Shannen Doherty Biography

Actress, Television Producer(1971–)
Shannen Doherty is an American actress known for her roles in various television series, including 'Little House on the Prairie,' 'Our House,' 'Charmed' and 'Beverly Hills, 90210.'

Synopsis

Born in 1971, in Memphis, Tennessee, Shannen Doherty became a famed child actor with roles in Little House on the Prairie and Our House before landing a part as Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills 90210. Future roles have included the series Charmed and the reality shows Scare Tactics and Dancing With the Stars. Doherty has also done film work such as Heathers and Mall Rats.

Early Life

Actress Shannen Maria Doherty was born on April 12, 1971 in Memphis, Tennessee. Doherty's mother, Rosa, owned a beauty parlor. Father Tom Doherty worked as a mortgage consultant. The younger of two siblings, Doherty grew up idolizing her older brother, Sean, a focused student whom Shannen refers to as "brilliant." Her early years in Memphis were spent riding horses and dreaming of landing a spot on the Olympic equestrian team.

In 1978, the family moved to Los Angeles, and Shannen almost instantly caught the acting bug. At the age of nine, she went with a girlfriend to an audition for a children's theater production of "Snow White." The director invited Shannen to audition and she scored a lead part. After acting in several children's theater productions, Doherty begged her parents to let her become an actress. After two years of pleading, Shannen finally won.

Aspiring Actress

At age 11, Shannen landed a guest role on the Emmy-nominated television show, Father Murphy (1981). Her two-episode performance as Drusilla Shannon earned her a Young Artist Award nomination, and brought her to the attention of the series' creator, Michael Landon. In 1982, Landon gave Doherty her next big break, when he cast her in a guest role as Jenny Wilder on his Emmy-winning TV series, Little House on the Prairie .

Her role as a wholesome young girl growing up on the Western frontier earned her guest appearances on a variety of television series throughout the 80s. In 1986, after several auditions, Shannen landed the role of Kris Witherspoon on the critically acclaimed TV drama Our House. The 16-year-old played a straight-A student intent on getting into the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1988, the role earned Shannen another Young Artist Award nomination.

While she began making a name for herself on the small screen, Doherty also continued her schooling. She attended Le Lycee Francais, a private French school in L.A., where she stayed focused on her studies. "I did very well in school," Doherty said of her time there. "I graduated with a 4.0 and I could have gone to Princeton or USC or any college of my choice, coming from that school with the honors I graduated with."

Critical Praise

Instead of applying to college, the actress continued working. In 1989, she appeared in her first major motion picture as Heather Duke in the black comedy, Heathers. The Sundance-nominated film was a hit with critics, and fans loved the movie's dark humor.

By the age of 18, the actress had developed the beginnings of a long and promising career in Hollywood. Financially, however, she was hurting. Doherty's former accountant embezzled much of the actress' earnings, leading to a dry spell in her career. While trying to figure out what to do next, she moved briefly to San Francisco and then New York. "It was a really hard time in my life," Doherty said. "It really taught me a lot." During this time she returned to television, appearing in popular shows such as 21 Jump Street and Life Goes On.

A-List Actress

In 1990, at the age of 19, Doherty landed her breakout television role when she was cast as Brenda Walsh in Aaron Spelling's new TV series, Beverly Hills, 90210. The show was a smash hit, winning a People's Choice Award as well as Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Audiences loved to hate Doherty's character, and her portrayal of the devious high school student earned her national fame and another Young Artist Award nomination. Although Doherty was at the height of her popularity, conflicts on the set caused the young actress to leave the show in 1994, after only four seasons.

Around this time, Doherty was also making waves in print, appearing in Playboy, first in 1993 and then in 1994. She was featured again in a 10-page spread in 2003. 

Even though Doherty left Beverly Hills, 90210, she stayed in the spotlight, appearing in the Kevin Smith-directed film, Mallrats (1995). The film, which took a playful look at mall culture in America, opened to mixed reviews but quickly developed a cult following. Doherty's appearance didn't get the actress the roles she was hoping for, however, and she again returned to television performances.

Three years later she was picked to play Prue Halliwell, a teenaged sorceress, in the WB network's sci-fi drama, Charmed (1998). The show, which also featured co-stars Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs, earned Doherty Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Award nominations in 1999 and 2000. Doherty left Charmed in 2001. Like her experience on 90210, she left the show on bad terms, reportedly due to conflict with Milano and later with executive producer Aaron Spelling.

Her exit was also amid an embarrassing run-in with the law. In December 2000, the actress was arrested for drunk driving and later pleaded no contest.

Recent Work

In 2004, Doherty starred as a regular on TV drama, North Shore. The next year, Doherty was cast in the comedy series, Love Inc. Although she filmed the original pilot, she was dropped from the show before the premiere. In 2006, Doherty began work on the other side of the camera as the producer for her Oxygen network reality show, Breaking Up With Shannen Doherty. In the show, Doherty helps everyday people dump boyfriends, end friendships, and do their general dirty work. The show was canceled after one season.

In 2008, Doherty agreed to reappear in a remake of the Beverly Hills, 90210 spinoff, 90210, for the CW Television Network. She returned as a guest star for six episodes. Projects for 2009 include the TV movies Resistance and Burning Palms (2009).

In 2010 Doherty was cast on Dancing With the Stars and was paired up with dancer Mark Ballas. The couple was the first to be eliminated off the season. 

In January 2015 Doherty appeared with her Charmed co-star Holly Marie Combs for their own reality road trip show called Off the Map with Shannen & Holly. The limited series premiered on the network Great American Country.  

Personal Life

Doherty was married briefly to Ashley Hamilton, son of actor George Hamilton. She was also married to socialite Rick Salomon, and was briefly engaged to actor Judd Nelson.

In 1999 Doherty revealed she had Crohn's disease. In February 2015 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, later revealing it had spread.  

"I had breast cancer that spread to the lymph nodes, and from one of my surgeries we discovered that some of the cancer cells might have actually gone out of the lymph nodes," Doherty told ET in August 2016. "So for that reason, we are doing chemo, and then after chemo, I'll do radiation."

She added: "The unknown is always the scariest part... Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it's the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love."

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