What You Never Knew About Elizabeth Berkley

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For those who grew up in the '90s, Elizabeth Berkley will always be known for playing Jessie Spano, Bayside High's resident overachiever with a heart of gold. Looking back on her iconic "Saved by the Bell" character today, we realize that she was ahead of her time, always advocating for equal rights, even when meeting with resistance. 

The TV and movie veteran got her start in the industry at the age of nine, but her big break came when she was cast in the popular sitcom. After the show wrapped, she faced a setback after starring in "Showgirls" and getting dropped by her agent (via the LA Times). However, the actress picked herself back up and has enjoyed a successful career, which includes hosting a TV show, penning a bestselling book, and competing on a reality show. "I'm still doing what my childhood dream was, but I couldn't have foreseen that," she told Vogue. "What I've learned being in this industry is that if you stay the course and stay true to yourself, it all starts to make sense." 

And now, over 30 years later, as the reboot of "Saved by the Bell" airs, audiences are falling in love with Jessie all over again, and a new generation of fans are being introduced to the beloved character. Although fans may think they know everything about the blonde beauty — who actually has two different colored eyes and doesn't seem to age — here are some things that still surprise us.

Elizabeth Berkley actually auditioned for the role of Kelly on Saved by the Bell

Although we can't imagine her playing anyone other than Jessie Spano, Elizabeth Berkley originally auditioned for the role of Kelly Kapowski in "Saved by the Bell." In executive producer Peter Engel's memoir, "I Was Saved by the Bell," he dished on the casting process, saying that the part of Kelly was narrowed down to three then-up-and-coming starlets — Berkley, Jennie Garth, and Tiffani Thiessen (via Us Weekly). The showrunner also revealed that an NBC exec petitioned for Berkley, which resulted in the role of Jessie being designed specifically for her (via Cheatsheet). In an interview with Variety, she named that exec as Brandon Tartikoff, and explained that he couldn't decide between her and Thiessen (who ultimately won the role) so created a spot with only her in mind. "I'm grateful he saw something in me and gave me my shot," she said. 

In an interview with Vogue, Berkley gushed about the power of the outspoken and progressive character she played in an era that wasn't as forward-thinking. "You had a 15-year-old girl using her voice as an activist, feminist, and someone who advocates for others ... That wasn't something you'd see on television at that time." So what is her character up to now, over three decades later? Berkley told Parade that, not surprisingly, she is enjoying a successful career. However, the series does put a comedic spin on her personal life, which isn't as in order.

This is her favorite Saved by the Bell episode

For "Saved by the Bell" fans, there is an episode that will live on in infamy — and it's centered around Elizabeth Berkley's character. The episode, which aired in 1990, deals with the overachieving character getting addicted to caffeine pills. Aptly named "Jessie's Song," there's one scene where Jessie has a major meltdown — feverishly singing the Pointer Sisters' hit "I'm So Excited," and ending the chorus by crying, "I'm so scared!" and sobbing into Zack's arms. In an interview with "Today," Berkley revealed that it's her favorite episode. One of the reasons she loves it is the fact that she got to act it out with her close friend and castmate Mark-Paul Gosselaar. "It was fun for us, as a change, to go a little bit deeper on the show," she said. 

Berkley also dished to "Today" about what it was like to film its infamous meltdown scene, which took on a life of its own in popular culture, becoming fodder for countless memesgifs, mugs, and t-shirts. "But I remember the director just saying, 'We got it. Now just go for it.' And so we did. And that's the one they kept." The actress, who said that fans frequently belt out the song to her (via Variety), is also in on the joke, and has even posted the clip on Instagram.

The actress faced backlash for this infamous movie role

In "Saved by the Bell," Elizabeth Berkley was pretty much typecast as a goody-goody. That all changed when she took her first major role after the show wrapped — in the NC-17-rated film "Showgirls," in which she played a Las Vegas stripper. At the time, the actress was just 22, and appeared in multiple scenes in the nude (via the LA Times).

Unfortunately, the film didn't fare well at the box office, and Berkley was "bullied" for its poor performance, something which, to this day, she finds hard to comprehend. "I didn't understand why I was being blamed," she told People. "The job as an actor is to fulfill the vision of the director," she said. "And I did everything I was supposed to do." As the movie was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Berkley reflected on her "painful" experience to Us Weekly, but said that through the hardship, she learned to be resilient. 

Now, the veteran actress has moved on from feeling shame for that role, so much so that she revisited it in the "Saved by the Bell" reboot. In the scene, Jessie dons the same outfit her "Showgirls" character wore and proceeds to do a pole dance and utter one of her quotes from the film (via EW). She was happy with the way it turned out, telling EW, "I really wanted to use this as a way to celebrate the two roles that I've played."

Elizabeth Berkley's dating history includes this Saved by the Bell costar

Although Jessie was romantically linked to Mario Lopez's Slater, Elizabeth Berkley dated Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack, in real life. (Fun fact: "Saved by the Bell" was based on "Good Morning, Miss Bliss," and she auditioned to play Zack's love interest on the Disney Channel show, but didn't get the part because she was taller than him, per Screenrant).

On "Anna Faris Is Unqualified," Gosselaar, who played Bayside's resident prankster, revealed that he had a relationship with the then-starlet. "When you're working on a set, and we were young, there's no one around, really," he said. "You work and live in a bubble." The actor explained that the cast became more than friends due to the fact that there weren't many dating options for them, since they were on set so often and not attending school. "All of us dated at one point or another — it was incestuous!" he told People. The tight-knit cast has definitely put their old feelings behind them, and now even socialize together with their spouses.

With the "Saved by the Bell" reboot underway, Berkley has reunited with both of her male costars — the actor she dated on-screen and the other she courted when the cameras weren't rolling. Even after all this time has passed, her fondness for the Bayside boys was made apparent by the Instagram photo she posted with them, captioning it, "#friendsforever," a nod to the song of the same name that was featured on the original show. 

Her on-screen love interest is 'a dear friend'

Jessie and Slater are an iconic couple, not just on "Saved by the Bell," but in the zeitgeist of the '90s. Their electric on-screen chemistry has withstood the test of time, and now, over 30 years later, they're just as compatible. In the "SBTB" reboot, their characters are back at Bayside, this time as part of the faculty. And as for a romantic reunion for one of TV's most adored high school sweethearts, Berkley is definitely shipping #SlaterSpano. So will there be a round two for the couple?  "How can there not be?!" she exclaimed in an EW interview.

Her close relationship with Mario Lopez is apparent in the Instagram photos she posts of them embracing. As for working together again after all this time, she told Parade about a surreal on-set moment. "I used to look across that booth at this young boy, and I'm now looking at a man who's a father and a dear friend with a lot of history there." The pair is just as tight as they used to be, and even still use their old nicknames for each other. On "The Ellen Show," they revealed that they've called each other "Dud" since they were 15, and Berkley's son even refers to Lopez by that moniker. Berkley reminisced about how the name came about, saying, "I made a collage with pictures of us and I got cartons of Milk Duds and cut out the word 'dud.'"

She was her husband's childhood crush

From a young age, Elizabeth Berkley began to develop her lifelong love for dance. She began tapping at the age of four (via E! Online) and by 12, she was enrolled in jazz and ballet lessons as well (via The New York Times). "It's my salvation ... Still part of my life force and my most sacred place," she told Vogue

She probably could have never imagined that as an adult, dance would play a pivotal role in her personal life. The veteran performer actually met her husband — fashion designer, actor and artist Greg Lauren — in a dance class in 2000 (via In Style). The pair made eye contact through the studio mirror, had dinner with their classmates that night, and then, just over a week later, went on a date — and the rest is history. The lovebirds married on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in 2003 (via InStyle) and welcomed their son, Sky Cole Lauren in 2012, when Berkley was 40 (via People). 

Lauren revealed to Us Weekly that Jessie Spano was his childhood crush, and when people discover who his wife is, they are quite envious. "They either hit me or push or they don't even talk to me anymore," he said. "I got Jessie, sorry Slater!" Now together for over two decades, the couple's date nights are filled with sushi and meditation, which they told the magazine is fitting, being that they're based in LA.

When she was eliminated on Dancing with the Stars, she felt 'sucker punched'

In 2013, Elizabeth Berkley joined "Dancing with the Stars," and was partnered with pro Val Chmerkovskiy. She credits her then-one-year-old son with the decision to take on the competition, as she was "in a joyful place" at the time (via Variety). 

The experienced dancer felt like she had the rug pulled out from under her when she was sent home right before the semifinals. "I felt a little ... sucker punched," she said on "Today" when describing the moment she heard the surprising announcement. "It feels like we got cut short." Berkley wasn't the only one who felt that way, and her seemingly premature elimination goes down in the show's history as one of the most shocking. Fans also shared the sentiment, and took to Twitter to express their discontent with posts saying she "got cheated hard" and was "robbed" by the results.

When it came to her dance numbers, it was only fitting that she did a routine to "I'm So Excited," paying homage to her favorite "Saved by the Bell" episode (via Us Weekly). The video of the dance, which definitely brought a dose of nostalgia to all the "SBTB" fans cheering on at home, wound up going viral. What was Berkley's response to the overwhelming reception to the throwback? "I'm thrilled it was embraced by the fans the way it has been. We did it for them" (via Variety).

The actress-turned-author once wrote an advice column which led to a bestselling book

It was because of her devoted legion of fans that Elizabeth Berkley ultimately launched an advice column. "I'd be with my husband walking in SoHo or in a mall and girls would come up for an autograph or a picture, and I really enjoyed engaging with them," she explained to the Los Angeles Times. After her husband witnessed all these conversations, he suggested that his wife start an advice column, and the now-defunct website "Ask Elizabeth" was born. The resource focused on topics that girls aged 11 to 18 deal with, such as body image, self-esteem, friendship, and dating. (Although the site is no longer active, you can still read some of her advice pieces in the Huffington Post, where she worked as a contributor.)

The column grew into a nonprofit organization and a book, which landed a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. It also blossomed into a lecture series, where the actress-turned-self-help-guru spoke to middle school students around the country. "For me, it's about providing them with a safe space to deal with all they're navigating and passing the mic to them," she told Vogue. For Berkley, art now imitates life, because in the "Saved by the Bell" reboot, Jessie is a bestselling author and guidance counselor at Bayside (via Screenrant).

Before acting, she dabbled in modeling

At 13, Elizabeth Berkley scored a contract with Elite Model Management based in New York City. She even placed as a finalist at the agency's "Look of the Year" competition (via IMDb), an annual contest that launched the careers of models like Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen (via The Guardian). 

While she was strutting on runways, Berkley was still nabbing acting roles, and ultimately traded in posing for photoshoots for running lines on TV and movie sets. Berkley seems to be quite content with the trajectory of her career, which was made apparent when she posted a throwback modeling shot with the caption "#wouldntwantadifferentstory."

One aspect of her former modeling gigs — being immersed in the world of high-end fashion — was reintroduced to Berkley later in life. As fate would have it, she happened to marry into fashion royalty. Her husband, Greg Lauren, is the nephew of famed designer Ralph Lauren (via Esquire). "I think I've learned so much about style just by being a part of this amazing creative family," she told Vogue. Her other half is also in the industry, and has actually created some of the clothing that his wife wore in the "Saved by the Bell" reboot. "Several of my shirts [on the show] were done by Greg. I'm constantly in awe of his talent," she told the magazine. 

Elizabeth Berkley once hosted a reality show

Like her multitasking costar Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley also added the title of host to her resume. In 2008, she was asked to be at the helm when Bravo launched "Step It Up & Dance." The reality show showcased young professional dancers from around the country who performed different routines for prize money. On the short-lived series that only lasted a season (via IMDb), Berkley lended moral support to the contestants. And because of her experience training in dance, she empathized with their passion and dedication (via The New York Times).

And although the "Showgirls" alum gave up dancing after the film due to the harsh criticism she received, she got back on the saddle with this gig, as well as her stint on "Dancing with the Stars." "I had to find my strength and my confidence and go back out there again," she told Variety. "I think that because it was so criticized, it was humiliating — doing anything that was connected to the film was not fun."

She was pursued by an A-list actor, which resulted in a lawsuit

In the late '90s, Elizabeth Berkley was dating actor Roger Wilson, known for starring in the "Porky's" movies and being the ex-boyfriend of supermodel Christy Turlington (via Page Six). In 1998, he sued Leonardo DiCaprio and his friends for a staggering $45 million for an incident connected to the actress. The suit detailed that DiCaprio, whose stardom had just skyrocketed with the release of "Titanic," hit on Berkley after meeting her at a New York party following the premiere of his film, "The Man in the Iron Mask."

According to the account, DiCaprio's publicist approached Berkley asking her to join the actor and his group at a restaurant (via CNN), but she promptly turned the invitation down, saying she was taken by Wilson (via EW). The next day, DiCaprio and his friend left Berkley voicemails, asking her to party with them, which she ignored.

Two days later, a scorned Wilson confronted DiCaprio and his pals outside the now-shuttered celebrity hotspot Asia de Cuba in Manhattan. According to the claim, DiCaprio encouraged his friends to attack him by shouting, "Let's go kick his a**!" As a result, Wilson was punched in the throat, which broke his larynx (via The Guardian), putting an end to his career. However, the charges were eventually dropped, and DiCaprio's publicist said he was "grateful that the judicial system has finally resolved this case in a fair and just manner" (via People).

During a difficult time in her life, she was grateful for this costar's support

A year after her devastating experience with the negative reception of "Showgirls," Elizabeth Berkley starred in "The First Wives Club." The actress credits the 1996 comedy with giving her the confidence she lacked after Hollywood shunned her. And a lot of that was due to the guidance she received from her costar, Goldie Hawn. In the film, Berkley played the young girlfriend to Hawn's character's ex-husband, and the two became close. "Goldie especially took me under her wing and was really supportive, she told the BBC.

Almost two decades after it premiered, Berkley is still grateful for the movie, calling it "one of her favorite jobs ever," and for the opportunity to work with the "Overboard" actress. In 2015, she posted an Instagram photo of her and Hawn on set, stating she was "like an angel" to her, giving her sound advice. She concluded her gushing by saying, "I'm forever grateful to her now as a friend."