Shannon Doherty puts her photographer husband Kurt Iswarienko in front of the cameras for her reality series "Shannen Says."
Shannen Doherty and her new husband hope audiences will be saying “9021-0h!” as they watch their bumpy road to the altar.
WE TV’s latest reality series, “Shannen Says,” follows the actress in her latest starring role as herself. Doherty spent her early career appearing in the now-iconic TV soap “Beverly Hills 90210,” the subsequent “Charmed” (both with controversial behind-the-scenes premature exits) and made many a tabloid headline off-camera during her hard-partying teen years. Doherty’s recent resurgence as a celebrity contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” and reviving the role of Brenda Walsh on the rebooted “90210” revealed a sweeter, mellower version of the former wild child, an image rehab she hopes will carry over to the new series.
The unscripted show follows Doherty though her high-stress seven-week rocket-ride to her wedding to famed photographer Kurt Iswarienko, revealing a new, more vulnerable side of the actress. The couple sat down with PopcornBiz to talk about the impact of fame, fans and omnipresent cameras on an already nerve-wracking experience.
I'm curious how much of an adjustment was it to have cameras be as much in your life as they were during this, because it can't always be easy?
Doherty: He's always behind the camera, and I've always played somebody else and been somebody else, so I think it was quite an adjustment. But what's interesting is that we're the executive producers and my company produced it, so we handpicked our crew and our fellow producers, so after awhile you're comfortable with the people that you've picked to begin with. So it's interesting, because you think that you're going to stay awkward and uncomfortable and eventually it just melts away.
How about the footage? As executive producers I'm sure you had some say in what made it to the final show, so when did you have to make tough decisions? Is there anything that stands out where you were like, 'I don't know if I want to put that out there'?
Doherty: No, nothing. There were definitely moments where I cringed and went, 'Oh God, that's so raw and vulnerable and honest.' But there wasn't one moment where I said, 'I don't want that out there.' Because our pact going in was that we didn't want a reality show where people roll their eyes and go, 'Okay, that was set up. Oh, that was fake.' We wanted it to be very, very, very honest and raw and authentic, and that's what you get. So even being in the edit bay you go in with that in your head. And that sort of becomes a mantra. And all of a sudden you're not saying, 'God, I don't want that.' You're like, 'Okay. Great. That moment happened and it should be in the show.'
Kurt, did you feel the same way the whole time?
Iswarienko: Yeah. I haven't had the same involvement in the editing, but what I've seen I've been pleasantly drawn into. I've actually laughed out loud a lot of the time when she's shown me cuts. And it kind of takes you back to when it was all happening. And you see how the story comes out of all this effort.
Did you get a little bit of a better understanding of some of the things that Shannen's had to deal with, with cameras following her around through a good portion of her life?
Iswarienko: Yeah, for sure, because I've never had them pointed at me. I'm always doing the pointing with the camera, so it definitely made me much more sensitive to what she's got to go through and what everybody else in the public arena has to go through. I would say it definitely helped me in my work because there's a mental understanding I didn't have before that I have now. It's intrusive. And a little bit offensive depending on the day. So, for sure, I'm much more in tune with what she's dealing with.
Did the wedding aspect help you? I mean, obviously you came in with some built-in situations for you to shoot. But did it add to the stress of already dealing with this kind of project? Or did this make the stress of the wedding bigger?
Doherty: The thing about the show, part of it, we always knew that there was a wedding and that we should film everything that sort of happens up to that wedding because so many of our friends had gotten married recently and some had actually called off their weddings because the planning process killed their relationship. And I thought, well, this I interesting. And everybody thinks that it's only happening to them and that they're the only ones that the wedding affected poorly, or that their relationship really got tested. So we were like, 'Okay, well, let's document this process and see what happens.' And there were times that it affected our relationship, for sure. Moments when last minute he gets a job in Madrid and then another one in Prague and I'm freaking out because it's not only three weeks before our wedding but normally I would be on a plane with him. And I'm not used to him going away to a foreign country without me. So all of a sudden it's like, ‘Okay, not only are you leaving three weeks before our wedding, but I'm stuck in my own hell here planning this wedding. I don't even get to go with you.’ And it triggers insecurity. It triggers jealously that he got to go to great places and I was planning a wedding. It was all sorts of things. So I think it just added to it in a way that the audience can now relate to and see and go, 'Okay, everyday life. It sometimes can be hard for them as well.'
Do you get something meaningful from fans who approach you and want to tell you how much of a part of experience you being on their favorite show has been?
Doherty: God, right, you know? My opinion, it's so funny because whenever somebody sort of new in my life goes out in public with me they're always like, 'How do you handle it?' And it's like those people pay my rent. Those people are the reason why I have a house. They're the reason why I have a home. And they are loyal, amazing, intelligent fans. And they've been with me since the beginning. And they're the reason why I get to go do what I love and what I'm passionate about doing, which is acting. Without those fans I wouldn't be able to do it. So I love spending time with my fans and hearing what it is that resonates with them in my work. And hearing their stories of what's the first program they watched that I was in. or their favorite episode of a show that I did or what it meant to them. Of course I love hearing stuff like that. I mean I think an actor thrives on it, hopefully.
And then Kurt, how easily did you set aside any preconceived notions you might have had about Shannen when you first met her because of her fame? And then how did you welcome in the fans, the people who are going come up in the restaurant and ask for an autograph, however politely?
Iswarienko: Well, I didn't have too much of a preconception. To be totally blunt, I thought she was really hot. That's the extent of what I knew about her. I grew up, like everyone else my age, aware of her from 'Our House' on up the line. So what really impressed me was actually before I met her, when she called me personally the day before the shoot, before I'd ever met her, to discuss what we were going to do. And I've shot a lot of really famous people and at that point she was the only person who'd ever done that. And it was really impressive because it showed that she cared about what we were going to do and that she respected the choice she had made to have me take her photograph as opposed to every other guy that would have been falling over themselves to do it. So I was just impressed with the intelligence and the character that that showed. And then taking it to the fan side, she has the most respectful, warmest kind of fans. Especially it seems like the further you go out the more intense the fan base gets. They all seem to have like this very personal warm connection to her even if they've never met her before. There's this, you'll see the same pattern, they'll put their arm around her like they know her. And it's very respectful. It's not intrusive and you get the sense that she's in their lives. They've grown up with her and they've gone through marriages ...
Doherty: Ups and downs.
Iswarienko: And all sorts of stuff. And it really comes across as authentic and it's always nice to see. It's never really jarring. And there's never been anybody that comes up and says something nasty or mean. It's always very warm and very cool to see. I don't think it's the same for everybody that's in the public limelight like that.
What's the most important thing you discovered about each other during the process of this show?
Doherty: It's funny, we were just talking about that. I don't think we discovered anything. I just think that things that we already knew and loved about one another got reinforced. I know that I'm with somebody that I can literally spend every single second with and never tire of it. And that I married somebody who I had the utmost respect for, who creatively is unbelievable, very passionate about what he does, passionate about his vision, challenges me, is creative, intelligent. And that working with him, I love working with him. So not only do I love living with him and being married to him but in a business level he has my full respect.
Iswarienko: Everything that's been an attractive force between us was just reaffirmed. There were hard times. There were times when it wasn't so easy to get up and do the whole song and dance but the process of working with her is very rewarding. Very creatively, there's a lot of fuel between the two of us that it's very cool. Very unique.
Do you think your fans will feel the same way that they will just sort of have a reaffirmation of what they think about you? Or will they discover something about you that they never expected?
Doherty: I certainly hope that they discover something new. I honestly don't think people know me. So, you know, you can't judge somebody or know someone based on stuff you read about them when they were 19 years old. You just can 't. None of us are the same person when we were 19. And if you are then, geez, sorry. So I think they'll actually know me for once. And I'm not putting on somebody else's skin and playing a character. I'm myself. And it's the first time anybody's going to get to see that.
Kurt, are you prepared to have your own fans that want to get your autograph?
Iswarienko: Absolutely not.
Doherty: It's going to be so cool. I'm going to love it. The first time that somebody comes up and goes, 'Kurt, can I have your autograph?' while I'm standing with him, I'm going to love that moment.
Iswarienko: There are other moments that I want to see happen. Not necessarily that.