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|Also Known As:||Jason Bradford Priestley||Died:|
|Born:||August 28, 1969||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Vancouver, British Columbia, CA||Profession:||Cast ... actor director producer|
Charming and charismatic, actor-director Jason Priestly rocketed to stardom as one of television's most popular teen heartthrobs in the early 1990s. Cast as conscientious Midwestern transplant Brandon Walsh on the cultural phenomenon "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000), Priestly was the opposite side of the coin to the show's equally popular "bad boy" Dylan McKay, played by Luke Perry. A role that ranked him as one of TV Guide's Top 25 Teen Idols, it also provided a platform for the actor to pursue endeavors as a producer and director. Additionally, "90210" led to prominent film work for the young actor, who was seen alongside Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer in the hit Western "Tombstone" (1993) and starred opposite John Hurt in the critically-acclaimed independent drama "Love and Death on Long Island" (1998). Indulging his love for the band Barenaked Ladies, Priestly directed the concert documentary "Barenaked in America" (1999), in addition to several made-for-TV movies over the next decade. After several false starts on short-lived shows like "Love Monkey" (CBS, 2006), he again found series success in his home country as the ethically-challenged star of the black comedy "Call Me Fitz" (HBO Canada, 2010- ). An instant hit in the Great White North, it began airing in American in 2011. A rare instance of early fame leading to a lengthy, prolific career, Priestley's varied interests and professional drive kept him busy both in front of and behind the camera.
Born Jason Bradford Priestley on Aug. 28, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada to parents Sharon Kirk, a real estate agent and former actress, and Lorne Priestley, a representative for a textile manufacturer, Priestley was raised in Vancouver, B.C. Signed by his mother's former agent by the age of five, Priestley began his career as a young child, modeling and acting in television commercials. Priestley appeared in a number of TV movies as a child and teenager, including the CBS telepic, "Nobody's Child," and made his feature film debut in "The Boy Who Could Fly" (1986). Relocating to Los Angeles in 1987 to further his acting career, Priestley's charming persona landed him roles on the series "21 Jump Street (Fox, 1987-1991), "MacGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992), and "Quantum Leap" (NBC, 1989-1993).
Landing the role of unruly orphan Todd Mahaffey on the NBC sitcom "Sister Kate" (1989-1990), Priestley found himself cast in his first regular role in series television. Though the show was short-lived, Priestley caught the eye of future "90210" alum Tori Spelling, who recommended Priestley to her father, legendary producer Aaron Spelling, for the part of Brandon Walsh on Spelling's new teen series, "Beverly Hills, 90210." Landing the part, Priestley and co-star Shannen Doherty portrayed fraternal twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh, rounding out an ensemble cast on a show that quickly became a pop cultural buzz show of the decade. With the overwhelming popularity of the series, Priestley - along with fellow side-burned co-star Luke Perry - quickly became a teen icon, mobbed at malls and gazed at lovingly within the pages of Teen Beat. Though the series was initially considered a frivolous primetime soap, it later confronted a number of serious cultural issues, including alcoholism and rape, which led to two Golden Globe nominations for Priestley, who served as the conscience of the show. The show also proved to be a successful platform for the actor to expand his career behind the scenes. In the third season, Priestley convinced the show's producers to put him behind the camera in the director's chair. Proving to be a talented director, as well, Priestley directed more than 20 episodes from 1993 until his departure from the series in 1998. He also served as a producer and executive producer on "90210" from 1995-98.
During his time on the popular series, Priestley pursued a career in film as well. His first feature film lead came in 1993 with the critically acclaimed but little seen comedy, "Calendar Girl." Priestley next appeared in the ensemble Western, "Tombstone" (1993) as Deputy Billy Breckinridge, and the lesser-known dark comedy "Coldblooded" (1995). An avid fan of the Canadian band The Barenaked Ladies, Priestley went behind the camera once again to direct the video for their single, "The Old Apartment," which later earned him a Best Director nomination at the 1996 Canadian Music Video Awards. Starring opposite John Hurt in the independent film "Love and Death on Long Island" (1998), Priestley finally found a film role which showcased his genuine acting talent. Though Priestley portrayed a heartthrob actor, the film, as well as Priestley's performance, received critical acclaim from critics.
After announcing his departure from "90210" in 1998, having outgrown the teen angst series, Priestley went on to appear in the films "Standing on Fishes" (1999), "Eye of the Beholder" (1999), and Cherish (2002). Suffering a personal setback in 1999, Priestley was arrested under suspicion of drunk driving after crashing his Porsche into a pole. After being released on $50,000 bail and pleading no contest to the charges (claiming that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer), Priestley was ordered to complete an alcohol counseling program. That same year however, Priestley embarked on a new directorial project; re-teaming with The Barenaked Ladies once again, directing "Barenaked in America" (1999), a documentary about the band's experience on the road. Furthering his acting career in 2000, Priestley made his London stage debut in Warren Leight's award-winning play "Side Man." Taking on a somewhat unconventional role, Priestley went on to appear in the campy independent film, "Die Mommie Die" (2003) opposite theater and drag legend Charles Busch.
Just as he continued his streak of landing consistent work both behind and in front of the camera, tragedy struck Priestley in August of 2002. An avid race car driver, the actor was seriously injured during a practice run at the Kentucky Speedway when his car smashed into a wall at 180 mph coming out of a turn. Suffering a fractured spine, a broken nose, broken bones in both feet and a concussion, Priestley was flown to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Though he spent three months in the hospital, Priestley made a full recovery, much to the relief of family, fans and friends, particularly his "90210" co-stars who rallied around him during his recovery.
Once back on his feet fully healed, Priestley returned to acting, starring in the ABC Family TV movie, "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks" (2004) and was cast as in a recurring role on the supernatural drama, "Tru Calling" (Fox, 2003-05). In 2006, Priestley returned to series television as a regular on the CBS show, "Love Monkey" (CBS/VH1, 2006). Though the show was pulled from the network after only three episodes, it quickly reappeared on the cable music network VH1, which aired the remaining five episodes. After directing and co-starring in the thriller "Don't Cry Now" (Lifetime, 2007), Priestly stuck with the cable network as a series regular on the short-lived drama "Side Order of Life" (Lifetime, 2007). An appearance alongside "90210" alum Luke Perry in the romantic-comedy "A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride" (Lifetime, 2008) was followed by a U.K.-produced remake of the post-apocalyptic classic "The Day of the Triffids" (BBC, 2009), a two-part miniseries featuring Dougray Scott and Joely Richardson. Priestly next scored one of the best roles of his career in his native Canada when he was cast as Richard "Fitz" Fitzpatrick in the black-comedy series "Call Me Fitz" (HBO Canada, 2010- ). The raunchy adventures of a morally-deficient car salesman (Priestly), suddenly confronted by a straight-arrow co-worker (Ernie Grunwald) claiming to be his conscience personified, the show garnered rave reviews on both sides of the Canadian border. "Call Me Fitz" made its U.S. debut on DirecTV's Audience Network in 2011.
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