What You Never Knew About Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Out of all the characters in '90s sitcoms, Zack Morris is up there as one of the most iconic. And the actor who portrayed him, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, was one of the biggest teen stars of that decade. The "Saved by the Bell" heartthrob's image was plastered on the pages of teen magazines, and many even named him their first celebrity crush. Even today, his face can be found on everything from t-shirts to water bottles.

The sitcom star was just 15 when he first dazzled audiences as Bayside High's resident prankster, with his charming grin and that mischievous, yet endearing, twinkle in his eye. The veteran actor, who has amassed quite a resume since the show wrapped in 1993, probably never imagined that, over 30 years later, he'd be playing the popular character again in the "SBTB" reboot. The 2020 series, now in its second season on Peacock, is introducing a whole new generation of fans to his character, Zack, and his son with Kelly Kapowski, whom they named Mac (gotta love it).

Although fans may think they know all there is to learn about the Los Angeles native who still calls California home, here are some interesting facts we discovered about the beloved actor, husband, and dad of four.

At 5 years old, he began working professionally

Way before his "Saved by the Bell" days, Mark-Paul Gosselaar was already working in entertainment. It all started from the encouragement of a friend of his mother, a working model. The woman, who can take some credit for his future rise to stardom, suggested he get photos taken (via USA Today), and the rest is history. By age 5, he had an agent and began getting hired for print work and commercials, his first being for Smurf modeling clay in 1982. Another one of his earliest TV spots was a campaign for Oreo cookies (via TV Guide).

In 1986, at 12 years old, he made his TV debut on "Highway to Heaven." He recounted the experience on "The Rich Eisen Show," saying, "We were shooting an uzi that I accidentally killed my father with ... That's about all I remember." Pretty soon, he was landing appearances on popular '80s shows like "The Twilight Zone," "Punky Brewster," and "Charles in Charge" (per USA Today). 

He dyed his hair blond for Saved by the Bell

Although fans may assume Mark-Paul Gosselaar is a blond, because of the hair color of his "Saved by the Bell" character, Zack Morris, that is surprisingly not the case. So why did the show's producers decide to have the young actor, who naturally has brown hair, make the drastic change to his hair? It all came about because of his first audition, for which he "overdyed" it, and the powers that be liked it so much they decided to keep it (via "The Rich Eisen Show"). Gosselaar told People that many fans have told him they were shocked to learn his hair color on the show doesn't match his real one, which baffles him. "My question to them was, 'Did it look natural?' That was the most fake bleach job on television."

On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Gosselaar also spoke about his ever-changing hair styles. His varying coifs were because he and the rest of the cast thought "Saved by the Bell" would be canceled after each season. "And that's why every season my hairstyle was so radically different," he said. In the "SBTB" reboot, he "thankfully" doesn't have to color his locks, but he does wear a wig (via Entertainment Tonight) to transform into the Zack we know and love.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar is Asian-American

Although many may not realize, Mark-Paul Gosselaar is actually from a mixed race family. In an interview on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," the sitcom star recognized that fans could be surprised to learn this fact. "People don't know that Zack Morris is half Asian," he noted. Gosselaar's father was born in the Netherlands, and his mother is a native of Indonesia. When he was coming of age in Hollywood, back in the '80s, he said that people "struggled" with understanding what a mixed family looked like (via Hollywood Outbreak).

So he would have probably never predicted that, decades later, he would be cast in a series that celebrated a positive change in representation on television. In 2019's "Mixed-ish," a spinoff of "Black-ish," based on Tracee Ellis Ross' character growing up in a biracial family in the '80s, Gosselaar plays the patriarch. "Because I looked the way I did, I really never had to go through some of the experiences that some of the characters on our show are going through," he told Hollywood Outbreak.

He dated all three of Saved By the Bell's leading ladies

In case you've wondered how close the cast of "Saved by the Bell" was, let's just say a lot of them were more than friends. "All of us dated at one point or another — it was incestuous!" Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who dated all three of the show's leading ladies, told People. On "Anna Faris Is Unqualified," the former teen star revealed he dated his co-star Elizabeth Berkley, who played (and still does on the reboot) Jessie Spano. "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 late Dustin Diamond disclosed in his memoir that Tiffani Thiessen, a.k.a. Kelly Kapowski, was romantically linked to both Gosselaar and Mario Lopez, who played A.C. Slater, and would visit both of their dressing rooms (via Ranker). However, Gosselaar's longest relationship was with co-star Lark Voorhies, who played Lisa Turtle, whom he dated for three years during filming (via E!).

There was another character on the series, whom he didn't date IRL, but with whom he had a physical connection with on screen. On his podcast, "Zack to the Future," he welcomed Leah Remini, who played Stacey Carosi. "Those are real kisses — by the way, because Tiffani and I never had a kiss like we have," he said. "But there is not a single person that Zack comes into contact with, in my opinion, that had a chemistry that you and I had."

His impressive net worth doesn't include much money from SBTB

"Saved by the Bell" was based on the show "Good Morning Miss Bliss," where Mark-Paul Gosselaar first introduced audiences to the character of Zack Morris. That fledgling series lasted from 1987 to 1989, and when that wrapped, the actor resumed the starring role of Zack in "Saved by the Bell" — which debuted in 1989 — and its spinoffs: He starred in "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," which ran from 1993 to 1994, and, that same year, also played the lead in the TV movie "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas," where his character ties the knot with Kelly Kapowski, played by Tiffani Thiessen. 

Therefore, one would assume that his staggering net worth of $8 million is due to all the dough he rakes in from the franchise, which has lived on in syndication for decades (via Screen Rant). However, that is not actually the case. On "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," Gosselaar dished that the cast is not reaping the monetary benefits that would be expected from such a successful sitcom. "We made really bad deals," he said. "Poor deals, back then. It is what it is. You move on, you learn. Great experience."

His first wife is now married to another celebrity

Mark-Paul Gosselaar's first crushes were an actress and a model — more specifically, Julia Roberts and Elle Macpherson (via USA Today). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he went on to marry actress and model Lisa Ann Russell. The two met in 1993, when the then-starlet made an appearance on "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" on the episode "Rush Week," where the boys look to join a fraternity on campus. By 1996, the lovebirds tied the knot in Hawaii. In 2004, they welcomed their son, Michael Charles Gosselaar, and, in 2006, daughter Ava Lorenn Gosselaar (via IMDb). However, in 2010, after 13 years of marriage, they called it quits (via the New York Daily News). 

In 2011, Russell went on to marry Jeff Probst, known for being at the helm of "Survivor" since its premiere in 2000 (via Men's Health). Now, Gosselaar successfully co-parents with the longtime reality host. In fact, on "Larry King Live," Probst gushed about their blended family, saying that Gosselaar's son and daughter with Russell "just see us as two more parents."

Three months after his divorce, he proposed to his second wife

The ink was hardly dry on his divorce papers when Mark-Paul Gosselaar proposed to his then-girlfriend, Canadian advertising executive Catriona McGinn. People reported that the actor, who was 36 at the time, popped the question only three short months after his split from Lisa Ann Russell was legally finalized. "It was so unexpected," McGinn explained to Inside Weddings about the proposal. "I fell into his arms crying, saying 'You're crazy, of course, yes!'"

In 2012, the couple tied the knot at a winery in Santa Ynez, California (via People). The groom was extremely involved in planning the nuptials, telling the magazine, "I'm too type-A to let it happen around me. We're trying to make it as traditional as possible. It's going to be fun!" With his second wife, the actor welcomed two more children: son Dekker Edward Gosselaar and daughter Lachlyn Hope Gosselaar (via People).

He doesn't want his four children involved in show business

Although he was a child star himself, when it comes to his own offspring, Mark-Paul Gosselaar wants them to stay far away from show business. The actor was featured in the 2021 Hulu documentary "Kid 90," which was created using home videos taken during that decade from Soleil Moon Frye, who catapulted to fame from the '80s series "Punky Brewster." The docuseries, which CNN called "a time capsule about being young and famous in the '90s," stars the biggest young names of the time, including Brian Austin Green, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Wahlberg (via IMDb).

In the film, Gosselaar recounts an unsettling memory from the set of "Saved by the Bell." "The director was saying, 'The minute you walk through these double doors leading onto the stage, you're no longer a child anymore, you're an adult,'" he said (via People). Gosselaar went on to note that experience as the reason he does not want his children — who are known to binge-watch "SBTB," by the way — involved in Hollywood. "I don't want my children in it is because I don't feel it's a place for children," he said.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar couldn't wait to play Zack Morris again

When he began playing Zack Morris on "Saved by the Bell," Mark-Paul Gosselaar was just 15 years old (via The U.S. Sun). The show went on for four seasons, from 1989 to 1993, so the actor spent his entire teenage years in the role of Bayside's resident prankster. After the show wrapped, he then went on to play Zack again in "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," which ran from 1993 to 1994, and then played him yet again in the TV movie "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas" that year. So, as you can imagine, Gosselaar became quite attached to the blond California student with a penchant for mischief.

However, when all the buzz began about a possible reboot, Gosselaar wasn't immediately on board. In an interview that he and Tiffani Thiessen did with BuzzFeed, he explained their initial trepidation with the project, saying, "We couldn't quite wrap our heads around a project that would celebrate the original while also feeling organic." However, when comedy writer Tracey Wigfield, known for her work on "30 Rock" and "The Mindy Project," signed on, and he learned of her vision for the show, he was "[blown] away." When the reboot started production in January 2020, Gosselaar and Thiessen couldn't join the rest of the cast due to scheduling conflicts. However, at the time, the actor told Entertainment Tonight that he couldn't "wait to play the character again."

The actor is a competitive cyclist

From an early age, Mark-Paul Gosselaar demonstrated a passion for riding and actually started racing motorcycles at 5 (via The Real Daytime)! As he got older, he started cycling to stay in shape and shed some pounds (via VeloNews). Then, in his early 30s, a friend invited him to participate in a triathlon, and he completed in the cycling portion. After that experience, he was hooked and began competing in the sport, even earning the title of "perhaps the best celebrity-slash-bicyclist in America" by The New York Times. "I'm probably on my bike five or six days a week, and I race almost every weekend," he told Bicycling. He does get entertained when his fellow riders are in disbelief that he is so good on his bike. "It makes me chuckle when riders say to each other, 'An actor beat you,' because of the perception of what actors do," he said.

He went on to explain that, after a race, his fellow competitors discuss "Saved by the Bell" with him and ask for autographs. In fact, the actor-turned-athlete is so enthusiastic about riding that it was actually a part of his pre-wedding festivities! Before his nuptials, he told VeloNews, "I'm getting married in July and they asked me what I wanted to do and I said, 'I don't want to go to a bar. Let's go to Belgium and go ride.'"

The SBTB star once rented out his mansion for $13.5K a month

Mark-Paul Gosselaar was born in Los Angeles, and, now, all these years later, still resides in California (via Hollywood Life). In 2014, after he married his second wife, Catriona McGinn, and had their first son together, the actor bought a new home in Sherman Oaks, California, for his family (via The Dirt). The price of his not-so-humble abode was a staggering $2.3 million (via Trulia). In 2017, the actor was renting out his sprawling, five-bedroom, five-bathroom 5,266-square-foot property for $13,500 per month (per Architectural Digest). 

The high-end zip code where the Gosselaar brood resides is known to attract actors and is also a sought-out location for celebrity-owned businesses. The neighborhood's shopping area, on Ventura Boulevard, is filled with spots like Lisa Rinna's clothing boutique, Tori Spelling's antique store, and Melissa Joan Hart's sweets shop (via Patch). And, since the "Saved by the Bell" reboot is filmed in Los Angeles (via TheCinemaholic), and "Mixed-ish" is shot in L.A. as well (per TheCinemaholic), he also works fairly close to home.

Although he attended college on TV, he regrets not going IRL

In 1993, when he was 19 years old, Mark-Paul Gosselaar starred in "Saved by the Bell: The College Years." In the series, which only lasted for one season, he joined some of the OG cast members — Mario Lopez, Dustin Diamond, and Tiffani Thiessen — as their characters all went to the same university. In 1993, Gosselaar and his on-screen high school and college love interest, Thiessen, were interviewed on "Today," where the actor addressed the changes made in the spinoff. "Everything that they do in college, they have to work for, everything they did in high school was given to them," he explained.

And, although he experienced college through the lens of the series, IRL he did not pursue higher education. During a Television Critics Association press tour, Gosselaar reflected on not attending college himself. "If there's one regret that I have ... it's that I didn't get a further education other than high school and I'd love for my kids to do that," he said (via Fox News).

He never watched SBTB reruns until he launched a podcast about the show

After "Saved by the Bell" wrapped, Mark-Paul Gosselaar never rewatched a single episode. "I remember nothing," he confessed to Variety. So, although he was asked multiple times to start a podcast, he declined. That all changed in 2020, when he teamed up with Dashiell Driscoll, the host of the popular YouTube show, "Zack Morris is Trash," and a writer on the "Saved by the Bell" reboot, to launch the "Zack to the Future" podcast, where the pair dissects one "SBTB" episode per show (via Variety). They also bring on special guests, including former co-stars. In one episode, Tiffani Thiessen, who plays Kelly Kapowski, Zack's love interest on the show, joined in to talk about "The Prom" episode. In another, Tori Spelling reminisced about playing Violet. And in its Season 1 finale, Gosselaar brought on Elizabeth Berkley to discuss the infamous caffeine pills episode. 

The veteran actor explained that his podcast process involves watching one episode every Saturday, taking notes, and looking it over again prior to taping. So how does he feel about rewatching his early acting, after so many years have passed? "I feel like it's a little bit torturous every week for me to go through this process because I am watching my work — and it doesn't matter that it's 30 years old, it's still something that I feel like I can improve," he told Variety.