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'Saved By The Bell' Cast: Then & Now

By Amy & Nancy Harrington, | Friday, June 5, 2009, 6:48 PM

Cast of 'Saved By The Bell'
Everett Collection

In 1988 the Disney Channel picked up a rejected NBC pilot called "Good Morning, Miss Bliss." The show, which focused on an inspirational teacher (Hayley Mills) and her students at Indiana's John F. Kennedy Junior High School, was cancelled after one season. But NBC finally saw the potential. The network picked up the series, moved the school to the Pacific Palisades, California, cleared out some of the cast (including Mills), and refocused on the students. "Bliss" survivors (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Lark Voorhies, Dustin Diamond, and Dennis Haskins) were joined by a few new faces (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez), and a tween sensation was born. And while most of us are embarrassed to admit, even after all this time, that we were fans, "Saved By The Bell" has a very famous follower: Jimmy Fallon.


[Video: See Jimmy Fallon's plea to the cast members to come on his show.] 


Since taking over Conan O'Brien's "Late Night" desk in March, Fallon's been making his campaign for a cast reunion a regular bit (and he's collected more than 30,000 fan signatures on his Web site's online petition), so it seems likely that when Gosselaar appears on "Late Night" on June 8 Fallon will turn up the heat some more. In the meantime, let's check in with him and his former cast mates to see what they're up to these days.


[Photo gallery: See the "Saved By The Bell" cast, then and now.]



Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris

Mark-Paul had made a few commercials and guest appearances on shows like "Highway to Heaven" and "Punky Brewster" before dyeing his hair blonde and taking the role of class stud Zack Morris on "Good Morning, Miss Bliss." When the show became "Saved by the Bell" and moved to NBC, Zack became the lead character. Gosselaar reprised the role on the spin-off "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" and in the special "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas," where Zack finally took his high school sweetheart, Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), as his bride with all their classmates (and Mr. Belding, of course) as witnesses.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Now The actor's enjoyed a remarkably solid post-"Bell" career, sidestepping the curse that has befallen many of his costars. In 2001 he joined "NYPD Blue," taking on the handsome young detective role formerly played by another former child star, Rick Schroder. When the police drama ended in 2005, Mark-Paul joined the cast of the short-lived Geena Davis series "Commander in Chief." Then he moved to HBO's failed "John from Cincinnati" before finding a home as the star of TNT's "Raising the Bar," which begins its second season this week. When he's not working, Mark-Paul is a race-car driver and track cyclist. In fact, he won the latter's Category 4/5 Sprint Championship event last year.



Mario López as A.C. Slater

"Saved by the Bell" wasn't Mario's first TV show. In fact, just a couple of years before joining "Bell" as transfer student A.C. Slater, López appeared on "Kids Incorporated" as a drummer and dancer. But his first gig was the Mexican-American ABC sitcom "a.k.a. Pablo," starring Paul Rodriguez and Hector Elizondo.

Mario López: Now After "SBTB," Mario found further success on the series "Pacific Blue" as Officer Bobby Cruz; as Dr. Christian Ramírez on the daytime soap "The Bold and the Beautiful"; and as himself on the dudes' answer to "The View," "The Other Half," alongside Danny Bonaduce. But it wasn't until he laced up his jazz shoes once more on "Dancing with the Stars" that he became a household name again. Still, those dusted-off "Kids Incorporated" moves couldn't outshine pro football player Emmitt Smith; Mario finished second that season. He's spun his "DWTS" fame into a mini-Ryan Seacrest-like career hosting "Extra," "The Miss Teen USA Pageant," "Miss Universe," "America's Best Dance Crew," and "MTV's Top Pop Group." Unfortunately for Lopez fans, Drew Carey beat him out for Bob Barker's coveted "The Price Is Right" hosting spot. Undaunted, Lopez took his "DWTS" experience to the stage, making his Broadway debut in a 2008 revival of "A Chorus Line." He's managed to make news with his personal escapades, too: first for his brief (we mean really brief) marriage to Ali Landry, who dumped him after two weeks of marriage for allegedly cheating on her at his bachelor party and within days exchanging "I do's," then for his on-again/off-again (now permanently off-again) romance with "Dancing" partner Karina Smirnoff.



Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle

A once-shy aspiring ballerina, Voorhies made her acting debut at the age of two but didn't stand before cameras again until the age of 11. In 1988, at the age of 14, she made a guest appearance on "Small Wonder." Later that year she landed the role of Lisa Turtle on "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" and was the only female cast member to move to "Saved by the Bell." She later reprised her character in "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" and in the "Wedding in Las Vegas" special. We wonder if Lark wanted to object at the nuptials. After all, she had dated Mark-Paul Gosselaar for three years in real life.

Lark Voorhies: Now Lark's varied interests have kept her busy since "SBTB," with roles on prime-time series like "In the House" and in daytime dramas like "Days of Our Lives" and "The Bold and the Beautiful." She was released from her "Beautiful" contract in 1996 over racy scenes that she said went against her religious beliefs. She's also a singer, having founded and fronted the now-defunct alternative band Third Degree, and launched a solo career (her first album is due this year). But she doesn't stop there — she owns a production company with her brother too. Her personal life has also seemed to keep her busy; before marrying actor Miguel Coleman in 1996 (they divorced in 2004), she was engaged to Martin Lawrence. That relationship came to a shocking end when Lawrence announced on "The Arsenio Hall Show" that he was engaged… to another woman. That was the first Lark had heard of it.



Dustin Diamond as Samuel "Screech" Powers

Word of advice: If your kid's an actor and he's offered a nerd part, turn it down. Sure, the money might be seductive. The dreams of fame might be enticing. But remember, it's hard enough being a nerdy kid in real life without being the stereotypical nerdy kid for all of America. Seriously, no good can come from such a choice. As was the case with Dustin Diamond, but we'll get to that. It was a promising start. Diamond played Samuel "Screech" Powers for 13 years through all incarnations of the series, from "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" to "Saved by the Bell" through "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" and "Saved by the Bell: The New Class," where Screech became Mr. Belding's assistant — an especially pathetic grown-up version of his nerdy self.

Dustin Diamond: Now Clearly, Dustin was negatively affected by the unshakable association with his most famous character. Sure, he's had a little work since "Bell": cameos in movies like "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," a turn in the ring on "Celebrity Boxing 2," an unsuccessful attempt at stand-up comedy, an anger-fueled stint on "Celebrity Fit Club," and the instructional AND entertaining "Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess" (that'll help you shake that geeky image). What's a bankrupt nerd to do? Make a sex tape, leak it yourself, and wait for the fame to roll in. How'd that work out for ya, Dusty?



Elizabeth Berkley as Jessie Spano

When the 17-year-old Berkley went head-to-head with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen for the role of Kelly Kapowski, producers simply couldn't make a choice. So they cast Thiessen as Kapowski and created the part of Jessie Spano for Berkley. She reprised her role in two "SBTB" specials, "Hawaiian Style" and "Wedding in Las Vegas," but didn't join her former co-stars on "The College Years." She had her sights set on a much bigger career in film.

Elizabeth Berkley: Now Unfortunately for Elizabeth, her first high-profile big-screen foray was the disastrously bad, NC-17-rated Vegas stripper flick, "Showgirls." The actress slowly began clawing her way back into Hollywood's good graces with smaller roles in studio films like "The First Wives Club" and "Any Given Sunday" and in indie fare like "The Taxman" and "Roger Dodger." But for us, all was forgiven when she signed on to host Bravo's reality competition show, "Step It Up and Dance."



Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski

Aside from a Peaches and Cream Barbie commercial and a TV pilot, Thiessen wasn't an experienced actress when she was cast as Kelly Kapowski. But she was a stage vet of sorts, having worked the kind-of creepy kiddy beauty pageant circuit. Her hard work paid off when she was crowned Miss Junior America in 1987 then won Teen magazine's "Great Model Search" the following year. In 1989 she began turning heads as Bayside beauty Kelly, a role she would play again in "The College Years" and those fabulous specials, "Hawaiian Style," and "Wedding in Las Vegas."

Tiffani Thiessen: Now While some may always think of her as Kelly, Tiffani will always be manipulative "Beverly Hills 90210" vixen Valerie Malone to us. And although her transition to the big screen has proven mostly unsuccessful (in films like Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending"), she's managed to keep herself busy with guest appearances on shows like "Just Shoot Me!" and in the cast of the short-lived "What About Brian." Oh, she's also done the "I'm sophisticated now" name-change thing and dropped the Amber. While she awaits the fall premiere of her new USA series "White Collar," she's spending her time with her husband of nearly four years, Brady Smith, and planning a family.



Dennis Haskins as Mr. Richard Belding

As long-suffering junior-high principal Richard Belding, Haskins was the token grown-up (unless you count Ed Alonzo, who played the owner of a local hangout, the Max). And while he was in his late 30s when he was first cast on "Bliss," he had only been acting in film and TV for seven years. Prior to that, Dennis was a concert promoter, working with artists like Tom Jones and Earth, Wind & Fire. Haskins played Belding through "Bell's" entire run and on the spin-off "The New Class" until that series' 2000 cancellation.

Dennis Haskins: Now In retrospect, maybe playing Mr. Belding for 12 years wasn't the greatest career move. Haskins has stated that he's found himself typecast since leaving the show. He even tried growing a mustache and putting on a few extra pounds to disguise his Belding-ness. But don't cry for Dennis – he's doing just fine. He still makes guest appearances on shows like "JAG" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and has four movies coming in the next year: "Stacy's Mom," "Creative Differences," "The Legend of Awesomest Maximus," and "Holly, Jingles, and Clyde." Haskins was also the first to appear on Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night," agreeing to rejoin his cast mates and adding himself to the reunion big board.


TALK ABOUT IT: Who is your favorite 'SBTB' character? 


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