This month marks the 30th anniversary of a very special episode of “Saved by the Bell.”
“Jessie’s Song,” in which Jessie Spano descends into caffeine pill addiction after struggling with the pressures of high school geometry, introduced one of the series’ most unforgettable moments: Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) confronts Jessie about her problem before she’s supposed to perform at the Max, prompting her to launch into a manic rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” and then dissolve into a tearful meltdown.
In honor of Peacock’s new “Saved by the Bell” reboot, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren reminisced with TODAY about the episode, calling it her favorite from the original series, which ran on NBC from 1989 to 1993.
“I especially loved it because Mark-Paul and I have always been so close,” Berkley Lauren said. “He's such a good friend, dear friend. And we got to really get more dramatic and juicy with it. So it was fun for us, as a change, to go a little bit deeper on the show. But we all loved each other and had such a great time. It's amazing to us that all these years, all different generations have appreciated it and it's had an impact in pop culture.”
“When we were filming the meltdown scene, I just remember our director — we had done a few takes and it was good, it was getting there,” she recalled. “But I remember the director just saying, ‘We got it. Now just go for it.’ And so we did. And that's the one they kept. And that's the one that everyone seems to still like, you know, quoting and acting out. I mean, I see things on Instagram in memes and you name it. People kind of love it.”
“It was special for us,” she added. “You know, a lot of the episodes dealt with who was gonna ask who to the dance or, you know, the love triangle. And this one was something that we were, like, ‘OK, we're ready for this. Let's go for it.’ And it had all of that kind of adolescent pent-up emotion that is so authentic. Some people might say it was over the top. But it was intense. And Jessie was a little unhinged.”
Berkley Lauren said what she liked most about playing Jessie as a teen was that the character was a feminist and activist.
“I love that Jessie was confident and a little bit ahead of her time,” she said. “She never apologized for being bold. And I really respect those qualities in women. I’ve been raised by an amazingly strong woman, my mom, and grandmas. And amazing female forces in my life have always shown me to speak up and speak out. And I loved being able to play a role like that, especially during a time where there weren't a lot of roles where you saw women be that strong without apologizing.”
For more with Berkley Lauren, including her memories from fan-favorite episodes “Snow White and the Seven Dorks,” “Miss Bayside” and “Dancing to the Max,” watch the video above.
The “Saved by the Bell” reboot will be available Nov. 25 to stream on Peacock.
Peacock is part of our parent company, NBCUniversal.