Wednesday, October 15, 2008; 1:00 PM
He is perhaps best known for his roles as Zack Morris on NBC's "Saved by the Bell," detective John Clark on "NYPD Blue" and now as Jerry Kellerman on TNT's "Raising the Bar."
Raising the Bar, the latest from successful TV producer-writer Steven Bochco, is a legal drama airing on TNT which stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar ("NYPD Blue") as an idealistic public defender who will stop at nothing to help those who cannot help themselves. Gloria Reuben ("ER") plays Rosalind Whitman, Jerry's passionate and protective boss and Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle") stars as Judge Trudy Kessler. The series follows the lives of young lawyers who work on opposite sides -- the public defender's office and the district attorney's office -- as well as those who sit in judgment on their cases.
Gosselaar was online Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his new show and the rest of his TV and film career.
A transcript follows.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Hi, glad to be with you today, look forward to your questions.
Washington, D.C.: How do you think your Saved by the Bell experience affected not just your career but also your life? It seems like it could be hard to deal with such success and fame at so young an age.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: How did it affect my life? I'll start there. I feel it was a good start to what I ultimately want to do is become a better actor and it was a very nice project to be a part of for that time. It sort of opened my eyes to the start of a business.
In regards to success at a young age, people deal with success in different ways and I happen to have a strong support system around me to deal with it.
Raleigh, N.C.: Something like 10 years ago I remember seeing you race in I believe Star Mazda. Any aspirations for further involvement in racing?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: If you're offering me a ride, I'll take it. I still enjoy racing but with two small kids, resources are limited.
Dupont: Closet fan here from way back. Loved you in The Marine and the Princess. Any idea what happened to those people?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: The last I heard they were divorced.
Bakersfield , Calif.: Steven Bochco was quoted as saying "he believes Mark-Paul is one of the most talented leading men on television today." How did your working relationship start with him?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Our working relationship started in 2001 when I auditioned for Philly, one of his shows. I subsequently did not get that role but he offered me a role from that meeting on NYPD Blue.
Philadelphia, Pa.: How did you get into acting? How do you find the business and what might you recommend to people interested in going into acting?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I got into acting at a very young age -- sort of an after school activity, much like someone doing extracurricular sports. I didn't approach it as a business until I was approximately 19 years old. My opinion, if you want to be an actor, is you have to always maintain your passion for what you want to do.
Chicago, Ill.: As a child actor how were you able to stay away from the negative aspects of Hollywood?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I was able to stay away because Hollywood was a different place. We didn't have the new media and the access to people in the industry that we have nowadays -- paparazzi, bloggers, camera phones ... all that wasn't around when I was a young actor. Did I have fun as a teenager? I did, but it wasn't documented. But then again, I didn't abuse the privilege of being a somewhat public figure.
Vienna, Va.: Are you still friends with Elizabeth Berkley?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I'm pretty much friends with all my ex-castmates of Saved by the Bell.
Bayside, Calif.: Any chance for a Zack Attack Reunion Tour?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: (LAUGHS) That's a funny question. Not now. I think we are all busy with other projects at the moment. But I still have a guitar laying around and you never know.
Charlottesville, Va.: It's widely reported that Zack Morris was the first television character to carry a cell phone (he also coincidentally holds the record for largest phone)- this must have made you feel like a baller. Did you develop a big ego because of this and your legions of fans? You seem real down to earth, so I'd hope not, but you were young.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: The funny thing about all of us on SBTB is we had no idea of our success at the time. We had no idea because we weren't privy to ratings. The Internet wasn't around. The only way we were able to gauge our success was dong mall tours across the country. 2,500 --3,000 people would show up and that was our barometer for our popularity. When I wasn't' working, I went to a normal public high school and my peers had no idea I was on TV -- they never watched it.
It became popular years after. Now people have embraced SBTB and you don't have to be a closet viewer. It's cool to be a fan of SBTB. I spoke to Mario this recently and we agree. I think that's why Raising the Bar is as successful as it is. Because SBTB is as successful as it is.
Anonymous: Your hair! Your hair! What have they done to your hair?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: (LAUGHING) I'm thankful I have hair. That's all my hair. Don't worry, we're going to have fun with it next season.
Beaumont, Tex.: Steven Bochco seems to be a real fan of yours since he has cast you in several of his projects. What is it like working with this legendary producer and do you have any producing aspirations?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: It's an extremely comfortable and creative environment to work in knowing that I have his support and his knowledge to go back on makes my job that much more enjoyable. Eventually I would like to direct/produce.
Atlanta, Ga.: The last few projects you've been a part of have been dramas, would you consider doing comedy or do you think dramas fit better for you?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I would love to do comedy. I think they're equally as challenging. I just haven't had the right opportunity come to me yet.
Washington, D.C.: How do you feel that beginning a family has changed you and affected your career if at all? Has it influenced your choices as far as which projects to take and timing? Have you found it difficult to find the balance you need to pursue your career while being a husband and father?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Having children has made me mature in ways that I think are positive to my career and yes, my family does affect the type of work that I accept. Mainly with traveling. If a show were to be filmed in another state other than California, I would have to make a very educated decision regarding it.
At times it can be difficult to balance my career and my family but my family always comes first.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: What's your favorite television series that is on right now?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I really enjoy Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
Charlottesville, Va.: The people of the Internet have spoken, and their favorite and least favorite saved by the bell episodes of all time are 'Student Teacher Week' and 'Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind' respectively. What are your favorite and least favorite episodes?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: What I really enjoy is when fans come up to me and express their favorite shows or even better, act them out as the characters. In regards to my favorite episode, I don't have one in particular I did enjoy any time we as a cast were able to be location.
Chicago, Ill.: What do you think of Dustin Diamond's new book about Saved by the Bell?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I know about it. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be interesting to see what he comes up with. I hope I get a signed advanced copy.
Columbus, Ga.: Which do you prefer television or film?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: At the moment I don't have a preference. But I'm starting to itch to do film. I'm constantly looking to challenge myself. At the moment I feel what I'm doing on my show is challenging me but I feel film can provide more.
Farmington Hills, Mich.: I am huge fan of Raising the Bar and thank you for doing this chat. The series has 3 big named stars yourself, Jane and Gloria what is the chemistry like working with all these great people?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I love Michigan. I just got back this weekend. Working with talented and professional actors is always a privilege. One thing that Bochco has a knack for is putting like-minded people in the same room to work together and, in my opinion, that's why his shows do so well -- because we're all so passionate about the work.
That's how it was on NYPD Blue. Dennis Franz .... I wish every actor could go to his school, meaning how to conduct yourself as a professional on a set and still have fun. It's an extremely rewarding career. It was nice to work with Dennis who enjoyed his success and worked hard to gain it as well.
Providence, R.I.: Do you feel like Zack Morris was fundamentally the same person throughout his time with Miss Bliss, Bayside, the made for TV movie, and California University?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yes, I tried to keep him fundamentally the same.
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Have you ever thought of a political career? Do you think your new show has a political point of view?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: No, to my political career. I have a lot of respect for people who are in politics but no to mine. Do I think that Raising the Bar has a political message? Personally I would like to think there is but listening to Steven Bochco recently speak, what he had said was that out the 800 or so episodes of television that he's produced you cannot put a finger on his political views. That's what he works hard to accomplish. And I think watching Raising the Bar, the viewer is left to decide which moral position he/she thinks the show is pointing to.
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: What director would you work with, if you could snap your fingers and it happen tomorrow.
And I remember your show Commander in Chief -- who are you supporting in this election, may I ask?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Here's my Sarah Palin answer, you know, all the greats.
I was undecided for a while but in light of everything that's going on, I'm voting for Obama.
New York, N.Y.: If you weren't acting what would you be doing?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Something creative.
Oak Park, Ill.: What kind of research did you do to become Jerry Kellerman?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: My character is loosely based on our show's co-creator/producer David Feige. He was a public defender for 15 years and wrote a book, "Indefensible." I was able to become an intern at a public defender's office for a week and he was my guide. On NYPD Blue I had the same process with Bill Clark and was able to shadow the NYPD for a week as well. This is what being an actor so fun is the process.
Las Vegas, Nev.: Hey Mark! I rarely watched you during your "Saved by the Bell" years, but I was an avid fan of "NYPD Blue" and enjoyed your work there. I remember that when you were announced for "Blue" that there was some mild controversy, with the show coming off of Rick Schroeder as a lead and the press focusing on the show utilizing another child star. How did your prominence on "Saved by the Bell" impact your post-Bell/pre-Blue career? How difficult was it to secure "adult" roles during that period? What separated you from other candidates Bochco was considering to replace Schroeder when you were hired for "Blue?"
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Saved by the Bell ended in '94 and it wasn't until '96 that I was able to basically work. Because of being typecast within the industry as that character. I steadily started working on different shows and films after '96 but nothing took or stuck or lead to anything. It wasn't until Steven, in my opinion, took a chance to hire another child star that the beginning of my adult career was jump-started. It wasn't deliberate, it just happened. At that time in my life, being 26, I got lucky and Bochco had no idea of my past. He had no idea that he was hiring another child star, knew nothing about Saved by the Bell.
Washington, D.C.: Wikipedia says that you are fluent in Dutch. Is that true? It must be if Wikipedia says it....
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: My mother is Indonesian and my father is Dutch and at one time I was fluent in Dutch while I was living at home.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I really enjoy being able to do this and hopefully in the future we can do it again. I hope you enjoy Raising the Bar, we're coming back next year.
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