The year was 1992. Beverly Hills, 90210 had emerged as a breakout hit for Fox. Eager to capitalize on its ratings momentum, the network approached 90210 creator Darren Star about keeping young audiences engaged by spinning off the high school drama into a new series.
Darren Star (Creator) Fox was thinking about doing a spin-off that was a college show. But the 90210 kids will have to go to college someday! They can’t stay in high school forever. I had wanted to do a show about twentysomethings in Los Angeles. I convinced them this could be a spin-off but we would have to be clever. I had to combine these two disparate worlds that really did not have much in common.
Grant Show (Jake Hanson, 1992-97) I did three episodes of 90210 [as Kelly’s love interest] with the intention of using that as a springboard for Melrose. We knew Fox would give it a really big shot.
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Alison Parker, 1992-97) I was auditioning for Partners, Aaron Spelling’s medical show. It was a brutal audition process, and I didn’t get it. Aaron took me aside and said, ”Doll, I’m going to work with you.” The next morning I woke up and there was a stack of scripts on my doorstep, all from Spelling, and on top of them was the one for Melrose Place.
Amdrew Shue (Billy Campbell, 1992-98) I had only been in Los Angeles for about five months. Aaron called me to his house for an audition. There was valet parking. When I drove into his humongous parking area, there were 30 cars. When I walked out, there was only one — my 1982 Mazda.
Josie Bissett (Jane Mancini, 1992-99) I had three offers at one time. One was for a [different] Fox show, one was to play Robert De Niro’s daughter, and Melrose Place. I was trying to decide whether my career should go into a feature direction. But I loved Jane. Prior to my wanting to be an actress, I always wanted to be a fashion designer like Jane. It felt like the most natural fit.
Doug Savant (Matt Fielding, 1992-97) The role of Matt was exceptional because he was gay, and there were none on TV. It was a bigger deal than I allowed myself to consider. I only realized that when I refused to come out as a straight man in the press. People thought if I were willing to play a gay character, I must be gay. I would say to people, ”You won’t ask Andrew and Grant that if they’re playing straight [characters], it means they’re straight, right?”
After 13 episodes, Melrose started to flounder in the ratings and Star began to run out of stories for hum-drum characters like aerobics instructor Rhonda (Vanessa A. Williams) and struggling actress Sandy (Amy Locane). He decided to shake up the cast and add three dynamic females — Jo, Sydney, and Kimberly — and a magnificent bitch named Amanda who would steer the drama in a new direction…a crazy, nonsensical, absolutely delicious direction.
Star The show had a bumpy ride in the first season. We were really hamstrung by the association with 90210, and I was making the mistake of telling stories too much in that earnest mode that wasn’t fun — certainly not for characters in their 20s.
Daphne Zuniga (Jo Reynolds, 1992-96) When I got that call to do Melrose, I was thinking, if I do TV, will this seem not like a good thing [when I want] to do films again? It was a time when people were doing either movies or TV, so I wasn’t sure. I had done Vision Quest and The Sure Thing, and there really was no crossover at that time.
Laura Leighton (Sydney Andrews, 1993-97) This was my first job where I was playing a character rather than serving a meal. I had done a couple of commercials but I really hadn’t worked, so they had me come in three or four times because they were trying to make sure I could hack it. It was for two episodes as Jane’s irresponsible, bad-girl sister who smoked.
Thorne-Smith We did great at first, and then not so great, and it didn’t get great again until Heather came on. That’s when the show really took off. She brought a lot of life to it. The show had been about eight kids trying to make it. When Heather came in, the show became this soap about crazy things happening — love triangles, relationships, drama!