It's hard to believe that 30 years have gone by since Jason Priestley first lit up the screen as heartthrob Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, the TV success that would make him a household name. On the other hand, a lot has changed since the show's debut in 1990.
The North Vancouver native, now 50, went on to star in films, put his hand to directing and, perhaps most notably, became a family man. In 2005, he married Naomi Lowde, with whom he now has children Ava, 12, and Dashiell, 10.
"You have to savour every moment because it goes way too fast," Jason says with a laugh. "I remember when my daughter was one year old and it feels like it was five seconds ago."
Time flies and priorities evolve, as any mom or dad knows. In fact, it's with his children in mind that Jason decided to join forces with Motts Fruitsations and Breakfast Club of Canada as a spokesperson for their 2020 Buy a Cup, Give a Cup program. For every cup of applesauce purchased, one is donated to one of 1,809 schools nationwide.
"As a parent, it's one of those things that when you hear that 1.2 million kids across Canada start their day without breakfast, you can't help but to get involved," he says.
We caught up with the star in Toronto to talk about why it was important for him to get involved in the good cause while continuing to juggle other commitments, including his gig on TV's Private Eyes, which kicks off a fourth season in the spring. And almost a year after losing his 90210 co-star and friend, Luke Perry, Jason reflects on the loss.
"When Luke passed away [at 52], he was only halfway through his life, and that's what made his loss feel so profound," he says. "It was difficult because he wasn't finished."
HELLO! Canada: How do you feel you've changed since your 90210 days?
Jason Priestley: I didn't know anything, but I was young and full of hubris. It's a great thing to be young and overly confident. It's why you're unafraid to take on the world and do things that your older self would look back on and go, "Why did I do that?" I feel like now that I have the luxury of time and experience, looking back, I'm amazed that I've survived it because it was crazy. I must have known enough to get through it, but I guess that's a testament to my parents that they gave me the tools I needed to survive in the world.
As a parent now, are you trying to instill those same tools into your children?
I certainly am, and that continues to be a work in progress.
The school my kids attend gives credit for charitable work, and it helps me to teach them about giving back, which can sometimes be difficult to instill in a kid. My daughter and I visited an orphanage in Mexico to bring supplies and it was an eye-opening experience for her. She learned a lot from it and we'll actually be going back this spring.
What is your biggest piece of parenting advice?
Savour it. The minute they start walking, they're going to be running and then you're going to have to start chasing them and then your life is over. My daughter is 12 and I'm taking her to concerts and she'll say, "Daddy, I want to go see Billie Eilish next week." I'm like, "You've got to be kidding me!"
How have your kids influenced your career, if at all?
I try to pick projects that my kids would want to watch with me. Private Eyes is the kind of show that crosses generations and is family-friendly entertainment.
Does your daughter have any interest in watching Beverly Hills, 90210?
She does, but only because she finds the episodes hilarious. We watch them together and she laughs hysterically. Which, as you can imagine, is fun for me. [Laughs]
These days, it's Private Eyes that is keeping you busy. We hear that your character will content with a child he never knew he had. That's quite a way to kick off a season!
People are going to have to tune in to the first episode to see how that plays out, but there's a lot to keep people very entertained. The whole season itself was a lot of fun to shoot. We did the CN Tower Edge Walk! We also had great guest stars come and play with us this year, like Scott McGillivray.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved with the Buy a Cup, Give a Cup initiative?
I first heard about it last year. When they approached me about helping them get the word out this year, I was more than happy to do it.
Why did it appeal to you?
Having kids, I understand the importance of having a good breakfast. When I heard the statistic that one in four children in this country go to school without having a good breakfast, I was shocked and alarmed. They feed almost a quarter million children every morning. This program is such an easy way for Canadians to contribute. Really, it's a simple way to give. All people have to do is buy cups of Mott's Fruitsation and Mott's does the giving for them. It's a really simple way to help support a wonderful cause.
This March will mark one year since Luke Perry passed away. Does it feel like it happened yesterday?
It doesn't feel like a year, and yet it does. Luke's passing was very difficult because Luke was also a big part of my personal life. His passing was so sudden and so unexpected that it was very difficult to process and it's still difficult to process.
Is there a story from your time with him that helps keep his memory alive for you?
There are uncountable stories about Luke. He was a big-hearted guy and he would do things that were unexpected. There was a trip that he, Ian [Ziering, a 90210 co-star] and I were planning to take when we were kids. We were all going to Europe. A week before we were going to leave, Luke says he's not going anymore. Ian and I still went and we're up in the mountains in Switzerland and all of a sudden Luke shows up. Out of nowhere, he's like banging on my hotel room door with all his clothes stuffed in his ski bag. All his clothes were wrinkled and he didn't care. That was Luke. That was him.
This piece originally appeared in HELLO! Canada issue 702.