Saved By The Bell: Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Ongoing Zack Morris Journey

There are few actors in the industry who do not like to reflect on past work and Saved by the Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar is one of them. After superfan Dashiell Driscoll took Gosselaar's signature role through the mud in his video series Zack Morris is Trash, the actor finally decided to see for himself how horrible his counterpart was in a podcast called Zack to the Future, a play on the 1980s franchise Back to the Future. Driscoll's series, which recaps classic episodes of the series and summarizes how harmful Bayside High's resident trouble maker destroys everything he touches, finally paid off twofold not only making him a consultant on the Peacock revival series but also gave him the opportunity to co-host the podcast with Gosselaar. The actor spoke to Variety about how it felt to formally return to the only role he regularly revisits but is only watching for the first time.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Mark Paul-Gosselaar
(ABC/Brian Bowen Smith)

"I feel like it's a little bit torturous every week for me to go through this process because I am watching my work — and it doesn't matter that it's 30 years old, it's still something that I feel like I can improve," Gosselaar said. "There are moments where I'm talking with Dashiell and I say, 'My timing is off there if I had just done it this way I bet I would have gotten a bigger laugh.' But that's just the perfectionist in me, which is why I don't like to watch my work: I feel like I should leave it on the set." The actor and Driscoll skipped the original Good Morning Miss Bliss, which was rebranded as the first season of Saved by the Bell by NBC Universal.

"Our pitch to Cadence13 was to be able to do all of the episodes, including the specials," Gosselaar said. "This first season I believe we're doing 25 episodes and the plan is to eventually work our way through the show." His work on the revival series began just last month. "The date we were given was Aug. 10 and I would have bet my house that we never would have made that, but we did, and I have to say we all feel safe — as safe as can be," he said. "We're being tested every day and the protocols are pretty good. I think all of us are pretty comfortable. We'll see how Mixed-ish does." When it came to revisiting SBTB, it never strayed far from Gosselaar's mind given how fond audiences were still of the original series.

Jimmy Fallon Went to Bayside High with "Saved By The Bell" Cast
Jimmy Fallon, Mark Paul-Gosselaar, Tiffani Theissen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez recreate Bayside High for a "Saved by the Bell" skit on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Image courtesy of NBC

"I'm not really sure," Gosselaar said. "I've always thought of revisiting Saved by the Bell in some capacity. Back in 2009, it was my idea to go on [Jimmy] Fallon's show and play Zack Morris through the entire interview. That was something I worked with Mike DiCenzo, one of his lead writers, on; Mike [wrote] a full 11-page script for us to go through. So I always wanted to do something, but I could never find something that would celebrate the original product without tarnishing it in some way. Had I thought of "Zack Morris is Trash" I would have been very proud of that take on it because I think that's an original take. I was a huge fan of Dashiell through his work on Zack Morris is Trash. And I've been approached many times to do a podcast, but I didn't watch the show so I couldn't wrap my head around how we would do a rewatch show. So we're trying to do something different. There's rewatch shows for The Office and what Zach Braff is doing with Donald Faison, but it's still so fresh in their minds; they still remember the process and the stories that happened on set. I remember nothing. The [new show] really accelerated the talks of getting it on the air, but Dashiell was the key to doing a project that didn't feel like the current ones out there. It felt like a fresh take on it and I was excited to be his partner."

Mark-Paul Gosselaar Hosts Saved by the Bell Watch Podcast
Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Saved by the Bell. Image courtesy of NBC Universal

Gosselaar talked about how he recorded episodes of Zack to the Future with Driscoll. "One a week," he said. "I was actually on the road with my family in an RV so the first three episodes were taped from my bathroom in the RV — Dashiell would be on one side of the phone and I'd be on the other. But the last three shows we've been able to do in person, which helps with the chemistry and just the vibe in the room. I watch the show on a Saturday, I take notes, Dashiell sends me some bullet points, I rewatch it on Sunday right before we begin taping to see if there's anything that I missed. We've been taping them on Sundays from my garage. And what we've been doing lately is rewatching the show in the background — no sound — as we do the show. It's sort of a work-in-progress."

Each episode of the podcast lent itself to a new opportunity. "For instance, the episode where it was "Dancing to the Max," that was just the perfect opportunity to talk with Elizabeth Berkley and get her take on that," Gosselaar said. "And recently we watched the show with my old [Franklin and Bash] castmate Breckin Meyer, and that was a fun take. We have other guests lined up. Obviously the show has impacted quite a few people, inside the industry and out, and we have the luxury of talking to those people. The show is still very fluid and we're trying to find the formula, but for right now keeping it loose and us having fun is good for the show." As much as Gosselaar like to binge, his busy schedule with the revival and the ABC series Mixed-ish keeps him at bay.

"…What I'd like to be doing is watching three or four episodes a week, but we've been able to do one a week just because of my schedule," he said. "I've had to rely heavily on Dashiell to be proactive and to basically tell me the episodes. For instance, the episode 'Screech is a Woman,' Zack dresses up in drag — [Laughs] Well Zack is Bambi, and we both came up with the idea that, 'Wouldn't it be great to talk to somebody from RuPaul's Drag Race and just get their take on it?' Like, how did I do, were you a fan of the show, did this in any way impact your life? But we ran out of time. It was a great idea, and in the future, when my schedule loosens up a little bit, we just need to line up these guests before. Nikki Glaser is another one who wants to come on the show, and I would love to do something with her when it's a dating episode because her thing is all about dating and I'd like to get her take on that. So as we go along we're going to be more proactive, but it's been tough with my schedule." For more about Gosselaar's learning experiences on SBTB, how he compares the series to its contemporaries, how the podcast differs from Driscoll's web series, how the revival compares to the original series, and other past roles he wouldn't mind revisiting, you can check out the remainder of the piece on Variety. Saved by the Bell premieres on the NBCU streamer Peacock in 2020.

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.