by Mike Hammer
photos by Jeff Katz

Despite anything you may have read in years gone by, Shannen Doherty is a good witch. The one-time Beverly Hills bad girl, who got more negative press than Mike Tyson in the early ‘90s, has had a more complete image makeover than Times Square. Celebrated battles with “90210” co-stars, producer Aaron Spelling, and anybody unlucky enough to cross her path in a Hollywood nightclub eventually led to banishment from the seminal show for the Desenex set and out of the public eye for awhile.

But a conversation with the 29-year-old actor/director/star of the WB’s popular series, “Charmed,” makes the controversies of the ‘90s seem like a century ago. Her casting as a “witch” conjured up a thousand punchlines just three years ago, but the show’s a phenomenal success, and Doherty is the star of a cast that includes both Holly Marie Combs and fellow former child-star and alleged divette Alyssa Milano - and nobody’s laughing now.

Doherty is one of the biggest stars on TV again, but this time she’s doing it as a grown-up. She is charming, polite, conversational - even conservative. No controversies. No tabloid headlines. All business. For someone who grew up on TV (she began her career at the age of six as one of the kids on “Little House on the Prairie”), it took some tough media scrutiny of her off-camera activities to help her mature. Now that she has, she acknowledges the mistakes of the past. “I learned to appreciate my opportunities when I get them. In short, I grew up,” she says wisely.

She’s also grown on Spelling. He’s happy to have a big star on a big hit, and America’s male population is once again spellbound by an older, wiser, and still sexy Doherty. But the party girl of 10 years ago has been replaced by a hard-working homebody who’s given up the Hollywood party scene for the Grand Old Party.

“I’m sort of known to be a Republican, but I vote for who I believe in. Unfortunately, in this industry, if you’re anything but a Democrat, you can’t admit it. I’m not like that. I’m originally from Tennessee, but I don’t have any home-state affection for Al Gore.”

So, she’s officially independent, and she’s proven it by moving behind the camera to call the shots as a director on the show this season. Still, it was Spelling who brought her back to prominence. And while Shannen doesn’t shy away from making suggestions about the show’s direction, this time she’s smart enough to know who cooked up this witch’s brew - and not to stir up the pot.

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