Lynn Elber, AP Television Writer:
The same can’t be said for Ann Gillespie, who plays Jackie: She’s gone from actress to Episcopal priest.
Between sermons, weddings and funerals at Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., the Rev. Gillespie squeezed in an appearance on “90210,” CW’s follow-up to the hit Fox series that aired from 1990-2000.
In reprising her role as mom to Jennie Garth’s Kelly, Gillespie was sorry to find out that Jackie still is battling alcoholism.
“She actually seems to be worse off than at the end of the last series,” Gillespie said. “My own desire was to have the character become healthier because, of course, that’s what I’m devoting my life to.”
Gillespie, 51, married to actor Jeff Allin and mother of two teenagers, began re-evaluating her professional life several years ago. Roles for older women are conspicuously scarce in Hollywood, she said, but more important was her changing perspective.
“I felt my values crystallize in me as I was raising my children, and I wasn’t crazy that I was giving myself to a business that wasn’t putting out the best values,” particularly when it came to film and TV images of young girls as “thin and oversexualized,” Gillespie said.
Her decision to turn to the priesthood reflected a family tradition: Her father, the Rev. David Gillespie, 81, is a retired Episcopal priest.
Ann Gillespie earned a master’s degree in divinity in 2007 after three years of study at a Virginia seminary and became the priest at Alexandria’s historic Christ Church, where George Washington worshipped.
Although she’s turned her skills from acting to preaching — “It’s not as gigantic a leap as people might think” — Gillespie welcomed the chance to revisit her “90210” past.
“When I went to do the episode, it was like riding a bicycle. The character of Jackie Taylor was right there and waiting,” she said.
She had an “absolutely delightful reunion” with Garth during filming, Gillespie said.
“I always loved working with her. … I’m so proud of the decisions she’s made in her life. She was around when I was nursing my baby, and I was around when she was nursing hers,” she said of Garth, who has three children.
Many of Gillespie’s parishioners are “excited about the buzz that their priest is on a television show,” she said. And the new series has brought her in contact with “Beverly Hills 90210” loyalists.
“I got an e-mail from a fan who said she was coming to church to meet me. I thought, ‘Whatever it takes to get them in the door,'” Gillespie said.