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Shannen Doherty Talks Life Lessons: "I've Not Always Been the Most Diplomatic Human Being"
By Allison Kugel, Senior Editor - April 09, 2012

Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty has a hearty laugh that emanates from a voice brimming with raspy confidence. Her hard-earned philosophical prowess is backed by fierce intellect; this is the real Shannen Doherty.

Toward the beginning of my conversation with Shannen I let her know that if I were playing a word association game and someone uttered, “Shannen Doherty,” my kneejerk response would be “honest.” She laughs, knowing that I’ve got her number. Yes, you can sum Doherty up with one two-syllable word, but make no mistake, Shannen Doherty is a complex creature. Her physical being is inhabited by a bold spiritual energy that fills whatever space she is in with unapologetic strength and love.

Shannen is the type of woman who, if born in an earlier time, would have been a leader in the women’s suffrage movement; that scandalous woman down the street who dared to cut her hair and wear slacks when other damsels donned floor length skirts; or the tomboy taken to riding horses in the fields when women were in aprons behind wood burning kettle stoves.

Shannen Doherty’s brashness and unrelenting will has at times been deemed “difficult” in Hollywood-land, where women are expected to look beautiful, hit their mark and do what they are told. On the flip side, Doherty does admit to me that she was a late bloomer at mastering the fine art of diplomacy.

Now, settled down and in love, with decades of triumphs and tragedy under her belt, Shannen Doherty has perspective and balance. She’s a gentler and kinder Shannen Doherty… sort of. In the WE tv reality series, Shannen Says, Doherty lets viewers into her home and inner circle as she and her now husband, photographer Kurt Iswarienko, prepare for her third and (fingers crossed) final wedding with the help of WE’s resident wedding planner, David Tutera.

Shannen and I had a well-rounded conversation. We covered everything from her days in the tabloid spotlight and her past mistakes in life and love, to her passion for social and political activism. Doherty also opens up about overcoming her fears to share her personal life with her fanbase, both through her book (“Badass,” Crown Publishing Group) and now on WE tv’s Shannen Says.

PR.com (Allison Kugel): When I saw the promos for Shannen Says the first thing to come to mind was, back in your 90210 days it seemed like you were always fighting the paparazzi and news media that wanted to pry into your private life. And you weren’t alone. That was the general sentiment among most celebrities. Now it seems that celebrities are lining up to put their private lives on television. What’s changed?

Shannen Doherty, Kurt Iswarienko & David Tutera in Shannen Says
Shannen Doherty, Kurt Iswarienko & David Tutera in Shannen Says

Shannen Doherty: First off, we can cut through all the other reasons and just say, “We have a living to make.” There’s a form that may pay better than others and sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It’s not my personal reason. I’ve certainly spoken to other people who have reality shows, so I know where they’re coming from. Some of us are also entertainers, and whether we are actors or musicians our job is to ultimately entertain people. For me, personally, this came about by me being thoroughly entertained by two shows. I was entertained to the point of tears, emotion, laughter… and it was The Deadliest Catch, and interestingly enough, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Those two shows being two of my favorite shows, and then writing a book and seeing this overwhelming response in letters that I got from fans who read it and [told me] what it meant to them. Just opening up that little bit in my book, that’s what inspired me and took that door and opened it enough for me to even consider something like a reality show.

PR.com: How do you feel about your decision now that your show is in the can and about to air?

Shannen Doherty: I had never ever considered putting my personal life out there to be filmed and judged, or ridiculed. Playing characters, there is something that you can hide behind. It was an absolutely frightening experience to be honest with you, and I don’t know if it’s one I would ever repeat. But there was also something a little rewarding for someone like me, who is very closed and very guarded. It took a lot of courage to take the step and do something like this.

PR.com: In watching clips of Shannen Says, and in reading your book, I feel that something that’s been misunderstood about you is that you are a strong, outspoken woman with a lot of spirit in you. You have a large spirit! And tell me if this is a fair statement; you value honesty at any cost. Is that fair to say?

Shannen Doherty: You are one hundred percent right. And thank God, somebody who seems to get me (laughs): you, my husband, my mom and my dad. I do value honesty at all costs. If somebody hates me I would rather them just say, “I don’t like you and here are my reasons why,” than to pretend that they like me. It makes me cringe, any kind of fakeness around me. My skin crawls with disgust. I was taught to be an incredibly honest human being. And I was always told that you don’t rely on your looks, you rely on your brain. Education was so championed in my childhood. My parents constantly pushed me to feed my mind, and to grow and evolve as a human being. I remember my father once said to me, “You’re too smart for your own good in many ways, because being in your business they don’t like a woman to be that verbal and outright with her intelligence. But good for you for not changing who you are.”

PR.com: Your outspoken nature certainly has not always been rewarded.

Shannen Doherty with Husband Kurt Iswarienko
Shannen Doherty with Husband Kurt Iswarienko

Shannen Doherty: Well, what I’ve learned throughout the years is that maybe, possibly, there was a kinder, softer way for me to phrase things (laughs). I’ve not always been the most diplomatic human being. There is this brashness, and there’s this mentality that you’re invincible and nothing can hurt you when you’re young. Or you have a wall up, or your defense mechanism kicks in so you’re all bravado. As you mature and fall on your face enough times, and you lose people and you face heartache and heartbreak and all of the trials and tribulations, I think that you’re able to look at yourself much more honestly. [You can] take down the wall a little bit and say, “Alright, I sound really harsh.” What’s interesting is that I thought I had softened myself a lot. In watching some of the clips of this show, I’ve cringed a couple of times. To me [things] didn’t sound as harsh as how it comes off [on the show].

PR.com: Would you say that you are uncompromising and kind of black and white about things?

Shannen Doherty: That’s two different things. I’m incredibly black and white in my morals, my values, my beliefs, in my respect for others, and in self-respect and how I want to be treated. There is absolutely no gray in that zone at all. I am a very compromising human being. I will compromise with my husband and I will compromise with other people. I go beyond compromising, I will completely give in. When I’m actually doing what I love, which is acting, I may formulate a character and I may have done all of my research, but if my director sees something different I have to be a sponge and soak up what he wants me to do. As an actor you are play dough and it’s the director’s job to sort of sculpt you. That means you have to be giving and you have to be amenable to allowing somebody else to guide you.

PR.com: Back in the nineties when things were super crazy for you, could you have handled a twenty-four hour news cycle and the blogging and commenting, and everything that goes on now?

Shannen Doherty: Who knows. For any of us back then who were going through that, it felt just as crazy as it does now. I realize that now the Internet has become a much more powerful force. You do have bloggers and people that are watching you. And now you have people who are just walking down the street, and they’ll take a picture of you and send it in and get money. There are all sorts of crazy things that happen now, but I think you had that to a certain extent back then too. For us, the National Enquirer was the nasty blogger. Those people would get phone calls from all sorts of people selling them stories. Back then, whatever you did was reported to somebody and that usually ended up in the newspaper. Maybe what you did one night didn’t make it to the newsstands for five days, but it was still out there.

PR.com: Have you reached out to your former 90210 co-star, Jennie Garth, regarding her recent separation from Peter Facinelli?

Shannen Doherty: I know you have to ask that question (laughs). What Jennie is going through is such a personal issue. The only thing I will say is, she has children and I think everybody should act with decorum and responsibility, and give them the privacy that they need to get through this.

Shannen Doherty & Kurt Iswarienko in Shannen Says
Shannen Doherty & Kurt Iswarienko in Shannen Says

PR.com: I remember the press coverage surrounding your appearance at the Republican National Convention in 1992. Perhaps the fanfare was due in part to you being a young celebrity who identified herself as a Republican and a conservative. Do you still consider yourself to be politically conservative, today?

Shannen Doherty: I do consider myself a conservative. With that being said, I will not vote for a Republican if I do not actually believe in them. My biggest thing is to evoke change and to stand for something, whatever that something may be. As an example, 9/11 affected me, as it affected everybody in this country and most people around the world. It was horrific and scary, but it also elicited feelings of pride, camaraderie and patriotism. You saw a country pull together and support each other. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve bared witness to, while also being a horrific event with how many people were murdered on that day. My political mind comes into play being that I’m confused as to why we don’t have some form of a curriculum in our schools for teaching about that day. I don’t think it’s a day that should ever be forgotten. We certainly didn’t forget about Pearl Harbor and we teach about Pearl Harbor. I don’t see why 9/11 is any different, and it’s something I am going to be fighting for. In life, you have to get passionate and stand behind something and fight for it. It takes one person to evoke change, to start a movement to make the world a better place. Education is first and foremost, which is again, why I believe that 9/11 is something that should be taught about in school.

PR.com: Don’t you think that for the next generation, 9/11 will be incorporated into their textbooks, and it will be a part of their curriculum just like Pearl Harbor and every other major historical event?

Shannen Doherty: But why isn’t it currently?

PR.com: Hmm, I guess it’s like when a comedian tells a joke about something tragic and no one laughs, and they go, “What? Too soon??”

Shannen Doherty: (Laughs). But how can it be too soon? This was a monumental moment in this country. It changed us. It’s something I will be tackling and getting heavily involved in. You asked me about being a conservative. I would never put anyone down for being a Republican or Democrat, although my values tend to always go towards the Republican Party. However, it’s about being passionate. It’s about finding something that moves you and doing something that helps this world. Ignorance is the worst thing. We must educate ourselves and educate others. Whether that’s Republican or Democrat doesn’t really matter.

PR.com: Are you passionate about either of the current Presidential candidates, or not so much?

Shannen Doherty: Honestly, not so much. The Republican Party, we’ve struggled a little bit. I don’t know if we have found our person. But I feel that there is great change coming to the Republican platform, and that we are on the precipice of evolving. I think the new generation of Republicans is going to help push that through. If not, we are going to continue to be in trouble.

Kurt Iswarienko & Shannen Doherty in Shannen Says
Kurt Iswarienko & Shannen Doherty in Shannen Says

PR.com: Your mom has a lot of screen time in Shannen Says. How did she feel about helping you plan your wedding on camera, and about sharing some more intimate moments where the two of you talk about your father’s passing?

Shannen Doherty: My mom had trepidations and she didn’t really sign up for any of this, and neither did Kurt, by the way. Kurt has a career, he’s a photographer. It’s not like this is how he makes a living. I think for both of them it was a little awkward. Kurt said it best: that this thing is happening and if we’re in your life then it would be odd if we weren’t there, so we might as well all make the best of it. My mom is much like me in her directness and her honesty, along with her passion and loyalty and love. My mom could be nothing but herself. She could be nothing but one hundred percent honest. She doesn’t know how to be anything else. I hope she enjoys the show and I hope she likes how she comes across. I love how she comes across because she’s authentic and she’s my mom, and she’s the woman I respect the most in this world.

PR.com: Let’s talk about your husband, Kurt Iswarienko. Being that he is a photographer, can I assume you guys met at a photo shoot?

Shannen Doherty: We met at a photo shoot. I requested him to shoot me for a magazine cover…

PR.com: Because you liked his work, you thought he was cute or both?

Shannen Doherty: I’d never seen a picture of him. It was definitely because of his work. I have a healthy respect for photographers and I have a definite eye for what I like. Somebody had shown me a picture he had taken of their client and I thought it was stunning. We worked together that one time, but it took two months for us to see each other again and to actually start a relationship.

PR.com: Who pursued who?

Shannen Doherty: I don’t think there was a pursuing. When we met back up two months later, we just fell into each other. When we first met, it was two souls recognizing each other and going, “Ok, here we are.” But it wasn’t a good time for either one of us. Then all of a sudden, two months later, we worked together and it was like, “Ok, it’s time.” It was an instant thing and we were together from that point on.

PR.com: Do you believe in the idea of soul mates?

Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty

Shannen Doherty: I do believe in soul mates, absolutely. I thank God that I have a husband who believes the same thing. On our show, [our wedding planner] David Tutera says, “How long have you known her,” and Kurt said, “I’ve known her since she was eight and I was six.” Obviously, it wasn’t literal. One of the first things he said to me when we met back up was, “Your hand feels like it’s been in mine my entire life, but yet missing because it wasn’t actually there. If I’m away from you there’s a part of me that’s missing.” We’ve both been married before, we’ve both been in other relationships, but there was something that was lacking with other people.

PR.com: Now that you’ve finally found it and you’ve settled down, I know that you’re an animal lover, but what about kids? Do you want to be a mother?

Shannen Doherty: We both want kids. First and foremost for both of us is spending time with each other. We’re newlyweds and we really want to enjoy [this] time. I’m fortunate enough to be with a man who is like a poet. He’ll go surfing super early in the morning when I’m still asleep and I wake up to this beautiful note that he’s left behind to let me know how much he loves me and how much he’s going to miss me for the three hours he’s gone. I don’t know if I want to share that yet. And he doesn’t want to share me quite yet. We both want children, but more importantly, we want each other and we want to be with each other. Whatever else happens is fate and a blessing, but right now I think we’re both so happy being married and together, and that’s our focus.

PR.com: You don’t feel pressured? You don’t feel the clock ticking at all?

Shannen Doherty: If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. If I’m meant to be a mom the traditional route then I’ll be a mom the traditional route. If not, then there are plenty of children in this world and in this country that need a loving home and stable parents. I have no issues with adoption. It will happen however it’s meant to happen for us.

“Shannen Says” premieres Tuesday, April 10th at 10/9c on WE.

Follow Shannen Doherty on Twitter @DohertyShannen.

Shannen Doherty Talks Life Lessons: "I've Not Always Been the Most Diplomatic Human Being"


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