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From Manchesteronline.co.uk

Jason Priestley returns to his Calling

By Wil Marlow

Friday 23 July 2004, by cally

Telly talk: Jason Priestley returns to his Calling

Wil Marlow

FOR nine years, Jason Priestley adorned many a teenage girl’s bedroom wall and the star was mobbed by fans wherever he went. His role as Brandon Walsh in the hit teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 made him one of the most recognisable faces on the planet.

The boyish good looks are still there, despite Jason’s 34 years, while a small scar in the bridge of his nose is the only sign of his near-fatal motor racing crash two years ago.

And when Jason stepped on to the set to begin his latest role in fantasy drama Tru Calling (Sky One, 9pm, tonight), in which he co-stars with Eliza Dushku, he was soon reminded of his days as a schoolgirl fantasy.

"Eliza told me she had a poster of me up on her wall when she was younger," he says of the show’s 23-year-old lead.

"It made me feel so old," he laughs. "When did I become the old guy? When did that happen? I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve walked on set and looked around and realised that, wow, I’m the oldest guy here by a long way. That’s a first."

Jason’s arrival in the series tonight is set to shake things up for Eliza’s heroine Tru. Thus far the adventurous morgue attendant, with the ability to go back a day and save the lives of those who come into her workplace, has been successful in her ongoing task.

But Jason’s Jack Harper, who comes to work with Tru at the morgue, hides a dark secret that’s going to make life even more difficult for our heroine.

"I think Jack leans more towards my personal sensibilities," says Jason. "As an actor, I enjoy playing characters that are darker because they tend to be more complex. Some characters I’ve played are just very one-sided. They become very tedious after a while."

Jason happily admits that Brandon Walsh was one of those characters. "He did get boring occasionally. That’s why Luke Perry left, he just couldn’t take playing Dylan any more.

"But, for me, leaving just didn’t seem to be the thing to do. So, in order to keep myself involved mentally and emotionally, I started producing and directing the show."

He has other grumbles about life as Brandon. "When you’re a 21-year-old actor just starting his career, to be saddled with all the teen magazines and all that rubbish they write, you can see your career heading off to David Cassidy-land," he cringes.

"You try to hang on to some semblance of something serious. The halls of the Screen Actors Guild are littered with the bodies of last year’s teen idol."

Tru Calling is Jason’s first TV role since Beverly Hills, 90210. After leaving the show in 1998, he’s concentrated on film, with varying degrees of success.

There was a point almost two years ago, however, when it was unclear whether Jason would return to any kind of screen. A successful professional race car driver as well as an actor, he was practising for the Kentucky 100 in Indianapolis when his car span out of control and hit a wall at 180mph.

He had to have surgery on his broken back and his feet and suffered moderate concussion, three skull fractures, a bruised eye socket and cuts on his face and neck. Jason remembers nothing of the crash.

Jason is keen to underplay the incident, even though it nearly cost him his life. He says it hasn’t changed his life at all, apart from the fact he no longer races.

"Just physically I can’t. Another big hit like that would be a big problem."