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10 minutes with … Ann Gillespie

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When we first met Ann Gillespie back in 1990, she was playing Jackie Taylor on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Her first scene found her snorting cocaine in the women’s room during a mother-daughter fashion show. It wasn’t pretty. Now back in the CW’s spin-off series, “90210,” Jackie Taylor is still […]

c. 2008 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) When we first met Ann Gillespie back in 1990, she was playing Jackie Taylor on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Her first scene found her snorting cocaine in the women’s room during a mother-daughter fashion show. It wasn’t pretty.

Now back in the CW’s spin-off series, “90210,” Jackie Taylor is still a train wreck, this time battling the bottle and berating her two daughters. It’s still painful to watch.

But it’s great fun for Ann Gillespie, the 51-year-old actress who left “Beverly Hills, 90210,” for Virginia Theological Seminary, 22304. She’s now the associate rector for worship and pastoral care at historic Christ (Episcopal) Church in Alexandria, Va.

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: The last time we saw you, you were playing Kelly Taylor’s (Jennie Garth) mother on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Now you’re an Episcopal priest. How’d that happen?

A: Well, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with the entertainment industry. As I got older and was raising children, as my own values were crystallizing, parts were starting to disappear. I kept feeling that I had all these gifts that weren’t being used, and I went out on a quest to find out what I was supposed to be doing.

Q: Your father was an Episcopal priest. Did you ever see yourself in that role?

A: The idea of it freaked me out. This was the last place I could imagine seeing myself. But I finally relented. It just made so much sense, given my gifts and the transition in my own life.

Q: Every minister says they experience a “call” moment from God. What was yours?

A: It was a long process. I won’t say there was one lightning bolt of a moment, but kind of a gentle surrender, saying, “OK, God, I get it. This is where you want me.” There was a series of awakenings, if you will, and then a kind of recognition that this was where I was being called.

Q: So when you were applying to seminary, did you list “90210” on your application?

A: Oh sure, and not just “90210.” My favorite moment was _ there’s a series of interviews, and there’s always the question as to why you should be a priest. The very last question was, “So who were you on `Deep Space Nine?”’

Q: Did you think you had left Jackie Taylor in your past, or were you hoping for a reunion?

A: Are you kidding? I thought I had left the whole business. I left and did not look back. I’m so much more happy doing what I’m doing. Some people have asked if I miss acting, but I feel like I’m doing it every week.

Q: How did you get back to Hollywood?

A: About a year after I had been at Christ Church, I got an e-mail that said: “Seeking Ann Gillespie.” I almost spammed it, but it was from the casting person of the new “90210,” who said, “We’ve written you into the show and it’s shooting next week.” I told them they needed to fly me on a Wednesday, shoot on a Thursday and fly me back on Friday because I have to work on Sunday. I didn’t have any weddings scheduled, and so far nobody had died, so I said I could do it.

Q: Will this be a recurring role?

A: I have no idea. If the series is a success, my guess is they might invite me back. Christmastime is a great time to have the parents back, especially the ones who are drinking.

Q: For the folks out there who’ve never seen “90210,” tell us about Jackie Taylor.

A: Well, she was a model and was very unlucky in love and marriage.

Kelly’s friends thought Jackie was cool and hip, but what they didn’t see was her combination of addictions to alcohol and cocaine. The character has been very self-centered, always a little frivolous. But in television, that’s how it is _ the kids are the smart ones, and the parents are the doofuses.

Q: And how is she doing these days?

A: Not good, not stable. Actively drinking and acting out in a very sad and dysfunctional way. She’s obviously been terribly wounded to treat her daughters the way she does.

Q: So, which is harder: memorizing your lines or writing out a sermon?

A: When it’s a scene, someone else writes the lines. I find the process of writing the sermon can be, let’s say, much more challenging. But I absolutely love to preach, and feel very grateful for the opportunity. It’s a truer melding of my talents than interpreting someone else’s words.

Q: I would imagine an actor’s flair for the dramatic might make your liturgies a bit more colorful.

A: I’d like to think so, thank you very much. I feel sometimes like I’m not just the actor, but the producer, the director, the writer, the set designer and the stage manager. It’s great fun.

Q: And does your ministry, in turn, impact your acting, or your time on the set?

A: I’ve only been on the set literally one day (as a priest) and there were a couple of jokes, like, “Can we curse in front of you?” I was like, “Oh hell, yes.” I’m who I am, and they are who they are.

(OPTIONAL TRIM FOLLOWS)

Q: NBC’s short-lived drama, “The Book of Daniel” had an actor playing a drug-addicted Episcopal priest, and now you’re an Episcopal priest playing a drug addict. Coincidence?

A: Complete coincidence, except that we’re all human, and if you’re portraying true humanity, you’re portraying all of our weaknesses and fallenness.

Q: George Washington once worshipped in the pews of your church; what do you think he’d make of the associate rector moonlighting as an actress?

A: (Laughs). I think as long as I was serving God and country, he’d probably be OK with it.

AMB/LF END ECKSTROM

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A photo of Ann Gillespie is available via https://religionnews.com.