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A rep for the actor confirmed the sad news to Yahoo Entertainment in a statement:
“Actor Luke Perry, 52, passed away today after suffering a massive stroke. He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancée Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, stepfather Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time.”
The news stunned Perry’s friends and colleagues. Longtime 90210 co-star Ian Ziering shared a heartfelt message on Instagram:
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a “medical assistance” call on Feb. 27 at an address matching Perry’s. According to TMZ, the actor was awake and alert when paramedics got to his home, but his condition deteriorated by the time he was hospitalized. A rep for Perry initially disputed TMZ’s story, which claimed he was in a medically induced coma, stating the actor was simply sedated. Doctors hoped sedation would give his brain a chance to recover, but the damage was too severe.
Perry, who was starring as Fred Andrews on the CW series Riverdale, rose to fame as a heartthrob in the ’90s. He got his foot in the door in Hollywood with a 10-episode appearance on Another World (1988-89), but it was landing the role of Dylan McKay on Aaron Spelling’s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 that catapulted him into stardom.
“After the pilot, we felt there should be someone who is a little dangerous, a little on the edge, and we came up with the Dylan character,” Spelling told Rolling Stone in 1992. Added creator Darren Star, “When Luke walked into the audition it was like, ‘Wow, that’s the person.’ He seems exactly like James Dean to me, but it isn’t a conscious imitation — he’s really being himself.” Spelling fought to make him a series regular, not just a guest star, and it changed Perry’s life forever.
For years, as Beverly Hills, 90210 gained a cult-like following, Perry was mobbed with young girls chasing him wherever he would go. In one instance in 1992, thousands of teens rushed a portable stage, constructed for the actor’s appearance, and squashed each other, with a dozen people getting rushed to a hospital.
“I don’t like that,” Perry told Rolling Stone. “I mean, I could understand if I was [Elvis Presley].” He had to stop doing public appearances.
Perry dabbled in film, like in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 1994’s 8 Seconds, but it was his role on 90210 that defined him. That’s why in 1995, he exited the Fox series to pursue other projects. Perry starred in independent films like Normal Life and American Strays and appeared in The Fifth Element, but found more success on television. He returned to 90210 in 1998, where he remained until the series ended in 2000.
Perry played the Rev. Jeremiah Cloutier on HBO’s Oz in 2001, starred in the postapocalyptic TV series Jeremiah from 2002 to 2004, and had starring roles on both NBC’s Windfall, in 2006, and HBO’s John from Cincinnati, in 2007, both of which only lasted one season. In the years that followed, Perry had various guest-starring roles on television (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, Community), and appeared in several TV movies and in some smaller films. Although he floated around television for years, Perry had no interest in ever reprising his role as Dylan McKay. When 90210 was revived by the CW in 2008, he would not participate, despite original co-stars Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling jumping onboard.
“The difference between CW bringing something back and Aaron Spelling doing something back is significant. And I cannot do it without Aaron,” Perry said.
It wasn’t a surprise that when another Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot was officially announced last week, with a majority of the original cast returning, Perry was not one of them. Instead, he was quite content at his new home on Riverdale, where his TV comeback came in 2016 — only this time, Perry played the dad to the show’s teen sensation (K.J. Apa stars as Archie Andrews).
“Well, here’s the deal I made with K.J. I’ll play the dad, and I’ll let you have the cool hair for the first five or six weeks, then I’m going to start bringing it,” Perry told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “I like playing the dad because I like being a dad, and I think it’s a great character in the milieu of this show that I’m the grounded one. … I love that.”
Members of Perry’s Riverdale family are mourning the loss. The show shut down production on Monday as word of the actor’s death spread. Meanwhile, Molly Ringwald, who played his onscreen wife, Mary Andrews, spoke for friends and fans in a Twitter post:
Perry is survived by his two children, 21-year-old son Jack and 18-year-old daughter Sophie, whom he shared with ex-wife, Rachel “Minnie” Sharp. Perry and Sharp divorced in 2003 after 10 years together. The actor was notoriously private about his personal life. It was not public knowledge that he was even engaged to Wendy Madison Bauer until news of his death was confirmed.
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