Lifetime's 'Death of a Cheerleader' remake brings back Kellie Martin in new role

For all that she's done on television - and she's done a lot - "Death of a Cheerleader" remains one of Kellie Martin's most popular credits.

That's why the producers of a remake were so eager for her to participate. They let her choose any role she wanted, within reason. She settled on playing an FBI agent who investigates the murder of one high school student by another in the fact-inspired drama that Lifetime presents in its new form Saturday, Feb. 2.

Also known as "A Friend to Die For," the 1994 version cast Martin (who had just come off her series run on "Life Goes On") as a teen desperate to be accepted by a popular peer, portrayed by Tori Spelling (then starring on "Beverly Hills, 90210"). Now, those parts belong to Aubrey Peeples and Sarah Dugdale respectively, but Martin is pleased to be on board as well.

"I think my first reaction was that I giggled," she recalls of getting the remake offer. "First I thought, 'How great,' because it's such a fascinating story that I wasn't surprised that they wanted to revisit it. Secondly, I thought, 'Am I this old? Is that what it is?'"

The FBI role appealed to Martin largely because she could be in the story's big interrogation scene ... again. However, she's on the other side of the table this time.

"It was written for a man," Martin reports. "I remember feeling pretty gutted through the entire shooting of the (original) movie. I think I was 17, and every single day was fraught with the maximum amount of emotion. With this, I could be clear-eyed and get (the suspect) to start talking."

An FBI agent (Kellie Martin), right, questions a suspect in Lifetime's "Death of a Cheerleader," airing Saturday, Feb. 2. Courtesy of Lifetime

Martin reasons that her playing such an unexpected twist was a big factor in the mid-'90s impact "Death of a Cheerleader" had: "I feel like people were able to identify with the character on a certain level, and then she did something so horrible, that was a big surprise."

At this stage of her career and life, married mother-of-two Martin - a Hallmark Channel staple lately, encompassing love stories and the lighter "Hailey Dean" mysteries - admits that such intense drama is "not a place I like to go, and I find that I don't really choose those parts anymore. It's interesting to revisit this, though."

Indeed, Martin marvels at how "people love this movie" 25 years after NBC aired the original take on it. "They're happy to watch it over and over, and people are still always coming up to me and saying that it's their favorite television movie of all time."

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"Death of a Cheerleader"

Airs at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, on Lifetime

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