News

Saved By the Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley Lauren on Bringing Jessie Spano to a New Generation and Her Hopes for Next Season

The first season was topical and fun to watch, but the original series' returning star wants to do some fancy footwork in the just-announced season 2.

by | January 19, 2021 | Comments

Whether they call it a reboot, remake or reimagining, television producers love to capitalize on nostalgia with fresh takes on beloved programming. But this doesn’t automatically mean the new versions are any good.

Luckily, this isn’t the problem for the new take on Saved By the Bell, Peacock’s update – they prefer to go with option three and call it a “reimagining” – of the teen sitcom that ran from 1989 to 1993 on NBC (and then in syndicated reruns for near-perpetuity). The update, which released all 10 of its first season episodes in November on the streaming service, is Certified Fresh with critics calling it “a throwback that looks forward, embracing the past while living in the now” or arguing that it works because it’s self-aware and because it’s “legitimately funny and good-hearted in a time that’s rife with cynicism.”

So it wasn’t much of a surprise when the series was renewed for a 10-episode second season.


(Photo by Chris Haston/Peacock)

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, who appeared in the original series as the popular, progressive and overachieving Jessie Spano and who now returns to the show as an older, wiser and more accomplished version of the character, says credit for all this praise is due to the new series’ showrunner, Tracey Wigfield.

She “could not have dreamed of someone better to bring this back with the right tone and the relevant issues,” she told Rotten Tomatoes after the series’ November premiere. The 30 Rock and The Mindy Project alum grew up watching the first series take on topical issues like environmental awareness, women’s rights and – as Berkley Lauren’s Jessie herself immortalized when she became “so excited” and then “so scared” when she got hooked on caffeine pills – addiction within a neon haze of pranks, fake bands, large cell phones and Mark-Paul Gosselaar‘s lead Zack Morris’ occasional ability to stop time and break the fourth wall.


(Photo by Trae Patton/Peacock)

The new version follows what happens when California’s idiot mayor (Gosselaar reprising his role as the continually-failing-upward Zack) botches the school budgets and kids from a high school in a lower-income neighborhood join Zack and Jessie’s alma mater, Bayside High, after their school is closed. Class warfare, overprotective parenting, preconceived racial and social biases and more come into play (character actress Dana Powell guest-stars as a Bayside mom with a savior complex named Joyce Whitelady).

But some things about high school never change, no matter the decade. And this show is full of Easter eggs and references to the classic version. The homage is seen most starkly in new show’s inclusion of the original stars and its update on Berkley Lauren and Gosselaar’s characters, as well as their then-paramours Tiffani Thiessen’s Kelly Kapowski, and Mario Lopez’s A.C. Slater (now, respectively, First Lady of California Kelly Morris and the high school’s football coach).


(Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock)

Or when it comes to recreating inevitable teen-aged infatuations. Josie Totah’s Lexi Haddad-DeFabrizio is a power-obsessed Type A personality who has long harbored feelings for her best friend, Jessie’s oft-clueless jock son, Jamie (Belmont Cameli). This dynamic is so similar to the Jessie-Slater pairing from back in the day that, in the episode where Lexi admits her feelings, her hair is styled in long blond waves – a modern-day take on the spirals of curls and big bows that Jessie used to wear (and, quite honestly, is sometimes seen sported even now).

For Berkley Lauren, who is also a producer for this reimagining, it also means a chance to explore what happens when an ambitious teen girl grows into an educated and successful adult. Now the Jill Biden of Bayside High, Jessie is not only the school’s counselor, but she also holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology, is a best-selling author and is known in some circles for her TED Talks.

“Jessie, at the time, was such a progressive character on television — especially for young woman — and a character who has such a strong vision for herself,” Berkley Lauren said. “She was all about success and accomplishments and what she was going to pursue … I felt protective and that I wanted to let [the fans] know what she actually did do and what she actually did go for and accomplish.”



Jessie’s life isn’t perfect, though. She’s a helicopter parent to Jamie, for one. (There’s a joke that she still rocks him to sleep at night.) Her marriage to his dad, the faltering writer Rene (Cheyenne Jackson), is not going so great (although, Berkley Lauren says, she and the show’s writers did decide that this was a relationship that was progressive enough for their son to have her last name). Jessie’s also still woke to the hazards of caffeine, refusing to drink coffee and getting overly paranoid and protective when she senses that all-star student Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez) may be going down that path.


(Photo by Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock)

While some of these issues were rectified by the end of the new Bell’s first season, there is still room for more details to fill in about Jessie’s life and the lives of others in her orbit.

Berkley Lauren had no word on whether the show would have a second season when we spoke to her, but said there’s at least one other thing from Jessie’s past that she’d like to work in a second season: Her notorious fancy footwork.

“I do hope I get to bring some dancing,” she laughed, mentioning that she wouldn’t mind reworking some of the other show’s moves like “Put Your Mind To It” or “Powerhouse Preppies.”

Saved By the Bell season 1 is currently available on Peacock.


Tag Cloud

Britbox Reality Netflix Christmas movies TLC Marvel spy thriller The Academy Grammys Paramount movies A24 christmas movies dc werewolf police drama Lifetime Christmas movies FX spanish language Crackle Nickelodeon Music Dark Horse Comics ID crime drama black YouTube Red Turner Classic Movies Writers Guild of America Opinion australia Video Games El Rey talk show Musical Endgame Sundance Now Sony Pictures Esquire DC Universe Cannes jurassic park Sundance TV sequels Song of Ice and Fire DC streaming service Comic Book Women's History Month TBS scorecard Trophy Talk pirates of the caribbean Mudbound nfl Marathons game of thrones venice adventure CMT Emmys TV One See It Skip It Spring TV comic Comics on TV Infographic psychological thriller WarnerMedia Superheroe Rock Rocky BET Awards Mystery Academy Awards adaptation historical drama 72 Emmy Awards spider-man Cosplay Stephen King Amazon The Witch doctor who Ghostbusters sports Logo south america Fox News Classic Film FOX composers Lifetime Teen Shondaland Apple TV+ Hallmark Christmas movies ratings zombie children's TV Pop Amazon Prime Quiz festival X-Men Mindy Kaling Alien directors jamie lee curtis Podcast Drama blockbuster dark what to watch video on demand transformers Sneak Peek biography witnail ghosts 4/20 free movies dceu HBO OneApp child's play Christmas war 2015 science fiction justice league binge vampires MSNBC award winner trailers indie 24 frames APB obituary joker comedies Nominations franchise reviews VH1 hollywood Pirates james bond screen actors guild ITV quibi 99% Summer Winners Starz revenge Musicals screenings HBO Max BAFTA Apple Election Holidays Columbia Pictures cults critics rom-coms HBO Go Showtime IFC Mary Tyler Moore WGN History Masterpiece Rom-Com Trailer Ovation CBS disaster 007 LGBT comiccon french American Society of Cinematographers Film fresh boxoffice SXSW Marvel Studios TV Superheroes thriller OWN toronto renewed TV shows stop motion Mary Poppins Returns Awards Tour E3 Shudder Oscars Martial Arts versus richard e. Grant Travel Channel japanese Walt Disney Pictures natural history indiana jones game show Anna Paquin football twilight teaser Amazon Studios Polls and Games series politics all-time rotten movies we love New York Comic Con video E! foreign Chernobyl halloween sitcom true crime Brie Larson Disney singing competition Elton John cars latino The Purge Spike a nightmare on elm street Fall TV rotten Tomatazos TV renewals documentaries Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vudu Super Bowl Thanksgiving Adult Swim TIFF Set visit TCA 2017 ESPN Warner Bros. Lucasfilm Bravo Marvel Television Acorn TV LGBTQ Tarantino DC Comics streaming SundanceTV Pet Sematary BBC One romantic comedy DGA mockumentary halloween tv laika The CW Spectrum Originals 2019 nature Emmy Nominations USA Network dramedy stoner deadpool blaxploitation TruTV hist Binge Guide Character Guide Pixar tv talk golden globes Year in Review Comedy Film Festival ABC The Walking Dead canceled cancelled TV series Hulu Kids & Family PlayStation breaking bad based on movie sequel cops Disney Channel TCA animated IFC Films Epix BBC America space Holiday Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Amazon Prime Video psycho GIFs Winter TV chucky Television Critics Association mutant 71st Emmy Awards crime thriller Arrowverse Western AMC Watching Series Horror die hard VOD Red Carpet 21st Century Fox ABC Family universal monsters Box Office scary movies RT21 Trivia USA casting crossover emmy awards comic books social media Schedule TCA Awards festivals DirecTV Fantasy spinoff boxing elevated horror cancelled TV shows San Diego Comic-Con FX on Hulu cartoon worst movies Certified Fresh Crunchyroll reboot supernatural Cartoon Network CNN Television Academy TCA Winter 2020 Black Mirror Black History Month concert criterion Pop TV aliens superhero Star Trek 2018 Ellie Kemper mission: impossible serial killer First Look Disney streaming service 2020 spanish Hallmark Photos FXX GLAAD Extras theme song fast and furious Captain marvel Biopics book YouTube Premium golden globe awards First Reviews finale Reality Competition technology Funimation movie Family Interview Star Wars archives rt archives Creative Arts Emmys strong female leads Universal Comedy Central cooking President medical drama 20th Century Fox period drama sag awards Pride Month anime asian-american Countdown BBC YouTube canceled TV shows VICE Sci-Fi crime Action zombies Awards Animation satire Sundance best YA Hear Us Out TV Land diversity TCM GoT cancelled classics Syfy Nat Geo 2016 harry potter nbcuniversal cats The Walt Disney Company CBS All Access RT History miniseries slashers green book Tumblr Mary poppins CW Seed Calendar television Apple TV Plus The Arrangement Discovery Channel films docudrama TNT robots parents romance Toys PBS Disney+ Disney Plus Rocketman Paramount Network name the review Food Network SDCC hispanic NYCC MCU National Geographic travel BET 2017 unscripted comics Turner Fox Searchlight Lionsgate anthology PaleyFest remakes ABC Signature discovery Netflix kids Tubi NBC worst zero dark thirty Disney Plus stand-up comedy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Avengers dogs MTV cinemax batman Best and Worst dragons political drama Premiere Dates Baby Yoda Freeform Peacock 45 Country Valentine's Day A&E cancelled television toy story news facebook documentary independent spain italian Heroines