Mark-Paul Gosselaar isn’t proud of everything his Saved by the Bell character, Zack Morris, had to do on the teen sitcom.
“In terms of story lines, there was one where I was basically whoring out Lisa Turtle [played by Lark Voorhies] to charge people to kiss her without her consent,” Gosselaar, 49, said on the September 3 episode of the “Pod Meets World” podcast. “That was a tough one, which we had to preface the episode by saying, ‘We do not condone this. We’re here just to discuss it but this is in the past.”
The episode, titled “The Lisa Card,” was the second episode of the ‘90s sitcom’s first season, in which Lisa panicked after going over her dad’s credit card limit. In an effort to help his friend out, Zack charged boys in their grade $1 each to “lose their Lisa cards,” as in, kiss Lisa without her consent.
A second episode Gosselaar — who portrayed Zack Morris on all four seasons of the original series as well as Saved By the Bell: The College Years and returned to guest star on the 2020 reboot — recalled feeling uncomfortable with was season 3’s racially insensitive “Running Zack,” where Zack pretends to be of Native American decent for a class project.
“Seeing Zack Morris in a full headless, that was one we had to be sensitive on,” he explained. “There’s just things you just would not film nowadays … and rightfully so, it’s inappropriate. We’ve evolved as human beings.”
Gosselaar noted that on his own Saved By the Bell rewatch podcast, “Zack to the Future,” he would often find himself unsure of how to approach certain topics, adding that there “are things in every single episode that we could pick out” that are deemed problematic. (The podcast covered the first three seasons of SBTB but went on indefinite hiatus when it failed to find a new podcast network.)
“And you find yourself at that point, you’re trying not to be negative. It’s a watch party. People want you to celebrate the product,” he continued. “It’s fragile but overall you’re trying to be positive about the work, saying, ‘It was a different time. And we don’t condone that now but this is what it was. Enjoy!’”
Gosselaar did discuss the issues with “The Lisa Card” during a 2020 episode of the podcast — which he cohosted with Dashiell Driscoll, a writer on the Peacock revival series — and shared that he felt “conflicted” about the story line while shooting it.
“It wasn’t as carefree and innocent as the last episode,” he said at the time. “But maybe it’s because I’m watching it through these eyes and not the eyes of a 13-year-old or the audience that watched it back in the ’90s.”
He later added that the duo would approach further situations in a similar matter, saying, “We’re not gonna say that we don’t see some of the morally abhorrent or dated situations and responses to certain things, but we’re also here to give you a fun podcast. It’s a celebration of Saved by the Bell.”
Saved By the Bell ran on NBC for four seasons from 1989 to 1993 and starred Gosselaar and Vorhees, 49, along with Tiffani Thiessen, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley and Dustin Diamond. The show was later revived for Saved By the Bell: The College Years, which lasted for one season. Peacock revived the series in 2020, with Lopez and Berkley as stars and executive producers. Gosselaar, Thiessen and Voorhies all made guest appearances.