Whatever Happened To Jennie Garth?

To answer the question posed by the title up front, nothing "happened" to Jennie Garth. Born in central Illinois in 1972, Garth and her family moved out west, first to Arizona and then to Los Angeles, where she pursued an acting career while still in her teens. In 1990, she won the biggest role of her career as troubled queen bee, Kelly Taylor, on the Fox teen drama, "Beverly Hills, 90210."

"90210" was an era-defining hit not just for the burgeoning Fox network, which positioned itself as the young, hip alternative to the Big Three, but for the young Gen-Xers and elder millennials who tuned in every week to soak up the adventures of rich, sexy high school students (even if most of the cast were well past high school age).

Garth was never a breakout star like her castmate (and occasional love interest), Luke Perry, nor was she a tabloid fixture like co-stars, Tori Spelling and Shannen Doherty. But like them, she was so associated with "90210" that it can feel like her career ended with the series' final episode in 2000. The truth, though, is that Garth has been working consistently for decades, and in her post-"90210" years she has found considerable success as an actor, writer, producer, and all-around television personality. Let's take a look at what Garth has been up to since the curtain fell on her most famous role.

After 90210, success on screen was hard to come by

Starring on a long-running hit show like "Beverly Hills, 90210" can be both a blessing and a curse; it's the kind of success that most working actors can only dream of, but at the same time it can be difficult to branch out into new and different roles once the show ends. It can also be a challenge for TV actors to make the leap to feature films; stars like George Clooney are very much the exception to the rule.

Jennie Garth appeared in a number of TV movies during her stint on "90210," but her few forays into theatrical releases didn't make much impact. In 1996, she co-starred in the neo-noir, "Power 98," alongside Eric Roberts as a radio shock jock and Jason Gedrick as a patsy framed for murder. She also appeared in the 1997 IRA drama, "My Brother's War," with Josh Brolin and his father James, who directed.

After "90210" ended its ten-season run in 2000, Garth jumped headfirst into a new project by that show's creator, Darren Star. Fox's "The $treet" was a spicy look at the work hard-play hard lives of young hot Wall Street brokers. Despite the novelty of its high-stress setting, the show was mostly a pale retread of Star's more successful series — "Melrose Place" and "Sex and the City" — and lasted just 12 episodes. Today, it is mostly remembered for its surprisingly stacked cast of famous faces and future stars, including Tom Everett Scott, Jennifer Connelly, Giancarlo Esposito, and a young Bradley Cooper. Garth had a smaller supporting role as an old college friend of Scott who falls into a relationship with a young striver played by Sean Maher.

From Beverly Hills to Manhattan

But while Wall Street didn't turn out to be the best path forward, Jennie Garth found much better accommodations elsewhere in Manhattan, albeit on another network. In 2002, "What I Like About You" premiered on The WB, starring Amanda Bynes as a fun-loving suburban teen who comes to live with her uptight twenty-something sister (Garth) in New York City when their dad (Peter Scolari) moves to Japan for work. The series anchored the network's Friday night programming and was primarily a vehicle for Bynes, who had been a breakout star on the Nickelodeon sketch comedies, "All That," and "The Amanda Show."

Co-created by Wil Calhoun and Dan Schneider, the Teen Nick impresario who recently came under fire for inappropriate conduct and workplace abuses, the show was a slightly more mature role for Bynes, but it also proved to be one of the few times in her career that Garth has done and out-out comedy. She and Bynes have a natural odd-couple chemistry together, and she even got some of her old "Beverly Hills, 90210" co-stars like Perry, Ian Ziering, and Jason Priestly to pop in for an episode or two.

Seen today, the series is a reminder of how good Bynes (who hasn't had an on-screen role since 2010) can be, as well as a charming early-2000s time capsule, featuring early appearances from Abigail Breslin, Penn Badgley, and eventual "The Office" star, Jenna Fischer.

Jennie Garth, the queen of Christmas

These days it is something of a tired cliche for former network stars to find a second career in cable TV holiday movies, but Jennie Garth was ahead of the trend in this instance. She took her first turn as a big city career gal who thinks she's too busy for Christmas (and the man of her dreams) back in 2003's "Secret Santa." Steven Eckholdt co-stars as the titular gift-giver, a small-town rich guy who anonymously answers kids' letters to Santa and makes their dreams come true. The film is notable not just for airing on NBC rather than a cable network, but for having a solid cast of "hey it's that guy" character actors like Charles "Mac" Robinson and June Cleaver herself, Barbara Billingsley, in her final role.

The 2011 Hallmark movie, "A Christmas Wedding Tail," was a step down from "Secret Santa" if for no other reason than it is barely about Christmas. Real-life married couple, Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox, voice a pair of lovestruck dogs who conspire to get their oil-and-water owners (Garth and Brad Rowe) to fall for each other. Not having to be upstaged by wisecracking pooches, Garth fares better in 2013's "Holidaze," even if the ABC Family film borrows blatantly from the 2000 Nicolas Cage Christmas fantasy, "The Family Man."

Garth and her "Holidaze" co-star, Cameron Mathison (a Christmas movie king in his own right), reunited in 2021 for "A Kindhearted Christmas," a Great American Family original where this time, he is the career-minded urban cynic and she is the impossibly perfect small town beauty who celebrates Christmas all year round.

The first 90210 reboot

It took less than a decade for someone to have the bright idea to reboot "Beverly Hills, 90210." The half-decade or so after its last episode saw a number of successful teen soaps cut from the "90210" cloth, including "The O.C.," "Veronica Mars," and "Gossip Girl."

Developed by "Veronica Mars" creator, Rob Thomas, and airing alongside "Gossip Girl" on The CW, the reboot — simply titled "90210" – began much like the original series, with a new pair of Midwestern siblings (Shenea Grimes-Beech and Tristan Mack Wilds) moving to California and getting thrust into the dark, sexy world of Beverly Hills high school politics. The first two seasons also featured several original series alumni reprising their roles, including Shannen Doherty, Tori Spelling as good girl Donna, and Jennie Garth once again playing Kelly Taylor.

The series struggled to serve two masters: younger viewers who may not care about seeing grown-up Brenda and Donna and Kelly, and older viewers who only care about seeing Brenda and Donna and Kelly. It didn't help that those veteran cast members had badmouthed the reboot and its more sexually explicit content before it even aired, with Garth telling Entertainment Weekly (via Vulture) that "[original series producer] Aaron Spelling is rolling over in his grave right now." Eventually, "90210" gave up on trying to placate older fans; Garth, Spelling, and Doherty disappeared from the show after Season 2 and were largely never mentioned again.

Life on the reality show farm

The early 2000s saw celebrities like Ozzy Osbourne and Paris Hilton turn their real-life family and friends into reality show fodder, and reap massive rewards for it. By the late 2000s and early 2010s, what was once a novelty had become a well-worn format. Tori Spelling and her husband, actor Dean McDermott, crafted a second career out of their gentle married-life foibles (and gimmicks like running a bed and breakfast together for some reason) on a series of "Tori & Dean" reality shows starting in 2007. Not to be outdone by her best friend, Jennie Garth embraced her Midwestern cowgirl roots and moved her three daughters to a central California horse farm for the 2012 CMT reality series, "Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country."

The show plays in the same sandbox as Hilton and Nicole Richie's "The Simple Life," with Garth's children and her personal assistant, Corinne Dekker, being flummoxed by supposedly common farm duties like milking cows and wrestling pigs. But there was more going on than just city slicker hijinks, as the show's filming coincided with Garth's separation and subsequent divorce from actor Peter Facinelli, the father of her children. In that context, the series was not just an attempt to jumpstart a new phase in her career, but in her entire life as well. Alas, reality TV didn't spark Garth the way it had Spelling, and the show ended after one 12-episode season.

Jennie and Tori, best friends forever

The set of "Beverly Hills, 90210" sounds by all accounts like it was a never-ending crucible of hormones and egos. Feuds between stars — most notably Shannen Doherty and pretty much everyone else — made tabloid headlines throughout the 1990s, but a lot of lasting friendships were made as well. Jennie Garth and co-star Tori Spelling, daughter of series producer Aaron Spelling, were both still teenagers when the show began, and have remained close friends and collaborators ever since.

In 2014, the two put a comedic spin on their real-life friendship and shared TV history on the ABC Family comedy show, "Mystery Girls." Much like the Rob Lowe series, "The Grinder," which premiered a year later, "Mystery Girls" is about a pair of dim-bulb actresses, formerly on a hit '90s detective show, who find themselves trying to solve mysteries in real life. Despite the self-effacing premise and no shortage of "dumb blonde" jokes, the show was canceled after its first season.

Nevertheless, Garth and Spelling have continued to work together; in October 2020, on the 30th anniversary of "90210," the two premiered their behind-the-scenes podcast, "9021OMG," and appeared alongside former co-stars at the 2023 90s Con, a convention for fans of Clinton-era pop culture. They've even managed to express their friendship in the form of a "Feminine, California-chic" line of home decor items available on QVC.

Not just a Hollywood blonde

"Mystery Girls" wasn't the only project Jennie Garth took on in 2014 that leaned heavily on '90s nostalgia. Later that year, she also became a published author with the memoir, "Deep Thoughts from a Hollywood Blonde." Co-written with Emily Heckman, Garth delves into her life as a single mom, balancing family and career, and gets real about her failed marriage to Peter Facinelli and her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression.

But Garth is smart enough to know that most people who have cracked her book open have done so to read some hot "Beverly Hills, 90210" gossip, and she dishes accordingly. Some of it is old news or things fans could reasonably guess; very few of us would be shocked to learn that drugs were easy to come by on the set of the hottest show of the early '90s, though Garth denies ever partaking herself.

An anecdote about co-star Ian Ziering coercing her into kissing him under the guise of "rehearsal" is presented as an innocent, funny memory; the book was written pre-#MeToo, after all. Jason Priestly drank beer and smoked cigarettes, while Luke Perry was a brooding James Dean type who once ran Garth over with a jet ski. And in another passage that reads quite differently today, Garth reveals that disgraced actor, Kevin Spacey, not only attended her wedding to Facinelli but was an honored guest.

The second 90210 reboot

"90210" — the 2000s reboot, that is — ended after five seasons in 2013, and a few years later, Jennie Garth was banging the drum in print for a new, proper reboot. This was the era when legacy shows like "Roseanne," "Will & Grace," and "Full House" were getting revival seasons that mostly centered around the original cast members. "What a great thing to do," she told Entertainment Tonight in 2017. "It would just have to be the right coming together of all the minds that need to come together."

Apparently, the minds that needed to come together to make a reboot happen were hers and Tori Spelling's. Two years later in the summer of 2019, Fox premiered "BH90210," a hall-of-mirrors reboot-parody miniseries that reunited the original cast (with one tragic exception) as heightened fictionalized versions of themselves reuniting to film a "90210" revival series.

Co-created by Garth and Spelling, "BH90210" plays to both the sincere and ironic love fans have for the original series, delighting in getting the gang back together while also staging in-universe fantasy sequences with Barbie dolls or the actors dressed as their younger selves. The show may have leaned too heavily on its meta conceits, but Garth and company were correct to recognize that these sorts of reboots are about revisiting the actors as much as the characters they played.

A veteran game show competitor

Though Jennie Garth is most well known as an actor, and Kelly Taylor her most well-known role, over the decades she has had pretty much every on-camera television job available, from awards show presenter to aerobics video instructor, to spokesperson for various charities and products. But in recent years she may have found her true calling as a celebrity game show contestant. 

It started with just a couple of episodes of "Celebrity Poker Showdown" in the early 2000s, and then a season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007. But by the mid-2010s, Garth was everywhere: Cooking shows like "Celebrity Food Fight" and "Cupcake Wars;" celebrity editions of "Family Feud" and "The $100,000 Pyramid;" and guest host spots on "Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off" and "RuPaul's Drag Race."

Her finest game show moment came in 2021, on a celebrity episode of "Wheel of Fortune." Facing off against comedian Patton Oswalt (no slouch in the game show department himself) and "Queer Eye's" Karamo Brown, Garth bested them both with a haul of over $68,000 for her charity of choice, the Central Illinois Food Bank. The final puzzle category was "Food and Drink" and some savvy letter choices gave her everything she needed to solve correctly; the puzzle was "Apple Dumpling." The grand prize was an additional $100,000, bringing her total for the day to over $168,000.

And Jennie Garth as herself

"BH90210" is not the first time that Jennie Garth and other members of the original cast have lampooned their own image. Even from the beginning of the series in the early 1990s, the "Beverly Hills, 90210" stars were often seen as pop culture figures first and actors second. Luke Perry famously played himself on a 1993 episode of "The Simpsons" as Krusty the Clown's half-brother, but a year earlier, Garth and the rest of the cast spoofed themselves on the Ferris Bueller-biting Fox comedy, "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." In 1995 she also starred as herself on an episode of "The Larry Sanders Show," the classic HBO showbiz satire starring Garry Shandling.

In the years since the end of the show, Garth has often been willing to poke fun at her decade in the spotlight, whether that's reviving Kelly Taylor for an episode of "Family Guy" or starring as the most insufferably touchy-feely version of herself in a 2018 episode of the Fox sitcom, "The Mick." In 2013 she reunited with Perry for an end credits gag on an episode of NBC's "Community," starring as themselves in a disastrous American knock-off of the show's "Doctor Who" parody, "Inspector Spacetime." Even her forays into reality TV like "A Little Bit Country" and the 2014 HGTV series, "The Jennie Garth Project," use her as a kind of character separate from her real self.

Honoring an old friend

"BH90210" reunited all of the show's original cast but one: star Luke Perry, who died in March 2019 of a sudden stroke. His death, while tragic, was not actually what kept him from appearing in the revival series. He was already committed to filming the next season of The CW "dark Archie" series, "Riverdale," and in an awful twist of fate, he suffered the stroke that would ultimately kill him on the same day as Fox announced the cast of "BH90210."

The cast took Perry's death hard and struggled to find a way to acknowledge the loss on the revival series without seeming distasteful or hijacking the show's tricky tone. In the years since Jennie Garth has honored her old friend and castmate by becoming a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and appearing in videos on how to quickly spot the signs of a stroke. She has also been upfront about her own health battles, revealing in 2022 that she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at age 47 — a condition that, like Perry's stroke, is so associated with advanced aging that younger people can often miss or ignore the symptoms.

The family business

"Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country" featured not only Jennie Garth but her three daughters with Peter Facinelli — Luca Bella, Lola, and Fiona. After the show ended, she raised the girls mostly out of the public eye — though an April 2023 Instagram post showing off teenage Fiona's brand-new BMW caused a small ruckus online. Middle child, Lola, made a brief appearance as a young kid in Garth's 2011 TV movie, "Accidentally in Love," but otherwise neither she nor her little sister has made any moves to follow in their parents' footsteps.

Luca Bella co-starred with Garth in the 2019 Lifetime movie, "Your Family or Your Life," playing a daughter and mother, respectively, rocked by the apparent suicide of their husband and father. At the time Garth gave some stern advice to her eldest daughter, which she later repeated in a US Weekly interview: "Don't expect to be famous. I got lucky, but you've got to do the work. You've got to put in the time."

In the years since, however, Luca Bella's ambitions have perhaps grown in a different direction than going into the family business. In May 2023, she graduated from NYU's New School with a degree in communications and has been working as an events coordinator for amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. But no matter if life takes her and her sisters in front of the camera or elsewhere, her mother always has her back; "I'm glad I'm there to guide her and advise her when she wants or needs it," Garth told US Weekly.