Luke Perry, the actor who rose to prominence as a brash teen heartthrob on Beverly Hills, 90210 before growing into an authority figure in recent years on Riverdale, died on Monday after suffering a massive stroke. He was 52.
A publicist confirmed the death, and said that he was surrounded by his family, including his children Jack, 21, and Sophie, 18, and his fiancé Wendy Madison Bauer. He had been hospitalized last week after reportedly suffering a stroke in his home.
“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning,” his publicist wrote in a statement.
Luke Perry’s Life & Career
Perry was born in Fredericktown, Ohio and moved to Los Angeles after high school to pursue acting. In 1988, he landed his first acting roles in New York on the daytime soap operas Loving and Another World.
Two years later, he broke through when he was cast as the brooding loner Dylan McKay on the Fox teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210. The show premiered to poor reviews but soon developed an obsessive cult following, particularly among younger viewers. It stood out for its unflinching portrayal of issues facing teenagers, including HIV and AIDS, date rape, cancer and teen pregnancy.
Perry’s character was a bad boy with a sensitive streak who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction; he had tempestuous and highly scrutinized relationships with several female characters on the show. The role turned Perry into a teen idol and landed him on the covers of Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone in 1992.
Hordes followed Perry for all of his public appearances. In the Rolling Stone cover article, he recounted having to be smuggled out of a mall in a laundry hamper. And at a 1991 autograph signing in Florida, a crowd of 10,000 fans hoping to meet Perry caused a stampede that sent at least nine people to the hospital.
“I know that a lot of people are casting a very cynical eye my way, in terms of what happens in the future,” he told Rolling Stone. “I’m not worried about being a big star. But it makes me nervous when people talk about it like it’s already happened.”
Perry was part of the main cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 for its first six seasons; he departed to pursue other opportunities and then returned for its tenth and final season. After the show ended, he took on roles in the HBO prison drama Oz and the Showtime post-apocalyptic drama Jeremiah. In 2001 he appeared on Broadway in The Rocky Horror Show.
Recently, Perry returned to prominence with the CW’s Riverdale, another teen drama. Perry appeared in all three of the show’s seasons as Fred Andrews, the father of the protagonist Archie Andrews. “I like playing the dad because I like being a dad,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017. But he also joked that the role provoked a competition with K.J. Apa, who plays Archie: “I’ll play the dad, and I’ll let you have the cool hair for the first five or six weeks, then I’m going to start bringing it.”
Perry is slated to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Charles Mason movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as the actor Wayne Maunder. The film is scheduled for release in July.
Tributes to Luke Perry
As the news of Perry’s death spread, many friends and collaborators paid their respects on social media. Several former Beverly Hills, 90210 costars wrote posts.
The creator of Riverdale, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, responded, as did co-star Molly Ringwald.
Various celebrities wrote about their interactions with Perry. Joss Whedon recalled meeting Perry on the set of the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown wrote that Perry “made his home state proud.” Brown’s father, a doctor, delivered Perry, and Perry campaigned for Brown across Ohio in 2006.