Lifetime is back with its latest ‘90s TV tell-all. After chronicling the behind-the-scenes drama of “Saved by the Bell” and “Full House,” the network will air “The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story” this Saturday.
TODAY.com caught up with Jesy McKinney, who plays Luke Perry, to find out what it was like recreating Dylan McKay’s pompadour — and how the 26-year-old actor thinks the long-running teen drama’s cast might react to the movie.
What was your reaction to being cast as Luke Perry?
I was super excited. I’m a big fan of Luke Perry, and of the “90210” series, because one of my good friends [Matt Lanter] was one of the leads on the reboot on the CW.
Had you watched the original “90210” in its first run?
I was a little bit too young to know what was going on. But some of my older cousins and older friends — not much older than me, because I barely missed it — they were so pumped when they found out, because they were big fans of the show.
What “90210” character do you most relate to?
I think I relate to Jason Priestley’s character [Brandon Walsh] the most, to be honest, because he’s moving into a town where he feels like he doesn’t necessarily fit in, and trying to find out who he is, and I think we’ve all experienced that in different ways. And I had a close, tight-knit family, like Jason’s character did on the show.
How did you get into character as Luke?
I got into character by watching YouTube video after YouTube video of Luke Perry just to see how he talked. What was interesting about this movie is that we’re playing two people, essentially. I’m playing Dylan McKay and Luke Perry, who are two very different people, because Luke Perry in real life is not a lot like this rich-kid hotshot Dylan McKay. Luke Perry is very down to earth. He’s a well spoken guy, but he doesn’t say a lot, and what he does say he really means. So obviously I didn’t go too crazy, but I tried my very best to honor who Luke Perry is, and also show respect to the show.
What struck you about Luke’s interviews?
Luke Perry is really interesting to interview because he won’t answer questions that he doesn’t want to. If you ask him a question, he’ll just be like, “Yeah, so anyway, the other day ...” and not even talk about what he was supposed to be talking about. And it was hilarious to me that he just wasn’t down to play the game. I respect him for it, because whatever he was going to do, he was going to be true to himself. And I love that about him.
How long did it take to get his pompadour?
That was quite an ordeal. I'm trying to grow my hair out. I recently read this book about the late, great River Phoenix, and he had this long hair, and I decided I was going to grow my hair out long. And then I get to set, and they’re like, “We’re going to cut it, we’re going to dye it, we’re going to do all this,” and I was like, “Oh, no.” But we had a great hair team, and I tried not to be too much of a diva.
We all got there the first day and there’s the guy playing Ian Ziering sitting there and getting his hair dyed. They’re getting these calls down from the producers or from Lifetime asking them to go blonder and blonder and blonder, and I’m getting scareder and scareder for what they’re going to do to me. But it ended up not being that bad for me. They gave me some highlights and definitely some great pompadour action.
Why do you think “90210” became so popular?
If you look at the shows that were most popular at that day, it was “Cheers,” “60 Minutes.” And there was nothing showing these real issues that young people were dealing with. This was for young people in high school, in junior high, even in college, that are going through these real problems and feeling like “You know what, I’m not alone” — and not glorifying this perfect life and happily ever after, but showing real problems that real teens are dealing with.
What was your favorite Dylan McKay moment?
When he was first introduced, this kid was getting bullied in the computer lab, and he stood up for him. That’s the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be — the person that stands up for people. And from the get-go, I was like, “I like this guy.” He’s popular, he’s cool, he’s handsome, he gets the girls, but at the same time, he’s a good dude.
Which “90210” cast member do you think is most likely to watch the movie?
Maybe Jennie Garth? I could see Jason Priestley watching it, for sure. I could see Tori Spelling watching it, because she’s worked with Lifetime. And it shows Tori in a good light in a lot of ways, so I feel like she would like it. I know Luke’s not going to watch — I’ve already read interviews of Luke being like “No, I don’t watch myself.” I bet he won’t. When he says something, he means it — that’s for sure.
What do you think the cast will think about it?
I think some of them will like it. I think it would be a nostalgic moment for them. Originally when I got the script, I read it and was like, “Man, this stuff can’t be true.” And then as we did research — and we had an amazing research team — and so much of what we talk about and what we portray really happened. And obviously, some of the events we can’t portray exactly, and some of the things we can’t say verbatim, legally, but we recreated a lot of the real moments and emotion, and I think they’ll enjoy it.
How much of the movie would you say is true?
It's difficult to say, because I wasn’t there for any of these moments, but from the research I’ve done and received from our research team — we had a 100-page document of different moments from newspapers and biographies and cast interviews — if all those things are true, I would say 90 percent of it really happened.
Did you watch Lifetime’s “Unauthorized Full House Story” in August?
Yes. One of my best friends, Justin Gaston, was John Stamos in the “Full House” movie. And I actually auditioned for that role as well. They loved me, but they were like, “You’re just not him.” I was kind of bummed, and then once I got the opportunity for “90210,” I was pumped, because I really feel like I relate to Luke Perry a lot more than John Stamos. But Justin did a great job as John Stamos and I enjoyed watching it.
Where do you think Dylan would be now?
Dylan was very up and down, so he could be a very wealthy businessman and just living his life, or he could be divorced and unemployed and living some drifter life. He's such an interesting guy like that, where he had a lot of ups and downs and polar opposites. It would be tough to say where Dylan is right now, but I can for sure I’d love to hang out with him wherever he’s at.