Mark-Paul Gosselaar, best known as Zack Morris from the hit ‘90s television show “Saved by the Bell,” spoke about his struggles and successes as an actor at yesterday’s Class Day event held at Glenn Memorial Church.
Gosselaar began by stating he did some research on college prior to preparing his speech since he never attended college himself.
“I was shocked to find you’ve been doing this for four years,” Gosselaar joked. “I thought the college years lasted for only 22 episodes.”
When discussing the evolution of “Saved by the Bell,” Gosselaar noted that the show was a spin-off of a series that aired for one year called “Good Morning, Miss Bliss.”
The show featured several of the characters from “Saved by the Bell” and took place in Indiana.
Gosselaar said when “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” was revamped most people did not notice the classmates had inexplicably moved from Indiana to the Pacific Palisades in California.
Gosselaar said he enjoyed making “Saved by the Bell,” and explained he felt several of the issues presented in the show mirrored the issues the actors were experiencing in their lives.
“For me, ‘Saved by the Bell’ really was my high school,” he said.
He explained that while parts of television shows may coincide with real-life situations, television often ignores the larger problems in life.
“TV offers a version of real life that is designed to distract people from what is real life,” Gosselaar said.
For Gosselaar and his co-stars, high school entailed a few hours of schooling a week.
Gosselaar said he never had to write papers and mainly just had to fill out multiple choice packets every week.
He joked that if he had to write a thesis, he could have written about hair, given the intense, ritual color-treatment he had to undergo on a regular basis to portray the fair-haired Morris.
After “Saved by the Bell” ended, Gosselaar said he struggled to find work.
“Every time I went into a casting office they expected a blonde-haired guy from the Palisades,” Gosselaar said. “I was a brown-haired dude from the valley.”
In the meantime, Gosselaar planned his wedding, a small ceremony in Hawaii.
After two and a half years making regular trips to the unemployment office, Gosselaar landed a part in a television movie.
“It turns out the moment you let things go is the moment you touch down,” Gosselaar said.
Gosselaar encouraged students to pursue their passions despite any obstacles they may face.
“No one’s life flows without disappointment and pain,” Gosselaar said. “We all have our ups and downs.”
In an interview with the Wheel
before his speech, Gosselaar acknowledged that this was the first time he had to deliver an address of such a length and was eager for the challenge.
“I thought it was time for me to open up about my experiences on ‘Saved by the Bell’ and in life in general.” Gosselaar said. “I have been very reserved at times, and I felt this was a safe environment to express myself. I hope students walk away with a little more knowledge of where I came from and the sort of things that have shaped me over the years.”
In addition to Gosselaar’s speech, three students were presented with Boisfeuillet Jones Medals, which recognize students for leadership, citizenship, service to Emory and the surrounding community, academic performance and their potential to bring about change in the future.
Senior Vice Provost Santa Ono won the Brit Katz Senior Appreciation Award for his involvement in the Emory community and his ability to serve as a role model and friend to the senior class.
The 100 Senior Honorary Recognition followed the announcement of the Brit Katz Appreciation Award.
Class gifts were also presented during the event.
Emory University President James W. Wagner delivered the concluding remarks, after which assembled seniors and administrators — and Gosselaar — attended a reception at the Emory Conference Center Hotel.
— Contact Molly Davis