't necessarily getting the reaction she wanted. "I do get tired of playing a victim all the time on the show," she told Rolling Stone in 1994. "People call for me on the street and tell me everything that I'm doing wrong." Much like the fans at home, Bissett was ready to see her character make a big pivot.

Darren Star got the message. "I remember Josie Bissett asking, 'Can I please, please do something, like, a little devious? Do I have to be the nice one?' I totally understood it," he told Vulture. Gradually, producers developed Jane's darker side, as they did for some of some of the series' other characters. Some of Jane's dastardly deeds included burying a man alive, stalking Jake and Alison, and giving blackmail a whirl.

In a 1998 interview with Deseret News, Sibbett said she knew viewers weren't thrilled with the happily married Mancini couple they saw in the first few seasons. "I don't think we found our niche that early on," she said. "And when we were that nice couple, that didn't last very long. As soon as the craziness began on 'Melrose,' that's when the show found its niche."

Andrew Shue wasn't the first actor hired to play Billy

Andrew Shue played boy next door Billy Campbell "Melrose Place" on all seven seasons. Although he was one of the original characters, another actor actually had the job first. Per Mental Floss, Lifetime's "The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story" depicted Stephen Fanning getting hired and subsequently fired because he gained weight. But in a 2012 "Melrose Place" reunion with "GMA" host Amy Robach, Shue said it was more of a chemistry — or lack thereof — matter. Grant Show added, "No one told Stephen that he was let go. He showed up to work and Andrew was in his dressing room." Shue chimed in, "I feel that I need to personally apologize." 

The former professional soccer player quit acting altogether after "Melrose.” Shue has been married to Robach since 2010, despite the fact she admitted she was a Jake, not a Billy, fan. He co-founded CafeMedia in 2008. 

He also co-founded Do Something and sits on its board, per People. In a 2021 appearance on Australia's "The Morning Show" (via Daily Mail), the entrepreneur reflected on his time in the spotlight thirty years ago, commenting on how much tougher it is being a celebrity today. "The scrutiny is so much worse, so I feel lucky that it happened at that point," he said. 'It was a fantasy world for sure. We came off of the heels of '[Beverly Hills] 90210' and it was just a lot of fun."

Vanessa Williams' character was overlooked

Vanessa Williams played Rhonda Blair on the first season of "Melrose Place," and was not asked back for Season 2. Rhonda was the only Black character on the show's main roster, and Williams has said producers didn't seem to care how she fit into the series' world. Speaking to TV Guide in 2020, the "Candyman" actor shared, "I think they didn't make the effort to equip themselves [to write for a black character], either by hiring a black writer or asking me things." Williams added that as the show went on, her character fell to the wayside and got cut after the first season. "When they fired me three episodes later for no good reason, I was like, 'Oh, welcome to Hollywood,'" she told Soap Opera Digest.

Williams moved on to many other projects, including "Days of Our Lives," "9-1-1," and Showtime's "Soul Food," a series based on the film starring the other Vanessa Williams.

In the aforementioned TV Guide interview, she noted the significance of the Showtime series, stating, "We don't see black people celebrated in all our humanity. It fortifies black folks in a way they haven't been on an hour-long drama." This was certainly a welcome change from what she encountered working on "Melrose Place," her first major TV role.

Hunter Tylo got booted for being pregnant

Hunter Tylo was hired in 1996 to play the role of Taylor McBride on the Fox series, but her performance never made it to screen. After she became pregnant, she was cut from the roster. Per CNN, the actor sued Aaron Spelling Entertainment Group and Spelling Television Inc., citing pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination, and breach of contract. In 1997, she won a nearly $5 million award from a Superior Court jury in Los Angeles.

In the courtroom, the show's legal team maintained that, while pregnant, she would not be able to portray the character as written, per the AP. Tylo claimed a producer on the show said, "Why doesn't she just go out and get an abortion?" "The Bold & the Beautiful" actor went on to state she was being treated unfairly, and her team pointed out the creative steps production took when Heather Locklear was pregnant and still on the series.

"People were telling me I would never make it, that I was hurting my career. But I came through all of it," Tylo said following the jury's decision. She then returned to her job on the CBS soap she'd left in order to appear on "Melrose Place." That, in turn, created an opportunity for future "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Lisa Rinna, who landed that plum role.

Doug Savant's character was

Doug Savant played Matt Fielding on "Melrose Place," one of the few gay characters to appear on primetime up to that point. However, as writer-producer Carol Mendelsohn explained to Vulture in 2014, Fox wouldn't permit Matt and his boyfriend to kiss on the show, let alone be in bed together. "Fortunately, we've come a long way in 20 years," Mendelsohn recalled. Per the AP, a Fox exec said at the time, "We would have lost up to $1 million by airing that kiss.″

After playing Matt for a few years, Savant's personal life was made public, much to his dismay. As a straight married man, he did not want his own sexuality to be something people latched onto. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1994, he said, "There are other straight actors who have played gay characters and then shouted their straightness to the media at every chance. I think that's disgraceful."

In 2017, Savant looked back at his audition for "Melrose," recalling the whole experience for The Hollywood Reporter as shallow and superficial, saying he didn't feel like he offered what casting directors were looking for. "So when they wanted to make a test deal and take me to network, I was flummoxed," he said. "I was excited, too, because Matt was an exceptional character and maybe the lone openly gay character on mainstream TV at the time."

Kristin Davis knows why she was sacked

Kristin Davis played Brooke Armstrong on "Melrose Place." She was only hired for 10 episodes, but ended up doing 31 episodes before meeting an untimely death, drowning in the pool in Season 4. Speaking to The Virginian-Pilot in 1996, the "Sex and the City" alum said, "It was a wonderful experience and it meant a big paycheck, but I have no regrets about leaving 'Melrose Place.'"

As for why she was written off the show, the "Bad Teacher" alum has her theory. "The trouble with 'Melrose Place' is that there are too many characters on the series," she said in The Virginian-Pilot. "The writers eventually run out of ideas and then take the easy way out." She also acknowledged how frustrating it could be to read rumors regarding the roster's dynamic. Alas, as anyone who keeps up with "Sex and the City" drama knows, "Melrose Place" would not be the last time Davis was part of a cast that received a lot of media attention.

Speaking with New Beauty in January 2022, Davis opened up about the scrutiny she and co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon faced after "And Just Like That..." premiered in 2021. "I can only speak for myself, but it can also be extremely stressful to be aging and to be compared to your much, much, much younger self," Davis said.

Amy Locane struggled after her Melrose Place stint

Amy Locane played Sandy Harling in the first season of "Melrose Place" and was cut after 13 episodes. The actor didn't have much experience at the time, and had a hard time bouncing back from that early career setback. "Things got a lot tougher after that whole debacle. I never did a TV show after that," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. After years of lackluster acting gigs and unsuccessful auditions, the "Cry-Baby" star left Hollywood altogether and moved back home to New Jersey.

"This really isn't the life I want to be living," she recalled." But life was going to get a whole lot worse for the troubled actor. In 2010, she was convicted of vehicular homicide, for driving drunk and striking and killing a woman, while severely injuring her husband in a New Jersey crash, per The Daily News. In 2013, she was sentenced to three years in prison. 

Locane was released in 2015, but in 2020 she landed back behind bars when, as NJ.com reported, a judge found that her original sentence wasn't long enough. In a 2017 interview with NJ.com, she admitted, "I made a horrible mistake on June 27, 2010, one that devastated a lot of people." Moving forward, she noted, "All I can do is stay sober and make my life a living amends to the life of Helene Seeman."

Kelly Rutherford endured a bitter custody battle

Kelly Rutherford joined "Melrose Place" in 1996, playing an escort named Megan Lewis for three seasons. Best known for her role on "Gossip Girl," the actor went through a difficult personal ordeal following the run of the popular CW series, per The Hollywood Reporter

In 2006, Rutherford married German entrepreneur Daniel Giersch and they divorced in 2009. What followed was a long and bitter custody battle over her two children, according to People. In 2012, a family court judge ruled that the children could stay with their father in Monaco. In 2015, she was scheduled to fly her children there as per the terms of the agreement, and she refused. "These past three years waiting for my children to come home have been very difficult. My children were forced to leave the United States in 2012 when they were only 2 and 5 years old," Rutherford said in a statement obtained by People, noting that a California judge granted her sole custody.

Per TMZ, in August of 2015, a judge in Monaco forced Rutherford to return the children to her father and ruled she should lose custody. If all of this wasn't bad enough, the "Gossip Girl" star was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2013. According to Variety, she had racked up about $1.7 million in lawyers fees over the course of seven years. "I sold everything—every stock, everything I owned," she said. "I went through my pension; I was living in my friend's maid's room."

Marcia Cross opened up about her cancer diagnosis

In 2018, Marcia Cross, who played Dr. Kimberly Shaw on "Melrose Place," took to social media to share that she was receiving cancer treatment. "So grateful and happy to be alive but sad that my hair fell out and is about 1 inch long now and looks cra cra," she wrote. "Anyone else have #hairloss due to #cancer? Talk to me. I feel you." 

The "Desperate Housewives" actor later clarified she was in recovery from anal cancer. In another post, she explained how great it felt to open up about her diagnosis. "How or why this simple act gave me such a powerful lift I did not question, but I thanked God or whatever gave me the internal push to move forward and expose myself," she wrote.

The image of Cross in her posts was oddly similar to an iconic scene from "Melrose Place" where Kimberly pulls off her wig to reveal a substantial scar. The actor told The Hollywood Reporter, that it wasn't until that reveal that she realized how big a deal the television show was. "After that twist," she recalled, "and seeing how people went kooky for it, I realized, 'Oh god, this is real!'"

The Melrose Place reboot was a flop

Thomas Calabro was the only cast member to appear in the first and last episodes of "Melrose Place, including the 2009 reboot, as per the Los Angeles Times. "I'd play that guy all day long," the actor said. But back when he read for the role, he wasn't so optimistic. "They told me when I went to audition that I was 10 years too old for the part and I should forget about it," he shared with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. Calabro told She Knows in 2010 that he was excited to explore a new chapter of Michael Mancini's life in the CW's reboot of the primetime drama.

And for how the reincarnation of "Melrose Place" played out? Well, reviews were mixed. As Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe wrote, "And so I 'like' the new 'Melrose Place,' in that I think it has the potential to be as addictive, and phony, as a can of Pringles potato crisps." What lives on, Doug Savant told THR, are the sweet memories of a time gone by. "People have great affection for that show because it takes them back to that time in their life when they felt they were the 'Melrose Place'-ers embarking on their journey into the adult world," he mused. Alas, after pulling in dismal ratings, the show got the axe after just one season.