Shannen Doherty opened up about how learning she had cancer in 2015 impacted her filming of the movie Bethany. During the February 12 episode of her podcast, Let’s Be Clear, featuring director and screenwriter James Cullen Bressack. Doherty said that she received news of her cancer diagnosis just a week or two before filming began. Doherty revealed to PEOPLE in 2015 that she had breast cancer, which went into remission in 2017 but returned in 2020 at stage 4. In a 2023 PEOPLE cover story, Doherty said that the cancer had spread to her bones.
Shannen Doherty’s cancer diagnosis affected the filming of Bethany
On Monday, 12 February, in her podcast, Let’s Be Clear, with James Cullen Bressack director Shannen Doherty opened up about how her cancer diagnosis affected the filming of Bethany. The star best known for her roles in Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She went into remission in 2017 but was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2020. In 2023, the actress revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain and bones.
Bressack, who directed Bethany, recounted on the episode, “You called me when you had just started your meds and said, ‘I’m not sure if I can do this.’ I reassured you, ‘If you can’t manage it, we’ll find a solution, but I believe distracting yourself by working will be beneficial.'”
He continued, “And you showed up and gave it your all. I recall one instance when, perhaps due to the medication, you struggled with a particular speech, the one where you confronted yourself in the mirror… it’s all about beauty and such.”
Doherty, who portrayed Susan in the film shared her struggles with focus and performance after the diagnosis. She recalled a scene where she had to touch her face in a mirror, causing her to repeatedly forget her lines, despite her impeccable memory. “My mind was consumed by thoughts of cancer — what it meant and what lay ahead — and suddenly, I was confronted with this monologue that felt utterly disconnected,” she said.
After a discussion, Doherty and Bressack decided to approach the scene without words, drawing inspiration from Robert De Niro’s silent intensity in The Godfather Part II.
“You suggested, ‘I’ll convey it with just a look,'” Bressack recalled. “And you did. You looked in the mirror, tears welled up, and you didn’t utter a word. It was all there in your expression.”
Doherty agreed, “It’s a moment I’m particularly proud of as an actor,” she said. “I believe it’s much more challenging to convey everything solely through expression; words can often be a crutch.”
Shannen Doherty discussed how she hopes new treatments will extend her life
In January, on another episode of her podcast, Shannen Doherty and her guest, oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro, discussed how cancer treatments have evolved in recent years, as well as Doherty’s hopes that future advancements will allow her to continue living a full life.
“I always talk about the fact that we just need to squeeze out another three to five years, and then there’s going to be T-cell therapy or there’s going to be this,” she said on the podcast episode. “There’s going to be a lot more options that will give another five years. Then in those five years, there’s a whole other group of options, and eventually, there’s going to be a cure.”
Dr. Piro noted how cancer treatment has evolved in recent years, saying there are “many different chapters [to living with cancer now].” He continued, “I always say that it’s important to think of each therapy as a horse, and in a horse race, you want to ride every horse as long as it rides, and then you ride the next horse as much as possible… you hope you make it a few laps then there’s altogether another new set of horses to ride, to make the race that much longer.”
The podcast episode offers a message of hope for those undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer and serves as a reminder that, in time, novel and innovative treatments may become available.
In another episode of the podcast, Doherty shared that having both a positive mindset and hope has had a positive effect on her fight. “All I can do is live each day in as much as a positive manner with hope as I can and embrace it and feel like, ‘Wow, I get to wake up again today, what can I do?'” The Charmed actress is hoping future advancements in cancer treatment will help her live another three to five years.