Toronto-born actress living it up in 90210
Alex Strachan , Canwest News Service
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – At its heart 90210, the reimagined part sequel/part spinoff to Beverly Hills 92010 – Beverly Hills on redial, if you like – is a present-day parable when a poor girl from Kansas finds herself living among the rich clique of Beverly Hills.
It’s a little fish/big pond story. Shenae Maria Grimes, the Toronto-born, Gemini Award winning veteran of Degrassi: The Next Generation who has been cast as Annie Wilson, an updated, Gen-Y version of Beverly Hills’ Brenda Walsh character, can, like, totally relate.
Grimes, darkly tanned and visibly more glammed up than during her Degrassi days, joined her 90210 castmates this past weekend at the summer gathering of the TV Critics Association. Grimes appeared alongside Jessica Stroup, Tristan Wilds and Yellowknife-born Dustin Milligan just days after completing the final scenes of 90210’s two-hour premiere episode.
That episode will debut Sept. 2 on Global TV and the CW network in the U.S. It was filmed at such Los Angeles area landmarks as Torrance High School – which stood in for the exterior of West Beverly High in the original Beverly Hills – the ritzy mansions of Los Angeles’ exclusive Bel-Air neighbourhood and Boulevard3, the famed Hollywood night club which plays host to a climactic birthday party scene in 90210’s opener.
It’s a long way from Riverdale, Leslieville and Queen-Broadview Village, Grimes acknowledged with an easy laugh.
“There are more Range Rovers,” she said. “And paparazzi.”
The people, though – stereotypes to the contrary – are no different.
“People are people,” Grimes explained. “There hasn’t been anything too crazy. People live a little more lavishly here, I guess. There are a lot more luxury goods, and all that circulates. People, though, are much the same anywhere you go, really.”
Fame in Hollywood takes some getting used to, Grimes admitted.
“I’m riding the wave now with (Grimes’ 90210 character) Annie Wilson,” she said. “I’m doing the prep right now.”
Even though 90210 hasn’t even aired yet, her face and image are everywhere, it seems. The Hollywood hype machine has kicked into a gear that only Hollywood knows how to do.
“It’s a big culture shock,” Grimes said. “There’s no such thing as celebrity back home. Hockey players are a big deal, but actors – I mean, I didn’t get recognized in Canada very often. If I did, nobody would approach me, let alone take my picture when I wasn’t looking. This whole crazy hype thing that’s been going has been a little overwhelming, to say the least, but I’m just rolling with it.”
Grimes described herself as “one major fan” of the original Beverly Hills 90210.
“I was only one when the show came out, but my mom raised me on it, basically. I am shell-shocked every time I meet one of the old cast members and see the old high school where it was filmed, and things like that. It’s been quite a trip.”
Grimes appreciated Beverly Hills for the way it depicted adolescence and the bonds of first-time friendships.
“The drama was something that you hadn’t really seen on television before, and the issues were real. You felt that you could finally relate to people you were seeing on TV. It was about serious issues. It showed serious consequences. It wasn’t just a glamorous package put together for everyone’s eyes. My mom thought it was educational in a why, and I did, too. It was our little way of bonding.”
Despite the long hours on Degrassi and now 90210, Grimes still watches Beverly Hills reruns whenever she can.
“I still watch the reruns today,” she said brightly. “I’m a dork.”