Why 90210 star Jason Priestley left Hollywood for Nashville

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Jason Priestley can’t turn back the clock, but he figured out a way to slow it down a bit.

After spending more than three decades living in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills, 90210 alum moved to Nashville with his wife, Naomi Priestley, and their two kids—and, suffice it to say, they are loving their new zip code,

“It’s just ease of operation,” Priestly told E! News in an exclusive interview from his Music City home. “It’s so much easier to navigate your life here. And it’s a cool, interesting place.”

The Vancouver native also realized what he’d been missing during all his years in Southern California.

“We get four seasons instead of one season,” he explained. “Because you have markers, and you know what time of year it is, it seems to make time go a little bit slower. There was something about the homogeneity of Los Angeles, where it was, ‘Is it March or is it October? I don’t know, I can’t really tell.’ So time just kind of evaporates. Whereas living here, with four very distinct seasons, you have to take advantage of what the season is offering.”

He and his spouse of 19 years picked the Tennessee capital in the first place because they found a high school that seemed a perfect fit for their daughter Ava, 16, after not being impressed with their L.A.-area options. And when son Dashiell, 14, was accepted, too…

“My wife and I just said to each other, ‘If the kids get into the school, we’re going to Nashville!'” Priestley recalled. “And lo and behold, they both got in, so we moved and we love it.”
Jason Priestley, Naomi Priestley, Dashiell Priestley, Ava PriestleyStephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

They saw Ava off to junior prom in April and Dashiell has already caught the performance bug, doing school plays and professional voice work.

Priestley, meanwhile, was only 17 when he moved to L.A.—”To this day,” he said, “I don’t know why my parents let me go”—and ended up sharing an apartment with eventual Loverboy actor Bernie Coulson and another audition-goer named Brad Pitt crashing on the couch.

He and Pitt led pretty separate lives, aside from their who-can-go-longest-without-showering-and-shaving contests (which usually ended when someone needed to hose off for a job, otherwise Pitt always won), but “we were all super-supportive of each other,” Priestley reflected. They saved their feelings for the camera, though, none of them being the kind to “come home and wipe a tear away, [like] ‘I didn’t get that job on One Life to Live.'”

Priestley actually moved back to Vancouver amid a 1988 WGA strike, but then landed the sitcom Sister Kate in 1989. That lasted one season and then it was onto his life-altering run as Minnesota transplant Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, which premiered in 1990.

These days, being 2,000 miles away from Hollywood hasn’t gotten in the way of Priestley taking on the opportunities that call to him. The 54-year-old most recently costarred in the CW crime dramedy Wild Cards and the based-on-a-true-story Börje—The Journey of a Legend, premiering May 2 in the U.S. on the streaming service Viaplay.

Alongside Valter Skarsgård as Swedish defenseman Börje Salming, the first European player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Priestley plays Toronto Maple Leafs scout Gerry McNamara in the six-part series set in the 1970s, a project particularly close to his heart.

“I grew up watching Börje Salming play hockey on TV every Saturday night,” Priestly shared, flexing his lifelong fandom. “He was a larger than life figure in Canada, revered by teammates, revered by opponents. He single-handedly changed the perception of what European players were capable of in the North American game.”

Speaking of people whom a certain generation grew up watching on TV every week, Priestley is one of those, too—but he generally has to leave the house to be acknowledged as a legend in his own right.

His kids “don’t care at all” that he starred in one of the seminal shows of the 1990s, Priestley shared. He’ll show them throwback pictures, “like, ‘Look, guys, I used to do that, look at how cool I was.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Dad.’ It’s sad, but I know as a parent I’m not alone in this. There just comes a point where you’re not cool to your kids anymore.”

The fans hailed him as extremely cool, however, when he joined the rest of the Beverly Hills, 90210 cast at Steel City Con in Pittsburgh last month, bantering with Brian Austin Green, Ian Ziering, Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling and Gabrielle Carteris as if no time had gone by.

“I just love hearing about what everybody’s doing now,” Priestley said. “We have a great time whenever we’re together. We’re all still telling jokes, still laughing. They are some of my favorite people.”

The applause at their April 13 panel notably hit a crescendo for Doherty, who shared in November that the breast cancer she’s been battling for years had spread to her bones.

“Shannen is super-tough,” Priestley, who played her twin brother on 90210, said appreciatively. “She’s a fighter and she’s not gonna let anything get in her way. Where she’s at with her prognosis now, and the way that she just keeps moving forward—she’s a force of nature, that one.”

90210 turned all of them into huge stars (Priestley has joked that his overnight success only took 10 years to achieve), but not everyone became a cultural touchstone, an archetype as well as an actor, as ended up being the case for Ava and Dashiell’s dad.

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