ACTORS are a dime a dozen in Los Angeles. And TV writers feel the heat when competing for TV slots with other equally brilliant minds. In an erratic environment where stability is as fleeting as the careers of extras, change is necessary to keep ahead in the rat race.
Jason Priestly kept his career alive by taking on characters that intrigue and challenge him. Looking back, Priestly says: “Beverly Hills 90210 was my second TV series.
“I already had a long career before that show. But the success of that series had an impact on my career and my life.”
Being given the opportunity to direct and serve as executive producer on that show was a huge learning curve for Priestly.
“I always wanted to direct. And I was finally able to talk Aaron Spelling into giving me an episode to direct in season three.
“He gave me two episodes and a further two in the follow-up season.
“I gave up directing because I wanted to executive produce the show and it was too much to do everything.
“Also, I knew that working and learning from Aaron was an opportunity I wouldn’t get again.”
Leaving behind Brandon Walsh as he surged ahead was no easy feat, though.
“I think I’ve done pretty well in shedding the baggage of Mr Walsh. It has taken some doing, though,” Priestly said.
“Of the characters I’ve played since, I think Jack Harper in Tru Calling was great. I had a lot of fun playing him and, of course, Richard Fitzpatrick, my character in Call Me Fitz – he has been the most fun of all.”
Priestly defends Fitz, who is moved to action by his desires rather than his moral compass, saying: “He’s doing the best he can with the tools at his disposal.”
Of the attraction of playing such a depraved character, Priestly says: “I was looking to carry a show again. The past two series I had done were ensemble shows and it wasn’t a great experience for me. As soon as I read the pilot of Fitz, I knew I had to have this part. The show is well-crafted and an absolute joy.”
Having had his fair share of movie roles, Priestly explains how the show slots into his career graph.
“Movies have to come to you. In television, actors like me can get things done and make a great product. I just focus on doing great work. And I love to work in television – I enjoy the pace, workload and daily challenges.”
Is there any role he regrets accepting?
“Never. If I have made any mistakes, those were lessons I needed to learn.”
Other than recently directing his first Western, Goodnight for Justice, with long-time friend Luke Perry, he also calls the shots for Call Me Fitz.
Not keen to jump on the reality TV bandwagon, Priestly is focused on developing clout in Hollywood with meaty character portrayals.
Well, he has certainly hit bull’s eye with Call Me Fitz.
l Call Me Fitz is on Sony Max on Tuesdays at 9pm.