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Shannen Doherty Shares How Her Cancer Diagnosis Affected Her Filming of the Horror Movie “Bethany”

"My mind was consumed by thoughts of cancer — what it meant and what lay ahead," the actress shared on an episode of her podcast 'Let's Be Clear'

<p>AFF-USA/Shutterstock</p> Shannen Doherty in October 2019

AFF-USA/Shutterstock

Shannen Doherty in October 2019

Shannen Doherty opened up about how learning she had cancer in 2015 impacted her filming of the movie Bethany.

During the Feb. 12 episode of her podcast, Let's Be Clear, featuring director and screenwriter James Cullen Bressack, the actress, 52, 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 the cancer had spread to her 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 confront yourself in the mirror... it's all about beauty and such."

<p>Uncork'd Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection</p> Shannen Doherty in the 2017 film Bethany

Uncork'd Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Shannen Doherty in the 2017 film Bethany

Related: Shannen Doherty Reveals the Fellow '90s Star Who Played a Key Role in Her Cancer Journey

Doherty, portraying Susan in the film, elaborated on the difficulties she faced trying to focus and perform amid her recent diagnosis.

She recalled that the scene Bressack mentioned, in which she had to gaze into a mirror and touch her face, was especially challenging. She found herself repeatedly forgetting her lines, a rarity for someone known for 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.

<p>Neilson Barnard/Getty Images</p> Shannen Doherty in October 2019

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Shannen Doherty in October 2019

Related: Shannen Doherty Is Focused on How Her Cancer Treatments Can Help Her 'Squeeze Out Another 3 to 5 Years' of Life 

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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."

In January, on another episode of her podcast, 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," the Beverly Hills 90210 alum said of the ever-evolving field of cancer research.

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