The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story takes a nostalgic look back at the ‘90s TV show that changed the landscape of Saturday mornings. Delving into the experiences of six unknown young actors who suddenly have the Hollywood spotlight shining brightly on them, it also exposes the challenges of growing up under public scrutiny while trying to maintain the squeaky clean image of their popular characters. With casting done by the original series’ casting director, Robin Lippin, the movie stars Dylan Everett as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Sam Kindseth as Dustin Diamond, Julian Works as Mario Lopez, Alyssa Lynch as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Tiera Skovbye as Elizabeth Berkley, and Taylor Russell McKenzie as Lark Voorhies.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Dylan Everett talked about how he came to be a part of the movie, not knowing that he had auditioned for the original series casting director, what he identified with in the script, the importance of finding who you are outside of the business, how nerve-wracking it was to make this, knowing that all of the original cast members are still around, wanting to get as close to Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s performance as possible, how much he loved the wardrobe, and just how much fun he had making the movie. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of this?
DYLAN EVERETT: It was a very typical audition process. I got a call from my agent who said, “This is where it is and this is when it is,” and I showed up. And then, three days later, they were flying me out to Vancouver. It was a very quick process.
Did you know, from the beginning, that the original series casting director would be the one casting the movie, or did you learn about that, later on?
EVERETT: That was something that I learned, later on. When I got to Vancouver, I was in the production office and I overheard people talking about it. I was like, “Wait, what was that?!” And they were like, “You know that Robin Lippin, the original casting director, cast this, right?” I was like, “No, but that makes total sense, and I’m really glad she did because that means that she saw something in me that must be similar to something that she saw in Mark-Paul.” That was really cool, and a relief, actually.
Why did you want to get involved with this? Had you been familiar with the original series?
EVERETT: I had never watched the actual show. It was before my time. I was born in 1995, and I think the show was cancelled before then. But, it was always a show that I had heard about and it was always familiar to me. And then, when I booked the project, in doing my research, I was like, “Wow, this show was huge!” It was probably the quintessential kids show that the more modern kids shows these days are modeled after. It blew my mind that I hadn’t really known about it more.
As someone who’s grown up in this business, when you read the script for this, what most struck you about it?
EVERETT: Growing up as a young actor, there were so many things that I could relate to. Going through the script, there were things that really hit home. Being a young actor, I remember missing out on summers, birthday parties and school trips through high school because I was filming. There are so many things that you have to sacrifice and give up for it. And then, it also complicates other things in your life. Relationships are harder to maintain, as a young actor, and they’re harder to start. There were a lot of things that were like a hammer on the head for me, and that I could relate to. That was a big part of me really wanting to get the part in this project. I hope that people who watch this movie come away with a new appreciation for young performer maintaining a career like that, at that age. It’s not easy.
This movie delves into the experiences of six young actors who go from being unknown to being in the Hollywood spotlight. What’s it been like for you to work in this business, and balance that with finding your own life that’s separate from that?
EVERETT: You need to find who you are, outside of the business. I started young. I’m also very fortunate that me getting into this business was me finding who I am. I just found it at a very young age. I’m very lucky, in that sense. I’m very comfortable within this business now. But when I was younger, it was tricky because I missed out on so much of my social life and so much of the school thing. You start to question, “Is this worth it? Am I doing this because I love it?” You start to have a real crisis of faith in your professionalism, at some point, and I did. I was fortunate enough that it happened to me at a young age, and I caught it and decided to stick with it. That was another thing that I love about this movie. It is about the cast of Saved by the Bell, but it could really apply to any young actor. They will all identify with this film, in one way or another.
The scene where you’re playing Mark-Paul Gosselaar, arguing with his mother about wanting to be able to spend his own money on what he wants to spend it on, seems like it could ring true for just about anybody.
EVERETT: Yes, and that situation, more likely than not, applies to pretty much every young actor. I had the same conversation with my parents. You’re like, “This is my money, and I feel like I should spend it how I want.” And your parents are trying to instill responsibility in you, but you’re not responsible enough to handle that much money. It’s not until you get older that you look back and go, “You know what? They were right.” I’ve always had a great relationship with my mother, and with both of my parents. We can sit down and talk about things, and even if we do argue, we can get over it and get passed it. But it wasn’t until I was older that I could look back and go, “My parents were right, and I’m glad that I listened to them.”
Are you someone who finds guilty pleasure in reading the gossip of what goes on behind the scenes, or does being a working actor yourself change your perspective on that?
EVERETT: It is my guilty pleasure. I am an actor and I should know better, but I still wanna know. It’s very similar to having fans. You never see yourself as that interesting. You’re like, “Really? Me? You want a picture with me? I’m boring!” But if I saw somebody like Simon Pegg or Johnny Depp, or one of my heroes, I’d get totally starstruck and want to go ask them for a picture. It’s akin to that. You never think it applies to you, until it does.
Was it nerve-wracking to know that this is an unauthorized story that’s left open to interpretation, and it hasn’t been endorsed by any of the cast members, knowing that they’re all still alive and around?
EVERETT: I was a little nervous filming it because you never know how people are going to take it. You never know how they’re going to respond to it, especially the actors that you’re portraying. I know that Mark-Paul did an interview with Breckin Meyer recently, and someone had asked him about the film and if he was involved with it. Mark-Paul, being the super cool guy he is, said, “I’m not involved with it, but if they’re making, that’s cool. Good on ‘em. We’ll see how it is.” So, it is nerve-wracking, to some degree, until you get some feedback. I think that if they sat down and watched it, they would enjoy it and they would walk away feeling satisfied.
What makes this movie different from other unauthorized films of its type?
EVERETT: This show was a cult show, but its fans were kids. Now that they’ve grown up and are adults, and the show has been off the air for so long and out of their mind for awhile, this resurgence revives the kid in them, a little bit. These fans are so loyal. I hope they tune in and I hope they like it.
How did you find your performance for this?
EVERETT: I needed to be as close to Mark-Paul as possible. I needed to hit as close to the mark of his portrayal of the character as possible, simply because this was a show that was so huge and the fans of the original show expect to see Mark-Paul Gosselaar. So, the fact that they don’t have Mark-Paul Gosselaar playing Zack Morris is going to be hard enough to get past. That will be an adjustment. So, I wanted to stick as close to his performance as possible because that’s the reminder for them. I wanted to keep as true to that as possible. Inevitably, a little piece of yourself always ends up in a performance. You can’t get away from that. You are who you are. But, I did want it to be as close to what MPG did with the character as possible.
How much fun was it to get into this wardrobe, and to see everybody else in the wardrobe?
EVERETT: I was a huge fan of the wardrobe. I think it’s because all of the ‘80s and ‘90s clothes are making a comeback. All of the crazy patterns and crazy bright colors are making a comeback now. Instead of people being like, “Oh, my god, what are they wearing?,” they’ll be like, “Oh, my god, where did they get that?” I walked away from the set with a wool-knit sweater and crazy baggy button-up shirts that I can tuck into my pants. It was awesome. I walked away with some real retro Nikes. I walked away with quite a bit of stuff. I was a big fan of the wardrobe. I think it’s going to be a real refresher for the people that grew up in that decade.
What was it like to work with this cast of actors? Did you guys have a lot of fun making this together?
EVERETT: I had so much fun making this film. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast, a better crew or a better work environment. Everything about it was so fantastic. It was great. It was nothing like the movie, at all. There was no friction between the cast. We all got along great. The chemistry was instant and wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about all those guys. I was just thankful for the opportunity, and to be there and be a part of the film.
Where are you looking to go next in your career? Are you hoping to find a balance between film and TV, or are you feeling more drawn to one over the other, at this point?
EVERETT: I feel like the stigma between TV and movies is slowly becoming blurred. Look at all of the huge A-list movie actors, nowadays, that are all doing fantastic TV. Look at the quality of TV that is on these days. It is so good. The stigma between that shouldn’t exist anymore. That being said, I’m a working actor and I’m going to take anything I can get my hands on. I’m not really in a position to turn one down and focus on the other. I’m going to take anything that’s offered to me, and I’m going to go out for as much as possible, and I’m going to try to get as much exposure as possible. If there’s a role on a TV show for me, I’ll take it. If there’s a role in a movie, I’ll take it. I just wanna act. That’s all it comes down to. It could be on a theater stage at my community school, or it could be on a huge set. As long as I get to do what I love, that’s all that matters.
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story airs on Lifetime on September 1st.