During more than 20 years working as a film and TV actress, former “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Gabrielle Carteris has appeared in hundreds of scenes and portrayed everything from shy schoolgirl to battered wife.
But the footage that most horrifies Carteris, 47, is a home video her husband made after Carteris suffered nerve damage while shooting a made-for-TV thriller in Vancouver in 2006. On the tape, Carteris is shown having spasms that severely impeded her speech, contorted and caused her whole body to twitch.
“I hate it. I really hate looking at it,” Carteris, sighing heavily, admitted to TODAY’s Al Roker during an interview Wednesday.
Carteris is suing Front Street Pictures and the producers of “Past Tense” for an unspecified sum, claiming she was not adequately protected by an unprepared staff while filming a scene in which an intruder grabs her character from behind and drags her up a staircase.
“It was a scene where I hear someone in the house and I come down with a bat,” said Carteris. “He was like 6’6” and I was 5’1” ... When he finished doing it, I had lost the feeling in my hands and I started having these really bad headaches, and I [knew] something was wrong.”
According to Carteris, she complained during several hours of filming that the actor playing the intruder was putting too much pressure on her neck. When the pain did not subside, she insisted on going home to see her own doctor.
“A couple of days later, my face started to become paralyzed,” she said. “I knew something had happened, since I had lost feeling in my hands right away. But when I became paralyzed, I knew everything was connected ... I started to spasm.”
The production company declined comment when contacted by the TODAY show.
For a year after the injury, Carteris had trouble speaking; her facial muscles experienced frequent spasms and she went into self-imposed isolation. She said she takes medicine now to control the spasms and has been undergoing speech therapy, but the symptoms can return without warning, particularly if she is exposed to cold, wind and excessive noise.
Although she did not sue the actor who appeared in the scene where she was injured, Carteris said she had a reasonable expectation that the producers of the film knew what they were doing when they asked her to portray a woman being choked.
“I’ve been in this business over 20 years. I’ve always been safe,” Carteris said. “I think it’s a producer’s job to make sure that the set is safe, and that if a situation is dangerous, they have a person who can double for us. I’ve just never been put in this situation before.”
Asked by Roker if she felt as if she bore any responsibility for not insisting on a stunt double, Carteris responded that she trusted the production company that hired her and was not aware that she was in any danger.
“I don’t do my own stunts. I’m not an action actress,” said Carteris, who is best known for her portrayal of Andrea Zuckerman, the overachieving high school newspaper editor on “90210” during the early 1990s. “I’ve always been protected.”
Carteris said she is hoping to start working again, but isn’t sure how much her injury and recovery will impede her acting career. She credits her husband, Charles, and their two children, 13-year-old Kelsey and 9-year-old Mollie, for helping her through her ordeal.
“This has really affected the people in my life,” she said. “When an injury happens, it doesn’t just happen to you. It happens to everyone around you.”