The New Pin-Up: Jessica Stroup

When 90210, the beloved ’90s teen soap, relaunched last fall, it was treated like chum by critics and media sharks. Only now, in its second season, is the show living up to its hype, stepping out from the shadow of Shannen and Tori, and embracing a lighter, frothier high school experience. Leading the charge is Jessica Stroup, the 23-year-old actress who plays the bipolar Erin Silver, Kelly Taylor’s half-sister.

Stroup, who skipped out on her own high school graduation to film a Target commercial (“In my mind, I was so cool,” she says), moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles when she was 17 years old. “When I came out here,” she says, “I was a baby. I was kind of naïve and just going with it.”

Luckily, innocence is a trait directors admire, especially when it comes to horror flicks. In the last few years, Stroup has stretched her vocal cords, filling cinemas with her high-pitched screams in Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Homecoming (not to mention Bret Easton Ellis’ unintentionally horrifying The Informers). Although she has enjoyed the scary movie experience, she perks up as soon as the conversation turns to future roles. “A dark comedy,” she says, when asked what she’d like to do next. “Being funny. That’s the most terrifying thing for me.”

Stroup wears bra by Calvin Klein. Photo by Hellin Kay. Styling by Lia Davis. Hair Jenny Cho @ The Wall Group. Makeup Mai Quynh @ The Wall Group.

Jessica Stroup Moves into ‘90210’

Last year, Jessica Stroup was Satan’s daughter on the CW’s canceled Reaper. Now fresh out of Hell, she’s stirring up trouble in the country’s most notorious zip code: 90210. The CW’s reboot of the legendary Aaron Spelling primetime soap was the most hotly anticipated new show of the 2009-2010 TV season, and Stroup’s character was long shrouded in mystery. Was she Kelly and David’s half-sister Erin, or was she the progeny of Donna and David’s series finale union? It turns out she is little Erin, who we last saw as a blonde impish tot who was concerned that ice cream would make her fat. Now answering to the moniker “Silver,” the angry teen acts like Gossip Girl’s bitchy best friend on her virtual burn book, “The Vicious Circle.”

Being on such a high-profile show has as both perks and drawbacks. Critics and viewers have been quick to compare the show to “the original,” and report on its significant second-week ratings drop-off. The female stars have also come under scrutiny for their less-than-curvy physiques. The show may need a bit more time to find its footing, but it’s nice to be back in the halls of West Beverly High. Stroup talked to BlackBook about working in a bubble, the problem with 90210 extremists, and being the female Luke Perry.

What zip code did you grow up in? Oh my god. I moved around to like nine different schools by 9th grade. The last one I lived in was Charlotte, North Carolina. 28277.

Can you relate to the high school experience that 90210 is depicting? When I went to Charlotte, I walked in wearing jeans, a pair of shoes, and a sweatshirt. Just normal and comfortable. And the girls there were wearing heels and short skirts and stuff, and it just blew my mind.

As Erin Silver, you’re the tie-in, you’re the spin-off. I’m the glue that holds everybody together.

From the vague descriptions of your character, she seems savvy. She’s very blunt in everything she does and everything she says and stuff. If she’s in a catty brawl, you know she’s not going to take it. She doesn’t care about pleasing everybody around her. She wants to please herself and I think that’s highly respectable.

A website described your character as a “vixen” and “the lead’s saucy best friend.” Wow. Saucy? Did it say saucy? I love that. That’s sort of true. She’s a vixen, that’s kind of true. I get to create this alter ego for Silver through the make up and how I talk on the blog.

Annie’s the good girl and Naomi’s the bad girl, so does Silver fall in the middle? She kind of floats around the school with different cliques and she knows everybody but they know not to mess with her. She has this blog and she has a huge fanbase, and so it’s like they read her stuff and they respect her, but she’s not one to tamper with, because she will vent about you and say what she wants to say.

What character from the old show does she correspond to? Luke Perry [Dylan]. He was a rebel and independent, but he also was tied into the group as a whole and was a huge vital part. I like the idea that, 20 years later, it’s the girl who’s the Luke Perry type. The strong, cool, do-what-she-wants-to-do type girl. It’s girl power.

image Stroup as Erin Silver on 90210.

Do you find that the fascination with the return of Jennie Garth and Shannon Doherty is distracting for a new show trying to find its own identity? We as a whole are in such a bubble while shooting the show. There’s so much hype in questions about the two of them, but in the end I think it adds to it. I think once they watch the show just to find out how it actually plays out they’ll be interested in the rest of the storylines and continue to watch.

Obviously this show has gotten an insane amount of hype. I’m wondering if you’ve encountered any 90210 purists who think the original should be left alone. Thankfully no one’s come up to me on the street and thrown things at me, but I’m still looking to dodge a tomato or something. I think the extremists — the fans that grew up on the show and it was their life — don’t want to tamper with the idea of what that was, but that’s the beauty of our show. It’s not like we’re trying to be that old show. We have our own identities, but we’re bringing in old characters, creating and developing into these new people, and it should be exciting rather than a daunting “are they going to ruin it?” feeling.

People might be worried because there was a resolution for the characters. Kelly and Dylan were together, and then, “Whoa. Kelly’s a single mom?” I love hearing the theories. I think that the new one just for myself was, “Well, are you David Silver’s daughter?” I’m like, “Wait a minute. What kind of time frame are you looking at right now? Like, no!”

Do you think the show is going to have the appeal as the show that parents can watch with their kids, or do you think this is a new era of 90210 where it’s more like Gossip Girl or The O.C.? I think it has aspects of all of that. It’s not as in-your-face as an after-school special as some of the old 90210s were. But it does have the morals, it does have the family. Is it going to be Gossip Girl with the sex and the crazy all over the place? There’s going to be some of it. Yeah, it’s definitely gritty, but in the end, it’s got a great balance of everything.

With Gossip Girl and shows like that, kids grow up much faster these days. The old 90210 wouldn’t stand a chance nowadays. They were so naïve. Speaking for myself, I moved out to Los Angeles at 17, so I was thrown into this world just as the Annie character is. Seeing how fast things change and constantly new technology and constantly in-your-face celebrities, and the kind of debauchery that they’re getting into these days, they’ve got it hard, man. Seriously, there’s a lot of pressure out there. Kids are way more adult, or think they’re adult than they did back then. Would they survive? Yeah, they would’ve changed and coped and probably gotten into way more trouble, but had way more fun.