Shannen was born in Memphis, Tennessee on April 12, 1971 to parents Tom and Rosa. Her father worked in a bank while her mother owned a beauty parlor. She has an older brother named Sean. In 1978 the young Shannen (who was only seven at the time) and her family moved to Los Angeles, where her father started a West Coast branch of the family transportation business. Shannen has always been close to her family, who disciplined her from a young age. She knew she wanted to pursue an acting career at the tender age of seven. Things moved quickly, and she made her debut at age 10, with a role on the series "Father Murphy" (1981).
Shannen was a confident student, involving herself in school performances and trying hard at class work, making sure she always had exceptional grades. Despite her confidence, she kept to herself and preferred to be alone rather than be with large groups of people. She cracked into the entertainment world at just 11 years old, starring in "Little House on the Prairie" (1974) as Jenny Wilder. It was Michael Landon who noticed her performance in an episode of "Father Murphy" (1981), when he decided to cast her. She then went on to appear in "Our House" (1986) with Deidre Hall and Wilford Brimley. She also starred alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt in Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) and then in Heathers (1989), a teen comedy in which Winona Ryder also starred.
Shannen's real success came in 1990, at the age of 19, when she secured a part on Aaron Spelling's teen drama, "Beverly Hills, 90210" (1990) as the character Brenda Walsh, who was a teenage twin sister to Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley). She attracted a lot of attention from the press and eventually gained celebrity status. It was a very successful popular teen drama and teenage girls everywhere related to her character, Brenda Walsh. After four years, Shannen left the show in 1994. She starred in Almost Dead (1994) and Mallrats (1995) to keep her acting career alive.
She was reunited with Aaron Spelling when in 1998, she was offered the part of Prue Halliwell on "Charmed" (1998), a show about three witches who protect the innocent. She starred alongside Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs. After just 3 seasons, she left to work on other projects, such as movies. She had directed three of the last episodes she had starred in. She has already been in 3 movies since leaving "Charmed" (1998), which are Another Day (2001) (TV), The Rendering (2002) (AKA: 'Portrait of Murder'), Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay (2002) (TV), and Nightlight (2003) (TV) (AKA: 'View of Terror'). She also hosted season one of "Scare Tactics" (2003) and eight episodes of season two but left to pursue other endeavors.
In the fall of 2004, Shannen later returned to television on Fox's drama series "North Shore" (2004) where she starred as Alexandra Hudson, the long lost sister of Brooke Burns. Eventually the show was canceled after one season. Then in 2005, she got the role of Denise Johnson on the UPN series "Love, Inc." (2005), however she was dropped from the sitcom. From there she has ventured on into new projects and is looking to produce her own series.
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