'90210' shocker: Leading man Milligan to exit

Dustinmilligan_l90210‘s new boss lady, Rebecca Rand Kirshner Sinclair, recently told me that the soap’s second season would be "significantly" different than the first, and, man, she wasn’t kidding.

Sources confirm to me exclusively that Dustin Milligan, who plays affable jock (and one half of 90210‘s central super couple) Ethan, won’t be returning to the show in the fall — at least not full time. 

Reps for The CW and producer Paramount declined comment, but a 90210 insider confirms that Milligan’s contract option is not being picked up for next season. The source adds that the door is being left open for the actor to briefly appear in the fall to wrap up Ethan’s story.

All indications are that Milligan’s exit was strictly a creative decision. "Everyone loves Dustin," maintains the insider. "There was just a feeling that the character had run its course." (Curiously, the news comes just days after Milligan’s newbie co-star,
Matt Lanter — a.k.a. bad boy Liam — confirmed that he was being promoted to a series regular next season.)

The departure of one the show’s most high profile leading men is the clearest indication yet that Sinclair’s ongoing reboot of the reboot will be anything but minor. Viewers will get their first taste of the Gilmore Girl alum’s new vision when 90210 returns from its winter hiatus this Tuesday with a hilariously campy outing that features the primetime soap trifecta: stalkers, street-racing, and scenery-chewing!

Looking ahead to season 2, Sinclair said last month that she wants to "reconceive things visually. There are opportunities to embrace California culture visually in terms of fashion and style; I want it to be more contemporary.

"If Gossip Girl is about youth in New York," she elaborated, "I want to [make 90210] about youth in L.A. and Beverly Hills."

The writer-producer also plans to rely less on 90210 vets such as Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty, and Tori Spelling to boost ratings. "The show tried to be a lot of things to a lot of people in its first season," she conceded. "I think the center lies with the generation of kids that are in high school now. I’m not interested in casting people for stunt value."

Sinclair, who replaces original show-runners Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs, said the show will benefit from having a singular vision. "The advantage of having one person — me — [in charge] is that scripts, what happens on the set, casting… it all speaks in one voice."

Thoughts on Sinclair’s new 90210? Waiting to pass judgment until you see this season’s remaining episodes? Is the loss of cute-but-boring Ethan a step in the right or wrong direction? Sound off below!

Comments (372 total) Add your comment
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  • Susan

    I don’t even watch 90210, but I’m considering this a step in the right direction… as it frees up super-talented MIlligan to star in other fare that will let him stretch his legs.

  • Emily

    whoa – even if he is kind of annoying, i liked the back story he had with Annie. I thought they might be the “ross and rachel/on again/off again”. Weird move, IMO

  • Aimee

    Can we please have more original programming on television and stop remaking shows that already ran their course? Thanks.

  • Zach

    I stopped watching this crap a long time ago, but if I were to tune in, it would *only* be to see one of the original actors. I think that focusing on the new generation is a step in the right direction creatively, if the show wants to last, but then it’s stupid to consider this series a spinoff and call it “90210.” What ties it to the original other than the area code? At least “The O.C.” had the decency to have their own setting. What can this show promise in the years to come as a spinoff of the original if it wants to turn its back on the original? What will differentiate the show from the other Gossip Girl wannabes? And why would they get rid of Milligan, who seems to be one of the more popular and tolerable actors on the show?

  • missing_him

    Good! Now maybe he’ll come back home?? (fingers crossed)

  • Mel

    This is SO dumb. He’s perfect for the main hottie role. His character’s run it’s course? IT’S ONLY BEEN ONE SEASON.

  • Scott

    Sounds like a mistake to fix what isn’t broken and narrow down your audience. The show is successful with the focus on the teens and occaisonal looks at “old-school” 90210 cast members. I think it would be a mistake to alter a winning format just so the new person can “put her own label on it”

  • Lanter_is_HOT

    The liam character has been what the show needs, hes super hot, a good actor and can be the new dylan
    i bet they couldnt keep both and the ethan character was kind of boring anyway

  • Sonny

    hmm, someone who used to work on Gilmore Girls? so we should expect them to all talk a mile a minute now in one long annoying sentence. say it with me: Canceled.

  • Pedro

    to be honest I actually think that is a step in the right direction… Ethan was an important character (of course), but Annie/Ethan wasn’t really a great couple, not the one people would be talking about the day after…
    On the other hand, Dixon/Silver is a lot more interesting, and it reminds me a little bit of how I used to feel regarding Seth and Summer (though there’s nothing in common between them)
    And they don’t really have to show Kelly, Brenda and others to make 90210 great!!
    I just wish they would show even more interaction between couples…
    ;)

  • Mooshki

    For the love of humanity, take Shenae Grimes with you. I’M BEGGING YOU!!!

  • danielle

    aw, i really liked him.

  • Cassie

    Bravo! His character was terribly uninspired and uninteresting. I’m definitely interested in this reboot to the reboot now. Here’s to the writing getting better.

  • cibele

    Well, i don’t watch this anymore. I stopped because of that Annie girl. That would be a right move, to get rid of her. But if they are making some changes, i might try to watch again.

  • Shane

    I agree that it is a good idea to bump Ethan off the show. He is so boring. But I disagree with the idea of using Garth, Doherty, and Spelling less. I enjoy them and would like to see more of them. I mean, on Gossip Girl, we have Rufus and Lily’s storylines, too. Why can’t the 90210 kids share some screentime with the older generation as well? (NOT that I consider Jennie Garth or Tori Spelling old or anything.)

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