The CW series "90210" (2008- ) found its resident heartthrob in Dustin Milligan, who played likeable jock, Ethan Ward. The Canadian actor was a post-Y2K version of the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" (FOX, 1990-2000) leading men, Jason Priestley and Luke Perry: a rebel with little cause, but with lots of heart. His surprising exit from the show in the fall of 2009 disappointed heartbroken fans, yet residing in television's most famous zip code even for one season was enough to keep Milligan's star shining for many years.
Dustin Milligan was born on July 28, 1985 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. The star of high school productions of "Grease" (1978) and "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), the aspiring actor packed up his belongings in his mother's station wagon after graduation and headed to Vancouver, British Columbia - what the actor later nicknamed "Hollywood North" on his personal website. The hardworking Milligan juggled working as a part time cake-cutter, attending acting classes, and going to the gym - all in pursuit of a successful career in showbiz.
Milligan first appeared onscreen as a rapper in the Lifetime movie, "Perfect Romance" (2004), followed by minor roles in "Dead Like Me" (Showtime, 2003-04) and in "Andromeda" (Sci Fi Channel, 2000-05). Back in his homeland, the actor played opposite "The O.C." (FOX, 2003-07) star Kelly Rowan, as her missing son in the television film "Eight Days to Live" (CTV, 2006).
Hollywood took notice of the actor when he was cast in the lead for "Runaway," a suspenseful series from (then) brand new network The CW that also starred Donnie Wahlberg. After its September 2006 premiere, The CW ran three more episodes of "Runaway" before taking it off the air. Milligan's film work kept the young star busy that same year, with appearances in the teen gorefest "Final Destination 3" as well as in "Slither" and "The Butterfly Effect 2." Actress Kristen Stewart acted alongside Milligan twice in 2007; in the films "The Messengers" and "In the Land of Women," a romantic "dramedy" that also starred Meg Ryan and Adam Brody.
When the creators of "90210" - a reinvention of seminal teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210" - cast their leads in 2008, Milligan was the first actor on board. The casting could not have been more perfect. Audiences loved Milligan's portrayal of Ethan - the school jock who has fallen for the show's central figure Annie (Shenae Grimes) while still working things out with his popular girlfriend Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord). Playing a multidimensional character was a breath of fresh air for the Canadian actor, who played Ethan as an emotionally aware and sensitive athlete instead of the archetypal bully the jock role was commonly known for onscreen.
In real life, Milligan dated "90210" co-star Jessica Stroup. The show's success made the couple a paparazzi target, following them from movie premieres to Hollywood restaurants. Milligan stated in various interviews that he could not get used to all the attention and that he preferred daytime sports like skateboarding and going to the beach instead of being part of Tinseltown's nightlife scene.
The day after the show's premiere in September 2008, Milligan and his co-stars celebrated the announcement that "90210" became the highest-rated debut in The CW network's history. Not resting on the success of the show, the actor continued work in film, including the independent release "Eve" (2008), and the Mike Judge-directed comedy "Extract" (2009) with Mila Kunis and Ben Affleck.
In March 2009, The CW announced Milligan was not returning to "90210" the following season. It was reported that the actor's exit was due to producer Rebecca Rand Kirshner Sinclair's creative decision to make the second season significantly different from the first. It seemed fans of the show did not agree with the decision and rallied behind the actor all the way to his 2009 Teen Choice Award nomination for Choice TV Actor: Drama.