American TV star Jason Priestley, currently on stage in the West End, will soon swap London for a Los Angeles jail cell. Yesterday in California, the actor was issued with a five days' sentence after his lawyers pleaded no contest on his behalf for a drunk driving charge after a road accident last December.
Priestley made his British stage debut last month in the Tony Award winning Broadway transfer of Warren Leight's Side Man in which he plays the son of an alcoholic mother and an obsessed trumpeter father in a dysfunctional family that falls apart during New York's jazz age. When the charge was announced in December, doubts were raised as to whether Priestley would be able to travel to London for the theatre engagement, but he has done so while freed on $50,000 bail.
In a statement issued yesterday, Priestley stressed that the London production of Side Man would not be compromised by his conviction. "I have been charged with a misdemeanor and not a felony," he said. "By law, a conviction of a misdemeanor in Los Angeles carries a minimum sentence of five nights in a detention facility in Los Angeles, to be taken any time before one year has expired. Since I am only contracted to appear in Side Man until June 10, it does not affect, in any way, my appearance in the play."
Priestley was arrested on Dec. 3, 1999, after crashing his Porsche into a power pole, rubbish bins and a parked car in Hollywood. Although he was not hurt, his passenger, Chad Cook, 27, suffered a broken arm. At the time, Priestley told police the accident was caused by his swerving to avoid hitting a deer in the middle of the road.
Priestley was charged with driving over the legal alcohol limit and causing injury while driving under the influence. If convicted, he could have served up to three years in prison. This week, in addition to the five days in jail, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ordered the actor to serve three years' probation and to undergo treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Priestley is best known for his years in the teen TV series "Beverley Hills 90210." His film credits include "Love and Death on Long Island," in which he starred opposite John Hurt. In Side Man, he is joined by many of the original New York cast including Edie Falco and the Tony Award-winning Frank Wood.
Side Man is directed by Michael Mayer with set design by Neil Patel, costumes by Tom Broecker, lighting by Kenneth Posner and sound by Raymond D Schilke. For further information on the London production, contact the Apollo box office on 011-44-20-7494-5070.