Jason Priestley gives used car salesmen an even badder name in the new comedy series Call Me Fitz.
As the hard-drinking, embezzling, egomaniacal womanizer Richard Fitzpatrick, Priestley obliterates all lingering thoughts of him as likable teen Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills 90201.
“Roles like Fitz just aren’t written that often. So when you read one —you jump at it,” Priestley enthused during a recent trip to Toronto. “Hell, I fought for the part. I went in and auditioned. And thankfully my ideas on the character jibed with (creator) Sheri Ellwood.”
In the series opener — premiering Sept. 19 on HBO Canada — Fitz’ debauched life unravels when a test drive leaves a customer in a coma.
Returning to work, Fitz finds new competition in Larry (Ernie Grunwald), who claims to be his conscience. Larry says it’s his job to get Fitz’ life back on track — if that’s even possible with the morally-bankrupt salesman.
“It’s a real fine line with Fitz. The trick is that even though he’s doing these questionable things, you have to make the audience care,” says Priestley.
“Even if you don’t like him, you have to understand his motivations. That allows you to laugh.”
Call Me Fitz is already a hit — of sorts. Filming of the second season has already begun in Nova Scotia.
“That’s a pretty good trick, eh?” laughs Priestley. “The first season turned out really well. But we still need people to watch it now.”
Priestley, who also helmed two episodes of Call Me Fitz, has in recent years become a TV director-for-hire on shows like The Secret Life of The American Teenager and 7th Heaven.
“Being able to jump between acting and directing, I think makes me better on both sides of the camera,” he says.
Priestley even directed an episode of the recently revamped 90210. He says the young cast didn’t seem all that interested in his old 90210 war stories.
“Hey — it’s been a lot of years. I think most of the actors are too young and never saw me in the original show.”
Call Me Fitz airs Sunday night on HBO Canada.