Elizabeth Berkley Photo by Jeff Vespa
Have you been watching the new “Saved By the Bell”? To put it simply, this is the show 2020 needs—a healthy dose of humor and nostalgia, and a perfect choice to watch together as a family. We spoke with Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, who became a familiar face to 80s and 90s kids as Jessie Spano in the original version, and plays a Bayside School guidance counselor in the reimagined one (she’s also a producer on the show). Now a mom to an 8-year-old son, Sky, she shares what it was really like reprising her role (and teaming back up with co-stars like Tiffani Thiessen, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez), real talk about quarantining with kids and more.
Watch the new Saved by the Bell on Peacock TV.
Congratulations on the new show—and what perfect timing! I picture moms who watched the original watching this with their own kids during quarantine…
Yes! Our show was earnest and sweet and good, without the sarcasm of newer shows like ours. And this new show is a perfect bridge between generations. In terms of the timing—we could never plan for this in a million years. We could not be more thankful for this to come out the day before Thanksgiving…It’s a show all about connection…there are people that are isolated right now and we hope it brings warmth, joy, escape and nostalgia.
Love it! In your new role, you play a guidance counselor. In real life, you wrote a New York Times bestselling self-help book for teenage girls , based on a foundation you started for that same group. Is helping people something that has always been important to you?
Yes. When we were developing the character, we had to really flesh out who she was…I was 17 when she left off. And you start to see certain themes repeat themselves. Jessie was an activist and I grew up in Michigan with an animal activist mom. Animal rights, and a dedication for service, has always played a role in my life. In 2006 I created Ask Elizabeth as a way to provide a space for teenage girls to talk about the adolescent journey. It is an an interactive workshop where I work with an entire student body or an athletic department, sports team, theatre group.
SAVED BY THE BELL — “The Todd Capsule” Episode 108 — Pictured: (l-r) Elizabeth Berkley as Jessica Spano, Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater, Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris — (Photo by: Trae Patton/Peacock)[/caption]
That’s amazing! So what was it like “getting the band back together”, so to speak?
When our show became a hit, we were on set with our families, and looking out for each other like siblings. We were minors, and this was before social media. So there was a sweetness to that. The core four of us have always kept in touch. We know each other’s children, our spouses. There is a deep caring–again, almost a sibling connection. When each of us has gone through personal or professional challenges, we’ve been there for each other. There were so many safety protocols during filming due to COVID-19, and the beauty of it was that we had this history so we were able to jump right into it…including sitting at those booths at “The Max”.
Ha, such a blast from the past! Your own son, Sky, is doing Zoom/remote school. How is that going?
As all of us parents know it’s not the easiest. The schools have to provide a school day but it’s not easy for anyone to be in front of a screen that long. I know my son is missing his friends and we try in a safe way to see certain people consistently. It’s hard not to be with his buddies. And that autonomy they have when they have gone to school already makes it even harder.
How have you been getting through the pandemic—any strategies you can share?
Well, something that works this week might not work the next, so flexibility is key! But routine is comforting to kids. Just being able to count on what’s coming next, given that there is so much we don’t feel like we have control over. So we have a standing [virtual] lunch with a cousin or best friend that goes to a different school…so that’s a fun thing to look forward to that he wouldn’t normally get to do. One of the other fun things that I highly suggest that I learned from a mom friend is to create outdoor movie nights. You can project it onto a wall or sheet. These new rituals can add a little joy during this time that can feel a little heavy. I have these little joke books I get from Amazon and when he has his lunches, I make a tray and bring it into his room…He can reads the joke of the day to his friends. Again, these little touchpoints he can count on bring a little spark of joy.
At the same time our kids are so attuned to us. As parents we’re all navigating stress. It’s so important to take care of ourselves first – the old expression of put on the oxygen mask first. We’re all in this together. There are moments when it feels so hard and that’s normal.
Speaking of self-care—what things have you been doing during this time?
The things that have been my salvation are meditation apps, or one on one Zoom meditation. I use Insight Timer and Camilla Dallerup. Plus, my trainer Valerie Waters always says you’re a workout away from a better mood.
And in terms of the work + life + pandemic balance—how do you juggle a busy period in your career with being a mom?
Starting in January we shot our first 7 episodes out of our 10. March 11 we paused and thought we thought we’d be back in 2 weeks, and then we were home for so many months. Until my husband [designer Greg Lauren] could go back to his studio, he was working from home. I was also producing, editing from home, and balancing that for months before we got the ok to go back. It’s been a journey like every other parent, figuring out what is working now – and that all shifts next month. We’ve all become experts at pivoting and shifting. There are also days where it’s just a lot. You find out someone in your circle was exposed…and there is a ripple effect. I want to be real about this. It’s something that our parents never had to navigate. I’m appreciating people being real and sharing real solutions. Let’s not pretend it’s not hard.