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Exclusive: Zack Talks 'Saved By The Bell' Reunion After 'Jimmy Fallon'

June 9th, 2009 10:01am EDT
Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris



Two weeks ago Mark-Paul Gosselaar told us he would be doing Jimmy Fallon's show on June 8 and addressing Fallon's "Saved by the Bell" reunion idea. Monday night, thanks to Mark-Paul and TNT, I was lucky enough to be at "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to witness the return of Zack Morris from "Saved by the Bell." Zack was on to promote the second season of the show his alter-ego, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, stars in, "Raising the Bar" (Monday nights at 10 pm on TNT). Mark-Paul spoke to us right after he finished the taping about the return of Zack Morris, his feelings on playing that character again and, frankly, what you can do to yourself if you have a problem with it.

Mike: When did you first hear Jimmy Fallon was trying to put together a "Saved by the Bell" reunion?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I think it was just like everyone else, I didn't see the show but I think it was on one of his first shows that he did. But I heard about it online. We found out kind of like the rest of everyone. My first reaction was, "Dude, Fallon, you're such a motherf--ker." In a funny way and that's exactly what I said to him, "You f*cking motherf-cker, you bastard, you. You're going to make me do something." It's a challenge. It's when somebody does something and you go, "Okay, what are we going to do here that people are going to like and enjoy?"

Mike: You made a joke on the show tonight about Zack Morris being raised in Indiana and moving to California with two friends and his principal, did I have anything to do with that?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I wish I could give you credit for that. It was my idea about a month ago to go on the show as Zack Morris. I didn't know how it was going to work out but my wife and I actually came up with the idea as we were headed away, just the two of us, on a weekend together and I didn't know how to get in front of this reunion. I've never been opposed to the reunion but it's got to be, sort of, under our terms. If someone puts a gun to your head and says, "You know, you should do this reunion," like Fallon kind of has done -- and I love Jimmy by the way, I think he's awesome -- he kind of put us under the gun in a way. I wanted it to be a win-win situation for everybody. I said, as we were driving, to my wife, "Hey Lisa, what do you think if I went on as Zack Morris and that was reality? That Zack is alive, Zack is me and I just play the character Mark-Paul Gosselaar."

There were three things that I asked for. Number one: That I look into the camera and I do the time out. The phone was a big thing that I wanted to use as well. And [playing] "Friends Forever" with The Roots. And that was it, that's all we came up with, then I called Jimmy Fallon. I said, "Hey, Fallon, this is what I want to do." and he goes, "Well, wait, at the end you're going to say you're Mark-Paul?" I said, "No, I'm going to go on, never break character and that's going to be the reality." He says, "I don't know if the producers are going to be into that, but I'll get you in touch with my writer."


Mike: That's weird he would have a problem with that.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: They weren't sure because they've never had somebody just come on as a complete character and never say they were not the real person. So we weren't sure how it was going to work out and how "Raising the Bar" would tie in and are they going to piss off the network because they didn't promote it in some way. During the up fronts I worked with the writer, Mike Dicenzo, and told him, "here's my idea." That's his script, it's 11 pages of his dialogue that he came up with. He came up with the Indiana stuff. I read your site, I guess that's common knowledge, but I completely forgot about that whole fact. And, yeah, I know that's absolutely ridiculous.

Mike: Well, I was kind of proud of myself after our last interview. I was thinking that maybe other people didn't know that ["Good Morning, Miss Bliss" took place in Indiana]. At Fallon's when I heard 'Zack' say that, I was excited thinking I contributed. I admit, now, I'm a little disappointed.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well, when it was put on your website a lot of people commented, "How does Mark-Paul not know that? It's so obvious." So, a lot of people do know about it. And Mike [Dicenzo] is the hardest core fanatic and can write for me in that character. We did some things after the show which are going to be web exclusives and he comes up with this stuff off the top of his head. A lot of the credit goes to him, I just put the wig on and preform the character.

Mike: When you first told me you were addressing "Saved by the Bell" on Fallon's show I was surprised, but at the same time pleased. Obviously you've had enough success you didn't have to do it but it's kind of cool that you did. In our first interview I didn't really want to bring up "Saved by the Bell" because, I'm sure, you get that so much. You're trying to promote a new show and I didn't want to waste your time on a show you did 20 years ago. I didn't know your stance on it, but, what is your stance?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well my stance is that I'm extremely proud of the work that I did on "Saved by the Bell" and I'm extremely proud of all the work I've accomplished throughout my career -- minus a few things I wish weren't on my resume. But for the most part, I don't want to disappoint my fans. I respect my fans and I respect the people that watch all my shows -- whether it be "Saved by the Bell" or "NYPD Blue." I think it's cool musicians can always play their old songs and people expect them to play them.

Mike: Right. If you go to a Springsteen concert you're going to hear "Born to Run."

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Right! You go to a Led Zeppelin concert and you want to hear their old stuff, man. You hear Guns N' Roses you want to hear the old stuff. I don't think it would harm me in anyway and I still don't. And if people don't get it they can go f-ck themselves. This was for the fans. I think in a way I owed it to them.

Mike: Is there anything Fallon wanted you to do that you were like, "Nah, I don't want to do that"?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Absolutely not. No. They left it up to me and Mike and Mike nailed it. He hit it out of the park.

Mike: You did a bit on Fallon where Jessie Spano called you on your huge cell phone and she agreed to do the reunion. Did you really talk to Elizabeth Berkley and is she really doing Fallon's reunion. And are you actually agreeing to do a full reunion?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I have no idea. We've never discussed it past that but I do know Elizabeth Berkley is open to the idea of doing a reunion. We didn't talk to Tiffani [Thiessen] and I don't know what her stance is, yet. But we know Elizabeth is willing to possibly do something in the future. We don't know, we're going to see what the response is of this -- I hope it's big, I hope people enjoy it -- but you're sort of damned if you do and damned if you don't...

Mike: Right. It seems like there is a very fine line between pissing off "Saved by the Bell" fans if you would have said, "Oh, I'm beyond that, look at all the other stuff I've done" or, if you keep doing that every time you're asked, there becomes almost too much self parody in regards to a character you did 20 years ago. I think you've handled it well, but do you think there is a line?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I hope so. I'm not going to put that wig on for awhile. The only reason I agreed to this is because they took my idea and made it work. When I read the script I said, "Okay, this is something I'm comfortable with." This is the only way I wanted to do it. I did not want to break character. You run the risk of it becoming too much of a parody, this ran down the middle and I think it worked.

Mike: Well, I agree with you. I think it worked great and the audience loved it.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: According to your universe though, Mike, but I hope that other people that watch it understand what I was doing. But, kind of the ridiculous of it all is that people still haven't gotten over the fact that it's a character. I played a character on that show just as much as I played a character on "NYPD Blue" or any of the other shows that I do. The media and a lot of people in the press will always say something to the effect of, "After you did 'Saved by the Bell' and got into real acting..." I take offense to that. That was a character I created and I worked just as hard on that as some of my other roles.

Mike: And last time we spoke that's why, for the most part, save for one question, I wanted to focus on your new show and not fall into any of those traps that, as you just pointed out, happen quite often.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Remember the throwback line I threw to Jimmy Fallon about getting recognized for "SNL"? That's why I threw that in there. He tries to promote himself as a talk show host but it's hard for people to see over what you are best known for.

Mike: From what you just said, you may like this story: When I showed up for Fallon's show, waiting to go in, I saw an NBC page going around telling people, "Hey, let's get excited! We've got Kelly Ripa and Mark-Paul Gosselaar on tonight." A guy that looked like he was in his 50's said, "Who is Mark-Paul Gosselaar?" to which the page replied, "From 'Saved by the Bell'!" and the gentleman said, "Yeah, I've never heard of that show." Finally I asked him if he had ever seen "NYPD Blue," and he happened to love that show, and when I mentioned Det. John Clark he said, "He's my favorite, my name is John Clark. That's who's on?"

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: (Laughs) Yeah, we sure didn't please him.

Mike: Well, what you did tonight, going 'all in' being the character, I was not expecting that and I think that was really cool.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: (Laughs) Dude, let me tell you, I've never been more nervous...

Mike: Really? You didn't look nervous at all.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I haven't been that anxious or nervous to do a role in a long time. To be in front of a studio audience. I still remember my first day of doing "Saved by the Bell", not "Good Morning, Miss Bliss," because that wasn't in front of a studio audience. But on "Saved by the Bell," my very first opening scene that I talk to the camera, I remember how nervous I was for that and that's about how nervous I was for this tonight. I kind of got into the character once I put on the hair and clothes. My stance completely changes, you stand very upright with fingers in the pockets. You also have to erase all the frown lines on your face because Zack was just very happy. It was fun. It was fun to jump back into that character.

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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