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Leah Remini explains why she was 'petrified' to be on 'Saved by the Bell'

Remini was just starting out in her career and definitely felt some pressure to keep up with the cast of the popular show.
/ Source: TODAY

Leah Remini has enjoyed a decorated career, starring in sitcoms and movies alike. Yet, it’s her role on “Saved by the Bell” that people seem to remember most.

“For a very long time in my career ... people would say, ‘I loved you on ‘Saved by the Bell.’ They still do,” she said while speaking with Mark-Paul Gosselaar on his “Zack to the Future” podcast.

“I did 207 episodes of ‘The King of Queens’ and people say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, “King of Queens,” but “Saved by the Bell.”’”

Remini, left, played feisty New York transplant Stacey Corosi, who ended up falling for Gosselaar's Zack.
Remini, left, played feisty New York transplant Stacey Corosi, who ended up falling for Gosselaar's Zack.NBC

For six episodes, Remini played Stacey Carosi, Zack’s tough as nails boss at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, who ends up dating him. She says there’s an “80/20” ratio of people who want to talk to her about her "SBTB" role versus “The King of Queens.”

“It’s amazing. And I’m so glad that I did it,” she said.

Renini, 51, said she was scared to join the show and go toe to toe with the cast.

“I was petrified. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be this kid’s type. Is he going to be disappointed that they cast me?” she said.

“Tiffani-Amber Thiessen is so gorgeous. She was like ‘The Little Mermaid’ to me. And I was just in awe of her face. In awe of her face! Everyday showing up, I was like, ‘Aggghhh! She’s a little mermaid. She’s a little mermaid.’ I felt like a fat-ass cow there. I just felt old and not pretty. Every time I put that skirt on, I was like, ‘Oh my God. I look so dorky.’ I was intimated by you guys.”

Gosselaar, though, said he and Remini definitely had a connection — one that was even stronger than the bond between him and Thiessen, who played his love interest throughout the show's run.

“There is an undeniable chemistry between you and I,” he said.

“Those are real kisses,” he added. “Because Tiffani and I never had a kiss like we have on these six episodes. There’s not a single person that Zack comes into contact with, in my opinion, that has the chemistry that you and I had.”

Remini said appearing on the classic ‘90s comedy opened doors for her, especially because she came from a family that followed Scientology.

“We were in a cult at the time and my mother and my stepfather were not big on things,” she said.

“What was important to them was paying for the cult. And so all of their money was going to that and I was starting out and I’m seeing all of you, I remember going to Tiffani’s apartment for the first time ... I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is the way the rich people live.’ I was seeing a whole new world, right? Because it was only like my second or third job when I did ‘Saved by the Bell.’”

“Coming from the world that I was coming from, I’m just kind of being exposed to a new world, new group of people, because all my friends were in Scientology and I’m meeting the successful, so mentally I might have been probably on the same level of kind of being young and feeling like, ‘Ooh,’ feeling myself,” she added. “Even though I was 21, I was still just kind of behind as far as life is concerned.”

She said being on the show amplified her need to fit in:

“Here are these cool kids who are working and making money and doing their own thing, kind of, and I’m coming in and I’m like, every girl wants to be wanted, I think, in general, so I was just like kind of waiting for the little bit of a hit,” she said.

Her upbringing in Scientology also played a big role in how she felt about herself.

“I was slightly embarrassed by saying we weren’t Catholic or Christian or Jewish,” she said. “I wasn’t normal and I wanted to be normal. I’ve always wanted to just be a normal person.”