30 Shocking Saved By the Bell Secrets Revealed

So many cast hook ups, a sex tape and endless bleach jobs, oh my! The iconic teen series turns 30 today and we're So excited to spill facts you never knew about Saved By the Bell

By Tierney Bricker Aug 20, 2019 6:00 PMTags
Watch: A Blast From Interviews Past: "Saved by the Bell"

Time out, how is Saved By the Bell 30 years old? 

That's right, we're so excited and so scared to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Saved By the Bell's premiere, with viewers officially meeting the Bayside High gang on August 20, 1989. While the fashion trends may be seriously outdated and the technology has significantly advanced since Zack answered his brick-of-a-phone, our love for the iconic teen show lives on. 

But it seems the behind-the-scenes antics of the young cast—Mark Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond—were often far juicer than the somewhat tame storylines the show could get away with as a Saturday morning show. 

31 Shocking Saved By the Bell Secrets Revealed

Did you know Gosselaar dated all three of his female co-stars during the show's five-year run? With Lopez also revealing he dated one of his fellow cast members as well, leading to some on-set fighting and drama among the stars, leaving series creator Peter Engel to play producer and parent.

Plus, a dishy tell-all penned by Diamond caused a major rift between one of TV's most infamous nerds and the rest of the cast. And then there was that whole sex tape ordeal. Oh, you don't remember that? 

Here are 30 shocking secrets you might not know about Saved By the Bell...

1. Originally titled Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the show was initially inspired by the then-NBC president's sixth grade teacher—yes, Miss Bliss—and he asked producer Pete Engel to make a show about her. Hayley Mills was cast as Miss Bliss after Sandy Duncan was first considered. But after seeing the pilot, NBC decided not to pick it up.

Disney Channel, however, took a chance and aired a 13-episode season from 1988-89 of a retooled Miss Bliss, recasting most of the roles and aging up the students to eighth grade. Due to its low ratings, it was canceled after one season.

2. In the very first pilot, future Beverly Hills, 90210 star Brian Austin Green was one of the major child characters. And another young actor who would go on to play a beloved '90s sitcom character was also featured: Jaleel White a.k.a. Steve Urkel. 

3. After Miss Bliss' cancellation, NBC had a change of heart and felt that the show could actually work if the focus was placed on the kids rather than Miss Bliss, leading to what would become Saved By the Bell.

Only four actors from that show made it over to the revamped series: Mark Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, Lark Voorhies and Dennis Haskins (Principal Belding). The location was changed from Indianapolis to the Palisades in Los Angeles, and the characters were upgraded to high schoolers. (Bayside High forever!)

4. The role of Kelly Kapowski came down to three young actresses: Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Jennie Garth, with the latter eventually going on to star in Aaron Spelling's other iconic teen show, Beverly Hills, 90210. While Thiessen ultimately landed the role of one of the '90s most crushed-on characters, the producers loved Berkley so much they created the part of Jessie Spano specifically for her. 

5. When casting A.C. Slater, producers had a completely different vision in mind before finding Mario Lopez. "Slater was supposed to be Vinny Barbarino with a leather jacket, from Welcome Back, Kotter," Engel said on the Industry Standard podcast. "Italian kid, who was a street kid, who was an Army brat."

As for A.C.'s infamous permed mullet, Lopez's mother actually did it for him. "I wanted to look like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon," he told People. "I didn't even know I had a mullet!"

6. Oh, and A.C.'s real name? Albert Clifford. 

7. Three-plus years younger than the rest of the main cast, Diamond wouldn't have been cast if producers had known his real age, Engel once revealed. Diamond experienced many firsts during filming, including his first-ever kiss with guest star Tori Spelling. Aaron Spelling's daughter—who would later star in Beverly Hills, 90210—played Violet, Screech's nerdy love interest.

8. A natural brunette, Gosselaar had to bleach his hair every two weeks to keep Zack's signature blond locks. After his days calling "Time out!" ended, he told People, "Getting back to my natural color took a while!"

9. Because Saved By the Bell was one of the first non-animated series to become a massive hit on Saturday mornings, the cast weren't all that savvy at the time and barely get paid from the show's syndication deals. 

"We made really bad deals," Gosselaar admitted on Watch What Happens Live. "Poor deals, back then. It is what it is. You move on, you learn. Great experience."

10. If you thought the Saved By the Bell characters were romantically cliquish on-screen, it was nothing compared to all of the relationship drama going on behind-the-scenes. 

"All of us dated at one point or another—it was incestuous!" Gosselaar told People in 2009. "Sometimes the girls would gang up on the guys. Tiffani and Elizabeth would hate me, and then they'd hate Lark because Lark was talking to me, and Mario was supposed to side with someone. All that stuff you did in high school, like, 'How could you talk to him?'"

Thiessen added, "Did we have crushes on our costars? Absolutely," she said. "But we were so young!"

11. While Gosselaar and Voorhies actually dated for three years during filming, Ed Alonzo (a.k.a. Max from The Max) once dished to Entertainment Tonight about Gosselaar and Thiessen's flirtations. "They kinda liked each other a bit," he shared. "They liked each other a lot. It was very cute. It was hand-holding and looking over."

12. In an interview with People, Thiessen revealed the first time she drank alcohol she was with Gosselaar, saying, "Mark-Paul and I got to go to Paris [for a press tour]. We ate crepes, and my first sip of alcohol was with him. It felt at times like we were Barbie and Ken." Or Zack and Kelly?

13. Gosselaar also dated Berkley, a tidbit he revealed on Anna Faris' podcast. "You're in an environment—you know how it is," he said. "When you're working on a set, and we were young, there's no one around, really. I mean, you work and live in a bubble."

14. While A.C. and Jessie were OTP on the show, Lopez revealed in his memoir that he also dated Thiessen. He wrote that they "went to movies, went out to eat, hung out at parties, danced together," and eventually became an official couple. But he admitted to being unfaithful, writing, "I thought that being loyal to Tiffani was the right thing to do. But I can't say that I was capable at that age of following through on my noble intentions."

15. Of course, with the constant carousel of changing relationships came the occasional on-set fights, with Gosselaar revealing to The Hollywood Reporter, "Sometimes we loved each other and sometimes we hated each other. There were moments where Peter Engel had to sit us down and say, 'Guys we have to film a show here,' because sometimes we weren't talking to each other.'" 

16. Because of their demanding schedules and newfound fame, the cast missed out on a lot of normal high school experiences. Voorhies told People she "wasn't able to go to my graduation or prom. Those moments we had to sacrifice, we made up for with each other." 

17. After filming what was originally intended to be the final season of Saved By the Bell, NBC decided to order more episodes. The problem? Thiessen and Berkley had already moved on and were absent, save for the series finale, when the two female leads are randomly present at graduation. But the stars didn't actually return for the series finale. It was filmed before their deals were up.

"We had already shot the graduation and that was supposed to be the end," Engel revealed. "We were supposed to end and not do another season...So we shot the graduation but Tiffani had an offer to go with Aaron Spelling for 90210 and Elizabeth, I didn't know it was going to be Showgirls, wanted to do movies. So we didn't re-sign them because we couldn't re-sign them."

18. With two of their leads gone, Leanna Creel unexpectedly became a major female lead when her biker girl Tori Scott (named after Tori Spelling) was introduced as a love interest for Zack. 

19. After the success of Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Style, the made-for-TV movie that aired in primetime, NBC ordered Saved By the Bell: The College Years, which followed Zack, Screech and A.C. as they navigated their freshman year at the fictional California University. (Thiessen would later join the show.) 

But the move to college and primetime proved to be too much change for the show, and it was canceled after just one season. Looking back on the failed spinoff, Engel told The Wrap, "I should've taken all the six kids to college. I should've insisted we take them all and I didn't. It was my decision and I made a mistake."

As for why he didn't bring the trio of girls to college, Engel explained, "I was trying to make it different than Bell and I think we made it too different. I think we lost some of our—what's the word?—innocence."

The original series eventually wrapped up with the TV movie Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.

20. Another spinoff premiered in 1993: Saved By the Bell: The New Class, which aired for seven seasons, though it was never as popular as the original series. Haskins and Diamond were the only original cast members to join the spinoff, which also starred Bianca Lawson, Chuck's Sarah Lancaster, and One Tree Hill's Lindsey McKeon.

21. Jessie's infamous caffeine pill addiction? Yeah, it was a bit over-the-top, and that's because she was originally supposed to become addicted to speed.

"What fans don't know is that, when I originally wrote the episode with Tom Tenowich, Jessie was hooked on speed, not caffeine pills," Engel wrote in his memoir. "But Standards and Practices, the censorial department of NBC, vetoed it, saying speed was too serious for Saturday mornings." 

Still wanting to explore the serious issue of addiction, as well as the pressure kids can put on themselves, Engel and Standards and Practices eventually compromised on caffeine pills.

22. In 2009, Diamond made headlines when he published a tell-all book about the show and his former co-stars called Behind the Bell (which would become the source material for Lifetime's The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story in 2014).

In the memoir, he made allegations of steroid use, hook-ups and other off-camera antics, most of which were debunked by the cast. "Everything that I've heard about his book is negative," Gosselaar told E! News at the time, "and I don't remember those things."

While the rest of the cast had remained close over the years, Diamond lost touch and his tell-all was the final straw, with the actor being left out of their reunion for the 20th anniversary set up by People magazine in 2009.

23. But Diamond wasn't the only one absent, as Haskins later admitted to Parade he was upset about not getting a call to join the reunion. "People magazine did something with five cast members, but they didn't even talk about Mr. Belding, and Screech was kind of exiled because of his book," he said. "That's still not the seven of us. Whatever you want to talk about, that show was six students and the principal. They were the heart of the show."

24. Diamond would later call Behind the Bell "another disappointment of mine" in a 2013 OWN interview, during which he claimed his ghostwriter used throwaway comments he made during their conversations as "factual trash-talking about everybody" in the book. 

"I have nothing but good thoughts and memories towards everybody," he explained. "I expected that I was going to be sent a copy to proofread, and I was sent a copy, 'Oh, this is done. What?' Oh man, there's going to be fallout from that."

25. In 2015, the main cast (including Haskins) reunited on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon for an epic sketch, once again taking on their iconic roles. Well, it was almost the entire cast, as Diamond and Voorhies were notable absent.

While Voorhies' publicist said her "intense work schedule" prohibited her from participating, Diamond's attorney told E! News he had "prior commitments." Just months before the reunion, Diamond had pleaded not guilty to stabbing a man in December 2014. He would later serve a four-month sentence after a jury found him guilty of carrying a concealed weapon. But he was arrested weeks after his release for violating his probation. He passed away in Feburary 2021 after a battle with lung cancer.

26. Though Diamond would call his tell-all one of his biggest "disappointments," his greatest regret was his 2006 sex tape, titled Screeched – Saved by the Smell

"The sex tape is the thing that I'm most embarrassed about," he said during his OWN interview. "In my stupidity, I thought, 'You know, I could totally fake this. I could get a stunt person to take my place. It's my face, but nothing else. Looking back now, in my 30s, I realize that was really dumb. You know, I definitely got some money off of it but it wasn't worth what the fallout was. I mean, people, to this day, they look down on me. There's a lot of people who are like, 'Oh, how disgusting of you.' I didn't really do it!"

27. Despite the Diamond-caused drama, Gosselaar later admitted he has no bad blood with his one-time on-screen sidekick. "Listen, I've worked with actors that I couldn't stand being in the room with. Dustin is not one of those people," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Who cares about the book? The book was fiction…I don't know what it was."

28. In the same interview, Gosselaar admitted that he never felt like he fit in even though Zack Morris was one of the coolest kids at Bayside (and on TV).

"Zack Morris was a character that I created from seeing the really cool kids in my school. I was not one of those kids," he said. "I was a kid that—I wasn't in the low end, I wasn't in the top, I was somewhere in the middle and I would just observe, and I would see both sides of things. But Zack was a character that I was good at playing because I could manipulate my eyebrow to kind of give me a, for lack of a better word, a smirky douchey look. And the hair, I did the hair…Uneven smile, little smirk, I had all these little things I could do to be this character, but this was not me."

29. In April 2019, Gosselaar, Thiessen, Lopez and Berkley got fans so excited when they went on a quadruple date with their respective significant others, sharing photos from their sweet reunion on social media. Lopez captioned his pic of the group "Friends forever," with Gosselaar commenting, "Thanks for taking care of the bill!" On his own Instagram photo from the night, Gosselaar wrote, "This is what 30+ years of friendship looks like." (We're not crying, you're crying!)

30. Still, not every reunion for the cast has been quite so cuddly. Who can forget when Haskins decided to surprise Thiessen during one of her Today show appearances, leading to a pretty awkward and uncomfortable few minutes of live television

31. More than 20 years after playing one of TV's most infamous principals for more than 200 episodes, Haskins graduated from college in 2015, receiving a degree in theater from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"As successful as some have said I've been, from the incredible success of Saved by the Bell, other quality acting roles, the books I've written, and even UTC Distinguished Alumni in 2000," he said in a statement posted on UTC's website, "there's always been something missing for me—my college degree."