When you think teen drama, what shows come to mind? If Beverly Hills, 90210 is missing from that list, something's wrong with you. On October 4, 1990, Fox premiered a little show about the Walsh family, Minnesotans who move to Beverly Hills, Calif. There was father Jim, mother Cindy, and the two twins, the “perfect” guy in Brandon and the sweetheart with a mean streak in Brenda. This was no Beverly Hillbillies situation—the Walshes immediately became part of 90210's fast and fabulous lifestyle, for better or for worse. Many times for worse, as creator Aaron Spelling and co. used high drama to take its audience through a maze of hot button issues and messages. One week, the gang learned about drug addiction. The next week, racism. And who could forget the week the gang learned about gun safety? As cookie cutter as it may sound now, this show absolutely exploded, and made icons out of its cast: Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling, and Gabrielle Carteris. Even Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, who was coming off of teen heartthrob status from Saved by the Bell, became a bigger star after joining the show in season five.

Beverly Hills, 90210 lasted 10 seasons and 293 episodes, but 20 years later, some moments stand out more than others. In season two, after the success of the summer episodes, class was back in session for the kids of West Beverly High School. And like with any new year of school, there came the promise of new kids. That season, the fresh blood was Emily Valentine, played by Christine Elise, a motorcycle-riding, leather jacket-wearing, punk rocker who definitely wasn’t like the rest of the girls in Beverly Hills. She was Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind Of Wonderful meets Aimee Mann in 'Til Tuesday, and she immediately found her way into the heart of Brandon and the crosshairs of his sister Brenda. Despite her hardened exterior, Emily Valentine was depicted as just as sweet as her name, a girl who was the picture perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

But bring up the name Emily Valentine these days, and any Beverly Hills, 90210 fan will no doubt have something to say, usually something about arson and a little something called “U4EA.” The sweetness of Emily Valentine remained, but it fell to the background when she dosed the straight edge Brandon with a happy drug at a rave, started stalking him when he dumped her, and set fire to a parade float. All bets were off—and the show was way better for it.

There’s a sense of awe and fondness that goes with the memories of Emily Valentine, something one wouldn’t generally expect for such a “crazy” character. So with Beverly Hills, 90210 turning 25 years old, we tracked down the actress behind Emily to talk about her role as one of 90210’s most memorable characters. If you didn’t think you could love Emily Valentine even more, think again.

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