Mark-Paul Gosselaar Says He "Cringed" Rewatching This Insensitive Saved By the Bell Episode

Saved By the Bell actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar confessed that the 1990 episode called "Running Zack" would "never get made" in current times and "rightly so."

By Lindsay Weinberg Apr 02, 2021 2:57 AMTags
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Mark-Paul Gosselaar admitted that he cringes while re-watching some of his old appearances on Saved by the Bell

In particular, the actor is not a fan of the 1990 episode "Running Zack," in which his character, Zack Morris, insensitively wears a traditional Native American headdress to class.

"I cringed seeing myself portraying a white dude being Zack Morris, who is like the all-American, blonde-haired white dude in an Indian Native American headdress," Mark-Paul, 47, said on the Zack to the Future podcast, per Today.

In the Saved by the Bell episode, Zack's class is presenting about their ancestry. The track star finds a photo of a Native American at his house and assumes it's a picture of a "distant Indian relative." He doesn't take the presentation seriously and puts faux war paint on Screech's (Dustin Diamond) face using red lipstick. When his teacher asks what tribe he's from, Zack guesses, "Cherokee."

His teacher isn't impressed, but gives him a second chance and tells him to go speak to her friend, Chief Henry. After learning that his ancestor was a chief named Whispering Wind, Zack comes to class in a stereotypical Native American headdress to show off his family history.

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More than 30 years after the "Running Zack" episode aired, Mark-Paul's memory is a little foggy on how exactly it all happened.

"This is one of those that I don't, I don't like remember putting on the headdress," he said on the podcast. "I don't remember putting face paint on. I don't remember standing in that awkward way that I was standing where my arms are folded and like a very stereotypical way."

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He's previously said that re-watching the original Saved by the Bell series can be "torturous." 

However, he doesn't think that the mistakes in "Running Zack" would be made in Hollywood in modern times. "Again, there are there are protocols in place to and filters that, you know, like a director, standards and practices," he said. "We're much more sensitive now, for good reason, that those things would not happen today. Like, this episode would never get made in current times, and rightly so."

Mark-Paul has questioned similar sensitive topics on his current show, Mixed-ish, as well. (He portrays Paul Johnson alongside co-stars Tika Sumpter and Tracee Ellis Ross).

"There are times where we're like, ‘Are we sure we're allowed to do this? I mean, is this appropriate?'" he recalled. "And we've been assured that the writers and the executive producers and everyone behind the scenes has gone through the blender to make sure that we are not being offensive for offensive's sake." 

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