Jason Priestley wants fans of TV's Saving Hope to know that Tuesday's episode -- Defriender -- is a good one. "We spend a lot of time out of the hospital. It's a fun episode, and it's moving. You'll like it," he promises.
Priestley directed Defriender, so he would know. He's been directing for TV for 20 years, and he recently directed his first feature fiction film, Cas & Dylan, which stars Tatiana Maslany and Richard Dreyfuss. It opens in theatres later this year.
He's also writing a memoir. It's a long way from 90210.
"It's not like I'm new at this game," Priestley jokes about his manic schedule. "I finished doing a David Mamet play this spring in Toronto, and they asked me to stick around and direct this episode of Saving Hope. Ilana Frank is the executive producer and she's an old friend of mine, and I was happy to finally get the chance to work with her."
He's also busy starring in Call Me Fitz, the award-winning TV show back for a fourth season on HBO Canada this fall.
"That kind of television could not be produced anywhere else, and it really makes you give thanks for HBO," says Priestley.
"The kind of show being produced now on cable, I think that's the future of television, and those kinds of shows are really starting to influence the sort of television being produced on network TV. The way the paradigm has shifted now, it's a really exciting time, not only to be working in television, but to be watching television."
Priestley, 43, is a Vancouver native who started acting in childhood. He made his feature film debut in The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), and his big break came with the success of television's Beverly Hills 90210 in the 1990s. He started directing and producing during that period. Priestley directed his first movie, a documentary about Canada's Barenaked Ladies called Barenaked In America, in 1999.
He's acted in dozens of TV and feature films and has starred in such TV series as Haven, Side Order Of Life, Love Monkey and Tru Calling.
Priestley describes himself now as a "scripted content provider" and says, with all-Canadian modesty, "I take great solace in the fact that whether I'm in front of the camera or behind the camera, there will always be a need for what I do."
Back in his 90210 days, Priestley was a heartthrob, showing up regularly on the usual lists of 'Most Beautiful' and 'Most Sexy'. These days he's more of a family man. Priestley and his wife, Naomi Lowde, have two small children ("the light of my life,") and he talks, with mock horror, about taking the kids to the movies recently and exposing them to the paparazzi.
"We're standing there, and all the paparazzi are screaming, and I started thinking, 'What's going through my kids' heads?' With all the paparazzi screaming my and my wife's names, I'm thinking, 'Am I doing irreparable damage to my kids? Exposing them to all this at this age?' I don't know the right answer," he says. "But they were having so much fun!"
Among his other accomplishments, Priestley did some serious race car driving until a bad accident sidelined him back in 2002. This will all come out in his memoir, of course, which he's working on now.
"It's quite daunting," he says of this new writing project. "You go into it and you think, 'Yeah! I'll tell a bunch of stories and it will be a thrill ride, sort of just like my life has been so far,' but as you delve into it, you know, it's like picking away at a scab."
He laughs. "You have to rip it off! A lot more self-realization comes with this than I realized. I hope it's met with some sort of warm response," he says, earnestly. "I hope it doesn't disappoint."