Most famous for his role as Zack Morris in the Saturday morning sitcom "Saved by the Bell" from 1987 to '93, actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar spent four seasons on "NYPD Blue" and will join the cast of ABC drama "Commander in Chief" next week. Still, he would gladly trade his acting fame for athletic stardom. Not that he hasn't tried: Gosselaar, 31, has raced just about everything on two wheels. He talks about losing to Danica Patrick, why you never see Lance Armstrong shirtless and getting beat up by fellow "Bell" alum Mario Lopez.
How did you get into racing cars, motorcycles and doing triathlons?
It's just a case of never being happy with what you have. I love my job. I have a real passion for it. It's just that, you know, I think I can be an athlete. And you've got a lot of athletes thinking they can be actors. Same syndrome. I really, really love the sports industry. If I could reverse that fame, if somebody said to me, 'Gosh, I saw you playing a game on television,' that to me would be cool. . . .
I like to have all the pressure on me. I like to think that the outcome depends on how I play or how I handle myself. That's a similarity in acting. You could go all day on the similarities between what I do for a living and what I like to do on the weekend.
What was the experience like [auto] racing against Danica Patrick?
I've known Danica for a while. She's feisty, man. I like her attitude. I think she's good for the sport. I think she can mix it up with the best of them. When I raced against her, she was always talking [trash]. That's what you love about her.
How have things gone for you now that you've started cycling?
Really good. I started off the season as a category five and I moved up to a category three. . . . Once you get to twos and ones -- the pros are ones -- it would become too much of a full-time thing. When I was on 'NYPD Blue,' I had to maintain a certain look and a certain weight. Obviously, cycling is a skinny man's sport. It wouldn't have looked really good for my nude scenes. You gotta keep on a certain amount of bulk on you on screen. That's why you don't see Lance [Armstrong] too often doing a shirtless scene. I think I've found something I'm good at and I enjoy because it's pure. Unless people start taking EPO during the local [races] here.
Geena Davis almost made the Olympics in archery. Does it bother you that you might not be the best athlete on your show?
I haven't actually talked to her about it, but it has actually crossed my mind. I've actually thought of how cool that was for her to do that. She went to the qualifiers.
You're doing all these athletic activities, but Mario Lopez [aka Slater from 'Saved by the Bell'] gets to host a show on ESPN. How fair is that?
Mario deserves that. He's quite an athlete also. I don't know if he was a state champion, but he ranked up there very high in wrestling in California. He's also a very talented boxer. He's really serious about it. I've actually sparred with him once. And that was a mistake. Here's my excuse: I hadn't trained in three months. He calls me into the ring and I couldn't back down. I should have, but I couldn't back down. He gave me a whupping.
-- Liam Dillon