In 2011, Abbie Cobb guest starred on the 90210 reboot. This weekend, she’s revisiting our favorite zip code as Jennie Garth (and Kelly Taylor) on Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story. Between then and now, you may have seen Abbie on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Suburgatory, Moms Night Out or in other guest starring roles on several different television shows. Talk Nerdy With Us had the opportunity to talk with Abbie about her latest project, what it was like on set, the pressures of portraying another living person, and what she loves to get nerdy about. Read on to hear what Abbie had to say:
When did you first watch the original 90210? Had you seen it before you got involved in this project?
I never saw it before I was cast in the movie and I’m actually really happy that it happend that way, because it was so much fun to watch episodes and learn about the characters after I already was invested in becoming them.
Do you think that knowing that while you were watching colored your opinion of the characters and affected where your loyalties lied?
I don’t think so. I think I watched with an open mind. But I was excited for them as an actor, because I had learned through reading our script and telling our story how hard it was for them to get the roles and then all the work it took to actually get the show on the air. So as I watching episodes, I was rooting for them the entire time and I was excited for them as a fellow actor that they were able to create the show and build those characters.
Can you tell me about your audition process?
Sure! I have a friend name Matthew Scott Montgomery who called me and said “Abbie, they’re doing a 90210 movie and congratulations, you’re going to be Jennie Garth. Let’s figure out how to make this happen.” So I laughed really hard and did some research and talked to my incredible agent and a day later I was meeting with Blyth in her office and two days later I was on a plane to Vancouver.
Wow. So it all happened really quickly.
Yeah. I think I officially got the role on a Friday and on Monday I was on a plane.
It’s funny that you have a friend who approached you that way because one of the things that struck me while watching the movie is that your resemblance to Jennie Garth is uncanny.
And not just your appearance, which is definitely similar, but the way that you embodied her mannerisms was really amazing.
You’re so welcome! What I wanted do know is what did you do in terms of studying to prepare yourself?
I just tried to watch as much of her as I could. Of course I had a plethora of material to dig through from watching actual episodes and scenes that she was in. But I tried to dig up interviews and behind the scenes on-camera stuff to study how she is in real life. It’s so interesting, we were sort of like a dream within a dream, we were playing a character within another show, so two characters essentially, I was Kelly and I was Jennie. She actually had some differentiations, too. So I wanted to get Kelly right and I wanted to get Jennie right. It was just a matter of being patient and watching. And practicing her voice and the way she holds her hands and the way she lifts her eyes, and all that. Just to get it right and I really wanted to do the show justice and be respectful to both Jennie herself and also her choices for Kelly.
The movie depicted a lot of drama going on behind the scenes, and many of us who were alive when it was going on remember it, too. As a young actor, do you find that kind of drama is common on set? Was this a specific circumstance?
Yeah, I feel like I’ve been a part of shows before that have had casts of a lot of young 20-somethings and some of them have been a nightmare and some of them have been amazing. I think when you get a bunch of young 20-somethings together and add in a lot of money, add in a lot of fame, and add in a lot of ego, you’re going to have conflict. This particular experience for me in Vancouver with the cast of the Unauthorized 90210 was such a dream and such a pleasant surprise, cause everyone was early 20s and everyone was so completely lovely. There was zero conflict. We only had a blast and we all fell in love with each other. So it kinda proves that it doesn’t always have to be the case, but you’re right there’s often a lot of conflict.
Do you have a favorite scene that you shot or a favorite memory from being on set of the movie?
Yeah! I loved doing the fights between Shannen and Jennie. Those were so much fun. It’s so fun when you get to explode in a fit of anger or seek justice for your own character, justify your own motives and work out conflict onscreen. I think that’s a lot of fun. And the movie’s actually really funny and fun so there’s a couple scenes that are laugh out loud hilarious, even for us as actors, stifling the church giggles was hard.
I just think it’s a dream because we get to do drama and we get to be angry and we get to cry and we get to laugh and be sexy and fun all at the same time, all in one movie.
Have you ever played a real person before?
No, I have not. This is my first time.
Do you have any feelings about the fact that the person you’re portraying is alive and could potentially see your performance?
Sure. Yeah, I think that there’s a pressure to be respectful and to do it justice because I love her, I adore her, and I really respect her and her body of work. I think that the cast may not actually watch the movie, but if they do, I would want them to be supportive of it and I would want them to think that we were respectful of them and were fair. So there’s an added pressure, for sure, especially because this is a movie about the not-so-long-ago-past, they’re very much alive and around and working, it’s not like we’re doing a movie about Marilyn or Elvis. People know and love these people and their characters.
Changing gears for a minute, but still sort of staying with 90210, I remember watching you in the 90210 reboot as Emily, who was pretty bad news. Do you have a preference playing the good girl vs. the bad girl?
You know, I find myself always playing the mean girl. That’s been the majority of my work: Secret Life of the American Teenager, 90210, Suburgatory, I always end up playing that sweet on the outside/evil on the inside kind of character, which is a total blast to play. There are so many things that you cannot actually say and do in real life that you get to say and do when you play kind of a fun conflict-oriented role. But, at the same time, the fans hate you. They hate what you’re doing to their favorite characters. So it’s really cool and a pleasant change of pace for me be able to play someone as sweet and loving and caring as Jennie.
Now that you’ve gotten to be a part of this unauthorized story, are there any shows that you grew up watching that you’d want to see made into an unauthorized movie?
Oooh maybe Boy Meets World? Or The Wonder Years? Something like that. The Brady Bunch? I watch reruns of that all the time. And I know there was some romance behind the scenes with some of those siblings.
Since our site is Talk Nerdy With Us, we like to ask people what they like to nerd out over.
I’m a big fan of the Age of Empire series. And I’ve been known to spend hours and hours and hours in the Age of Empire world. And I’m not ashamed of that.
Watch The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story on Lifetime October 3, at 8/7c.