Saved by the Bell: Mark-Paul Gosselaar on OG & New Series Perspectives

If there's anyone who's self-conscious about his own career, it's actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who's best known for his work on the NBC Saturday Morning series and Peacock reboot in Saved by the Bell. Appearing on Michael Rosenbaum's podcast Inside of You, Gosselaar compared his own experiences growing up as a child actor, addressing his own insecurities about his own performances compared to child stars today, what he's proud of, comparing himself to his signature character Zack Morris, and tempering his own discourse on the series in the clip.

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Lark Voorhies, Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Saved by the Bell (2021). Photo by Trae Patton/Peacock

Going from Saved by the Bell as its original star to an executive producer and supporting cast was a bit of a transition for Gosselaar as it made him self-conscious of his own performances back on the series' original run. "I hate [watching myself]," he said. "It's torture. I can appreciate certain things, but I would bum myself out. Because then I would work with the new generation of 'Saved by the Bell', the new cast, and I go, 'God, they're so much more fucking talented than I ever was back then,' like why did my career go the way it did from that? That to me was mediocre compared to what this new generation is doing. I look at it at that point like I say, 'I could have done that better. I could have taken it more serious.' I try to learn from things but I don't. I learn from experiences on set. I don't learn from watching myself, because then it just becomes like…it's already set. I can't do anything about it, right? I'm just gonna go to sleep grumpy."

Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar reprise their roles as Kelly Kapowski and Zack Morris in the Saved by the Bell sequel, courtesy of NBC Universal.
Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Kelly Kapowski and Zack Morris in the Saved by the Bell, Image courtesy of NBC Universal.

While Gosselaar developed more of an appreciation of his current work in the baseball drama Pitch and the sitcom Mixed-ish, the actor resolved that it's easier to play a complete character telling Rosenbaum while revealing how unlike his SBTB character he actually is. "I'm sure it's the same for you. If you're outside of Michael, and you're playing a complete character, I can't judge it as much," Gosselaar explained. "I look back at 'Saved by the Bell' and that was a character. That wasn't me. I wasn't a cool kid and I didn't even have blond hair. My mother's Indonesian and my father's Dutch. I come from a mixed family and I'm playing the whitest kid in America. You'd think I look back and say, 'Oh, that's a character,' but some of the choices that I made with the dialogue I feel like I could have done better."

After Gosselaar showed more envy of contemporary child actors, he recalled a moment of pushback he got for stating the obvious when he compared the writing of Saved by the Bell was not the same as the more adult drama series in AMC's Breaking Bad to which Rosenbaum agreed. "I remember being on a bicycle ride after I said that and somebody from TMZ got my number and called me," Gosselaar recalled. "I just picked up the phone, 'Hello' and was asked if 'I wanted to comment on my comments, because it sounds like I'm ungrateful for my experience'. It's not what I meant." For more on his career, you can listen to Inside of You.

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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 Fangoria. As a 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.
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