It was a blast from the past on Monday as the cast of the Saved by the Bell revival on Peacock assembled for a digital panel to promote the new series. Even though production was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, executive producers Tracey Wigfield and Franco Bario teamed up with with Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and new cast members John Michael Higgins, Belmont Cameli, Dexter Darden, Mitchell Hoog, Alycia Pascual-Peña, Josie Totah, and Haskiri Velazquez to tease the upcoming return to Bayside.
The panel kicked off with a teaser, which not only introduced us to the new students at Bayside, but also delivered some Easter eggs for fans of the original series -- including a speech from Jessie Spano about the dangers of caffeine pills, especially for aspiring girl groups. We're living for it.
"When I was approached by the studio and sat down with my first meeting with Tracey Wigfield, it was to me just a done deal, on the spot," Lauren later said about returning to the iconic world of the hit series. "The fact that [original series producer] Franco Barrio also was joining forces... and to just know that this team that Tracey was putting together and her creativity, her angle on bringing this back in [as] something really relevant for now, but still maintaining and embedding things that people loved about it, just her take on it -- I was in immediately."
Wigfield was similarly excited to play in the Bayside sandbox and reimagine the show for a modern audience, while still paying homage to what came before. The same Saved by the Bell trademarks you love will be there, but in a new format.
"[The original series] was basically a show, kind of Saturday morning show for kids about a school," Wigfield explained."This is a single-camera, edgier comedy that I think will be exciting for people who love the original, but also if you never saw the show [this] is just a funny comedy about high school in 2020 that I think you'll enjoy."
Part of updating the series meant expanding representation within the cast. Josie Totah shared how much it means to her to get to play a trans teenager who is more than her gender identity -- she's a certified theater mean girl, which gave Totah a lot to work with.
"Getting to be handed a role by Tracy that showed a trans character and it wasn't everything about her identity [was an honor]," Totah shared. "My character is so many things. She's in theater. She's a little evil. She's the popular girl in school, but she just like happens to be transgender, and I feel like getting to do that is such an incredible opportunity. I just can't wait for people to be able to see themselves on screen and in that way."
It was important for Wigfield, the other producers, and the cast to not only maintain the diversity of the original cast, but to also expand and allow people to see underrepresented groups in different lights.
"Originally, Saved by the Bell was one of the few shows that showed racial diversity in general... We weren't used to seeing Black women who were on a show with white women, and white men who are on the show with a Latino man," Dexter Darden said, "And so to be able to bring that back and really, and really cross racial boundaries and generations, and show that inclusivity is important, and that everybody has different colors, different races different genders, and can all do the same job equally."
Saved by the Bell returns to Peacock soon, though an exact date has not yet been revealed.