For Saved by the Bell‘s Jessie Spano, giving into a “bad idea” might be the thing that finally makes her happy in a way her marriage to the insufferable Rene never did.
Midway through Season 2 of Peacock’s Saved by the Bell revival, Kelly suggests it’s kismet that a newly divorced Jessie and still-single Slater just so happen to work together at Bayside nearly 30 years after their high school romance fizzled out. Jessie insists that she no longer thinks about Slater’s butt — err, about Slater that way, but as fate would have it, Season 2 culminates in a passionate kiss between the excitable guidance counselor and dimwitted gym teacher, setting up a potential romance in Season 3. (Their kiss, for all you OG Bell fans, is accompanied by the Zack Attack classic “Did We Ever Stand a Chance.”)
For portrayers Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Mario Lopez, revisiting Jessie and Slater’s relationship as adults feels different. It’s surreal, for one thing, but there’s also a shared history off screen that plays into their dynamic on screen.
“We got our driver’s licenses together. We became famous together. Our dreams were coming true together, all while our parents were all there on set watching us, because we were under 18,” Lauren tells TVLine in the video Q&A above. “Mario and I, we always had just a close, like, best-friend dynamic — like, buddy-buddy, have each other’s backs always, and that’s always been the case all these years.”
Adds Lopez: “You’ve got to understand, we’ve known each other since we were 15. She’s like a sister to me, and we laugh all the time,” he says. “It’s almost like you’re looking at her, like, you’re doing a romantic scene with your sister…. It was funny to us, but it’s neat to revisit that storyline.”
In order to make Jessie and Slater’s present-day relationship believable to the audience, Slater had to grow up a bit. The emotionally stunted lughead already reckoned with his chauvinistic past during Season 1. And in Season 2, he begins attending therapy to work through some of his childhood trauma. During a particularly funny scene in Episode 6, he talks through his relationships with his father, Major Martin Slater; a mother, Lorraine, who was mentioned during the original series but never appeared on screen; a sister, J.B., who he only saw once; and the loss of his pet chameleon, Artie.
“It’s great to play a guy who’s stunted in his emotional growth, and is flawed,” Lopez says. “Those are a lot of fun to play as an actor, and I’ve always enjoyed people that are kind of stuck in their era in real life. I find them fascinating… they don’t want to let go. I think Slater’s a little bit like that, and so the fact that he gets to flex those emotional muscles and starts to recognize some areas that he needs to work on is cool. If he had it all going on, there’s nothing interesting about that.”
As for whether present-day Slater and Jessie can make a relationship work, Lopez isn’t so sure.
“I mean, she just got out of a marriage,” he points out. “I don’t want to look like a home-wrecker, or like a bounce-back relationship, right? Plus, if we hook up, then where is there to go? So I guess I’ll have to trust the writers, assuming we’re fortunate enough to get another season, but it was fun while we entertained it this season.”
Watch TVLine’s interview with Lauren and Lopez above. Afterwards, grade the finale — and Season 2 overall — via the following polls, then drop a comment to discuss all things Saved by the Bell.