The role of Devante on Peacock's Saved by the Bell came naturally to actor Dexter Darden, which he can draw from his own experiences. As one of three students of Douglas High along with Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez) and Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Pena), Devante initially finds himself in an uphill battle with stereotypes with the better-funded Bayside High. I spoke to Darden about landing the role, how he relates to the character, the bond he developed with co-star Josie Totah, and how he's handled fame.
"It was incredible," Darden said. "To be honest, when you come in, you never know how people will receive it, but the way our showrunner Tracey Wigfield went about making sure we went about this the right way assembling a talented young cast together, who can articulate their message. It's a dream come true seeing how people are relating to it. It's been pretty awesome." Wigfield is an executive producer on Saved by the Bell, which was originally created by Sam Bobrick in the late '80s. As Daisy and Aisha find their own place at Bayside, the experience was different for Devante initially. First, with his frame, head football coach A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) attempts to recruit him for the team not actually gauging his interest initially.
"I related more to Devante than any other character in my life I ever played," Darden said. "Coming in, you can be tall and can be an unassuming African American male. People tend to have a perception of you before you even open your mouth, because of who you are, what you are, and what you're interested in. When I got the role, I really wanted to bring normalcy and groundedness showing people that, 'Hey, this is somebody's real reality.' There are people like myself, who are constantly misjudged or pegged as to be something that they're not. I really wanted to show that reality. I wanted to give the kids the opportunity to see that you can be something different than what the norm is than what they would typically see."
Instead of athletics which was what Aisha picked, Devante picked the stage and performing in theatre and eventually develops a bond with Lexi (Totah), who like him, is also looking to gain acceptance for who she is rather than defined by others' assumptions. The two actors also developed one off-camera too. "Josie is my little sister," he said. "I could not have asked to have a more talented, hungry, and aggressive scene partner for the majority of the material that we did. Very few times, you get to work with a comedic genius or prodigy in that sense. I really feel Josie is like that in a sense. She's a trailblazer in her own right and what she means to the LGBTQ community and all her advocacy in her own right promoting equality. It's always nice to share the screen with someone whose talent you believe in, somebody you also believe in as a human."
When it comes to Darden's other projects, he always appreciates any fan who follows his work especially those who recognize him from The Maze Runner franchise. "The Maze Runner was such a big franchise and had such a major effect on everybody," he said. "I love that people still feel appreciation for it. I love that people still have a connection to it. When you work over eight years and get the opportunity to create a franchise people really love, you hope people still respect it so any time anyone comes up to me whether if it's The Maze Runner or anything else I've done, it really means a lot to me that they followed my career. I appreciate it that way." The first season of Saved by the Bell is available to stream the NBC Universal streamer Peacock.