A spinoff of Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place debuted on Fox in the summer of 1992, ran for seven seasons (with most seasons consisting of at least 32 episodes, a figure unheard of today), and focused on a group of friends and foes living in a Los Angeles apartment complex located at 4616 Melrose Place.
According to Heather Locklear, the first season was “very boring. It was all nice people, and, really, there are some bad people in the world.” To beef up ratings in the second season, creator Darren Star—who went on to create Sex and the City—and co-executive producer Aaron Spelling brought in Locklear, and the show exploded. “There’s an old Noel Coward expression that fits,” Spelling told the Chicago Tribune. “To put a cat amongst the pigeons. We needed Heather to be the cat amongst the pigeons.”
Locklear played the conniving Amanda Woodward, and was nominated for four Golden Globes for her performance. She was effective enough for people to tune in each week to see what might unfold on the nighttime soap opera, whether it was an outrageous baby kidnapping plot, the apartment building exploding, or one of a number of scandalous affairs. The show went off the air in 1999, but its impact remains. Here are 15 mind-blowing facts about the series.
1. THE REAL MELROSE PLACE ISN’T LOCATED ON MELROSE PLACE.
Exteriors of the Melrose Place apartment complex were filmed at El Pueblo Apartments, at 4616 Greenwood Place, in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood. You can, of course, take a selfie in front of it, and possibly rent one of its eight units. The listing doesn’t mention a pool, though.
If you want to stroll down the real Melrose Place street—which does exist—you’ll start at the intersection of Melrose Place (which eventually intersects with Melrose Avenue) and La Cienega Boulevard. You won’t find residences (or drama), but you will find a hip and pricey shopping oasis, featuring Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta boutiques.
2. JOSIE BISSETT HATED PLAYING “NICE.”
Josie Bissett played Jane Mancini, Melrose Place’s resident nice girl. But Bissett wanted to be as bad as everyone else. “I do get tired of playing a victim all the time on the show,” she complained to Rolling Stone. “I mean, enough already. People call for me on the street and tell me everything that I’m doing wrong. In real life, I learn from my mistakes, and Jane is just not learning. But look out, because she will very soon.”
Apparently Bissett’s protest was received. “I remember Josie Bissett asking, ‘Can I please, please do something, like, a little devious? Do I have to be the nice one?’ I totally understood it,” Darren Star told Vulture. “You don’t want to be the character that’s being stepped on all the time.” By season three, Jane had become more villainous. “I think in the third season we had fun showing that all these characters had two sides,” Star said. “We made villains out of almost everyone.”
3. MANY OF THE CAST MEMBERS HOOKED UP WITH EACH OTHER IN REAL LIFE.
During the first season, Courtney Thorne-Smith (Allison Parker) and Andrew Shue dated, and later on in the series she dated Grant Show. “Show and Courtney Thorne-Smith were together and when they weren’t, we were all pretty sure that’s why she left the show,” Melrose Place writer/producer Charles Pratt Jr. told Vulture.
Though Laura Leighton also dated Grant Show, she ended up marrying Doug Savant in 1998. “We were friends on the set, but then it became, ‘Oh my God, this person I think is so perfect is right here,’” Savant told People. “The best thing that happened to me as a result of Melrose was meeting my wife.” A couple of other real-life couplings weren’t as successful: Josie Bissett divorced Rob Estes (they were newlyweds when the show started), and Locklear and Jack Wagner called off their engagement.
4. MATT FIELDING WAS ONE OF THE FIRST GAY CHARACTERS ON NETWORK TV, BUT HIS ROMANCE WAS CENSORED.
It was progressive for a show in the early ’90s to feature a gay character (it would take Ellen DeGeneres, starring as Ellen Morgan on Ellen, until 1997 to come out as gay), but Matt’s personal plotlines could go only so far. Matt finds a boyfriend and wants to sleep with him, but according to Vulture, Fox was against having the men be filmed lying in bed together.
“One of them had to be in the doorway,” Melrose Place writer-producer Carol Mendelsohn said. “Then we wanted them to kiss on the beach near Michael’s house, and broadcast standards at the time would not let us have them kiss. Instead it was ‘Matt’s lover rubs his ear.’ Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in 20 years.”
Doug Savant, who played the role of Matt, didn’t want the media to know about his private life. “There are other straight actors who have played gay characters and then shouted their straightness to the media at every chance,” he told Rolling Stone. “I think that's disgraceful. I have the responsibility to play the common humanity that crosses boundaries of sexuality."
5. BILLY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED BY ACTOR STEPHEN FANNING.
In Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story, it showed how an actor named Stephen Dale—Stephen Fanning in real life—was hired to play Billy but was fired because he gained too much weight. But according to the 2012 ABC reunion special, Shue said the reason Fanning was let go was because the actor didn’t have the right chemistry with Allison. “No one told Stephen that he was let go,” Show said. “He showed up to work and Andrew was in his dressing room.” Shue joked, “I feel that I need to personally apologize.” (Fanning should not be confused with baseball player Steven J. Fanning, who is father to Dakota and Elle Fanning.)
6. VANESSA WILLIAMS THINKS SHE WAS FIRED BECAUSE THE SHOW DIDN’T “EQUIP THEMSELVES TO WRITE FOR A BLACK CHARACTER.”
Williams played dancer/aerobics instructor Rhonda Blair on the first season of Melrose Place, but she wasn’t asked back for season two. “I think they didn't make the effort to equip themselves [to write for a black character], either by hiring a black writer or asking me things,” she told TV Guide. “Then, the whole face of the show changed—no pun intended—to [Aaron] Spelling’s soap-opera formula. They raised the stakes in terms of the sexual content, so who was gonna jump in bed with the black girl and not raise a hair in middle America somewhere? So it was devastating to me as an actress not to be invited back, but I knew it had nothing to do with my work, so I just had to release it.”
7. AMY LOCANE ONLY LASTED ONE SEASON AS WELL.
Williams’s on-screen roommate Amy Locane, who played Shooters waitress/aspiring actress Sandy Harling, also only lasted one season on the show. In 2010, Locane struck and killed a 60-year-old woman with her car while intoxicated. In 2013, she was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to three years in prison. She was released early, in 2015.
8. GRANT SHOW TURNED DOWN PLAYING THE BRAD PITT ROLE IN THELMA & LOUISE.
Thelma & Louise came out in 1991 and made Brad Pitt a star. Melrose Place actor Grant Show told The New York Times that he was offered the role but had to reject the part because “I was doing 12 days on a Jackie Collins mini-series, and I had to turn it down because they wouldn’t let me out of my contract.” He thinks Pitt did a better job than he would have, but regrets not breaking his contract. “But what I’ve learned is, back then I didn’t realize that the game is played by my own morality and not theirs. If there is one thing I wish I could tell that young actor, it would be to walk off that set and say, ‘Sue me.’”
9. ANDREW SHUE THINKS THE REASON PEOPLE LOVED THE SHOW WAS BECAUSE EACH AIRING RESULTED IN “PARTIES.”
The original cast members—with the exception of Williams and Locane—reunited on ABC in 2012 to reminisce about their backstabbing days. In 2010 Shue married Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach, who interviewed Shue and the cast. When she asked Shue why fans had such an affinity for the show, he stated: “We weren’t catty, there were no divas. It really was a family. When you think about that show, people had parties. There’s never been a show where people would gather on a weekly basis and have parties. I think it was groundbreaking in that sense, and now everybody would be on their digital devices and so you could never have a party.”
10. THE 1995 OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING CAUSED THE SEASON THREE FINALE TO BE EDITED.
During the final moments of season three, “The Big Bang Theory,” crazy person Kimberly (Marcia Cross) is about to detonate Melrose Place, but then the screen cuts to “to be continued.” A month prior to the May 1995 finale, the Oklahoma City bombing took place. The episode was supposed to end with the denotation, followed by Kimberly flying through the air, Amanda falling down the stairs, and the courtyard blowing up. Viewers would have to wait until the fourth season premiere in September to see the explosion and to find out that (spoiler alert!) none of the main cast members died (though Allison did go blind—temporarily). Cross felt some remorse.
“I felt guilty in a way, as if I were perpetuating violence,” Cross told Entertainment Weekly. “But it’s a weird line—most people can distinguish the fact that our show has nothing to do with [the bombers] in Oklahoma.” According to Rolling Stone, though, the original concept involved Kimberly kidnapping Sydney, putting her in a plane, and flying the plane into the apartment courtyard. But when a plane used as a weapon crashed near the White House in 1994, the producers changed their minds about the ploy.
11. THE SHOW ENDED BECAUSE THE CAST OUTGREW THEIR DIGS.
“You could not believe after seven years these people, who had actually attained some stature in their careers and had some money, were living in that building,” Carol Mendelsohn told Vulture. “You tried to ignore it, but it would come up in the writers’ room all the time: ‘Why haven’t they moved?’” Dee Johnson, another Melrose Place writer/producer, said. “‘Amanda makes a ton of money. Why is she staying in that little apartment?’ In the end, it was unavoidable.”
12. MALCOLM GLADWELL WAS A SUPERFAN OF THE SHOW.
During a January 2016 interview with Bill Simmons on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker, admitted his love for the series. “I used to do an email synopsis of every episode of Melrose Place,” he said. “I had a list of, like, a 100 people that I’d send it out to. And why did I do that? Because I was absolutely sure that everyone I knew—all of us in our 20s or early 30s—was watching MP. There is not a single show that I would have the same certainty about today. The only thing that comes close was Serial last year.” Gladwell said he’d take two hours out of his workday to write up the newsletter, but said he wouldn’t go to so much effort today for just a network show. “It was a bad show,” he said. “Nobody would watch it today.”
13. PEOPLE PAID BIG MONEY FOR MELROSE PLACE POOL WATER.
According to The New York Post, before the show’s series finale aired, Fox sent out snow globes filled with MP pool water to journalists. Some of those globes sold for as much as $300 on eBay. Amazon.com got involved with auctioning off Melrose Place memorabilia, including Amanda’s headboard and Sydney’s wedding dress. Grant Show knew the series would last when he saw the pool. “The minute I walked on the set and saw that they’d built a real pool in here, I had the feeling we’d be around for a while,” he told Rolling Stone. “Forget about actors, man; pools aren’t cheap.”
14. ANDREW SHUE QUIT ACTING AND BECAME A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR.
In 2008, Shue co-founded CafeMedia, which hosts CafeMom, The Stir, MamásLatinas, and other popular websites. He founded CafeMedia with “the vision to create an organization that would celebrate and reward moms for all that they do each and every day,” according to his bio. Besides CafeMedia, Shue also sits on the board of Do Something, a youth leadership organization he founded in 1993.
15. IN 2009 FOX REBOOTED THE SERIES, BUT IT FAILED.
Thomas Calabro (Dr. Michael Mancini) starred in more episodes than any other cast member—219 out of 226—and was one of the few original cast members to appear on the reboot. Calabro told SheKnows why he wanted to reprise his role as Dr. Michael Mancini. “First of all, he had a nuclear family, which I had never ever played before. He had a twentysomething-year-old son, which I had never had … He was going to be intertwined in many of the main characters’ storylines. So that became really interesting to me. There was a whole new dynamic.” Before the show got canceled after one season, Laura Leighton, Heather Locklear, Josie Bissett, and Daphne Zuniga all made appearances.