Saved by the Bell: Elizabeth Berkley Discusses Keeping Series Fresh

Elizabeth Berkley made an indelible mark on pop culture stemming from the NBC Saturday morning teenage sitcom that helped make her star in Saved by the Bell in the 1990s to the cult classic in Showgirls (1995), while maligned upon its initial release has since been the subject of academic papers for film studies. Now the actress made her triumphant return as student-turned guidance counselor as Jessie Spano Ph.D. in the NBC Universal 2020 sequel series Saved by the Bell on its streamer Peacock. Berkley spoke to Collider about how her return to the franchise and how he dealt with the fame of the 1990's series.

Saved by the Bell: Elizabeth Berkley Is So Excited in New Trailer
Image courtesy of NBC Universal

"We all need some fun and joy right now, more than ever," Berkley said about the SBTB's return. "Of course, we could never have known that the timing of this could bring such joy, when you were first deciding to go for it and do it, but I'm grateful to be a part of something that gets to do that right now." When asked about what her initial thoughts about returning, the actress stated it was always about the execution. "if we were gonna do it, it was about how would we do it?" she recalled. "The 'how' was everything. There were a couple of takes on it that we heard that just didn't feel right. But honestly, the minute we sat down with (co-creator) Tracey [Wigfield] and the executives from Universal, and we started to hear her idea and take on it, I just was all in. First of all, she grew up loving it and watching it herself. When you began from that place of reverence for a project and what it meant to her childhood, as well, coming from that place of love, I just knew that with her skill and talent and all of that in her heart, that combo just felt right. I couldn't be more grateful that it was her."

Saved By the Bell: New Trailer Reintroduces Zack, Kelly, and Dewey?
Image courtesy of NBCU

Defining the new series was important to Berkley because she simply didn't want to recycle what was already done given the growth of its existing characters. "Right and we wouldn't have wanted to do something that was the same because we have evolved," she said "We were children when we did the show, truly. We didn't even have our driver's licenses yet when we played these roles. So, as we've evolved as human beings, and we're now women and men who have families, children, and all of that, we wanted to reflect, in a comedic way, of course, where our characters would have grown into."

Saved by the Bell: EP, Cast Talks Retaining Spirit of Original
Image courtesy of NBC Universal/Peacock

Berkley was more than happy to help rear in the new cast taking a leadership role in the new incarnation. "Then, of course, we're introducing this new, exciting cast, as well," she said. "For me, as a producer, it was a really exciting part of the journey and it was important to me, to be a part of every step of the casting. I was so invested in that. I'm in so many other aspects, creatively, but that piece, for me, was important. I was at every session and watched every link. I was with people for their chemistry reads. That was really exciting. We have a couple of people who are super seasoned in the industry, but most of the cast is fresh and new. Even the two kids that have worked so much, Josie [Totah] is an extraordinary talent and this role was a really unique role for her and a real moment, and Dexter [Darden] has done a lot of film and television, but it felt new for all of us. Even though it's a legacy show and has been in pop culture, all of these years, and really met so many different generations, with this new reimagining, we all felt like we were making something new, but celebrating something that we have all known, and of course, for us in the OG core, we have lived with, all of these years."

For more on Berkley where she talks about working with castmates Mario Lopez. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Tiffani Thiessen, how their characters changed over the years while bonding with the new students, and the lasting effects of Showgirls with her career to its embracement within the LGBT community, you can check the rest of the interview in Collider. The first season of Saved by the Bell is available to stream on Peacock.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.