No more Mr. Nice Guy
After becoming famous in the ‘90s as Brandon Walsh – the “moral centre” of 90210 – Jason Priestley is showing the world his dark side in the critically acclaimed comedy Call Me Fitz.
Call it a “first world problem,” but it isn’t easy breaking free from Hollywood stereotypes, whether you’re known as the action guy, the sexpot, the funny sidekick… or, the nice guy from Beverly Hills, 90210. Although the original series ended more than 10 years ago, Jason Priestley is still best known for his role as Brandon Walsh. Admittedly, most people who remember the hype surrounding 90210 barely care what the various stars are doing these days: a handful of reality shows, TV movies, cameo appearances – but overall, the stigma of being “teen idols of yesteryear” hangs heavily over the group.
In 1998, after almost a decade of playing Brandon, Priestley left the show to pursue other opportunities. Understandably, he wanted to leave the legacy of 90210 far behind him. Little did he know what a long and circuitous road he would travel.
Only four years later, Priestley was enjoying the height of an auto racing career, prepping for the 2002 Indy Pro Series, when his life took a major detour. He was driving during a practice run on the Kentucky Speedway and lost control, crashing head-on into a wall at nearly 300 km/h. For almost a minute his vital signs flat-lined; a helicopter rushed him to a hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition. Priestley had suffered three skull fractures and facial damage, broken his spine and shattered both feet.
“Being a race car driver, you never think you’re going to get hurt,” he admits. “I was 11 seasons into my racing career and I had never sustained a serious injury, so I was sort of right in my assumption that I wouldn’t be injured – until that moment.” He laughs.
Having a near-death experience changed Priestley in many ways. “Once I figured out where I was and what was happening, and the extent of my injuries, all I focused on was getting out of that hospital as fast as I could,” he explains.
It took three months before Priestley was released. “I really worked very hard in all of my physical therapy. I had speech therapy and cognitive thought therapy – it was the brain injury that I suffered that was probably the most difficult. But hard work and perseverance can overcome pretty much anything,” he reflects. “It’s amazing what the human body can withstand. I sort of feel like I’m a living testament to that.”
(More coming soon!)
Originally published in Audi magazine