Everyone loves the classic pre-y2K sitcom Saved by the Bell. It's definitely one of the funniest, silliest, and — let's be honest — most cliché kid-turned-teen shows of all time! The series wasn't always true-to-life, but it was always entertaining enough to keep us watching. But did you know that things were even more entertaining behind-the-scenes?! The cast grew into teens and young adults right before our very eyes and off-screen they were combating hormones and drama, too. The Bayside kids were pretty tame (they drank alcohol, like, once!) but in real life, the actors behind Saved by the Bell were wild!
Aside from cast craziness, there was plenty of network drama and inner-workings of the show that fans know nothing about! The secrets of how the show came together and stayed on the air could be a whole other TV show. Through the years, fans have heard snippets about what really went on during filming. Series star Dustin Diamond has released his version of events, that's for sure! We've learned plenty of stuff since the hit '90s show first aired and here are all the juicy behind-the-scenes secrets of Saved by the Bell!
Before Saved by the Bell was a thing, there was Good Morning, Miss Bliss. The series still had many of the same stars and is even included in the syndication package for the show. But it also focuses heavily on middle school teacher Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills) and even frames her as the main character. This iteration of the show lasted for one season from 1988-1989 before the show was rebooted as Saved by the Bell and the concentration shifted solely to the kiddos.
Even the most casual Saved by the Bell fan knows that Dustin Diamond is kind of crazy now. He's also not scared to dish (questionably accurate) dirt about his former co-stars. The division between him and them began right when the show did because he was three years younger than everyone else! He was cast as Samuel "Screech" Powers after reading with Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who had already been cast as Zack Morris. Gosselaar insisted on them casting Diamond since he was basically Screech in real life. Producer Peter Engel hired him, but noted later that he totally misread his headshot and didn't realize that Diamond was considerably younger than the other members of the cast. If he had seen it earlier, Diamond never would have been cast in the iconic role!
Well, almost all of them. Like we noted earlier, Diamond was a bit younger than his co-stars so he wasn't really involved in the romantic stuff. But everyone else was hooking up in dressing rooms and making out behind-the-scenes! Gosselaar said in an interview once, "All of us dated at one point or another — it was incestuous!" The cast also noted that if two people were together on the show one week, you could bet they were together off-screen as well. We're not surprised — they were the some of the hottest teens on TV going through puberty together. Of course they were having a little fun off-camera!
The most committed of these behind-the-scenes flings was definitely between Gosselaar and Voorhies, who played Lisa Turtle on the show. While the two were always portrayed on-screen as childhood BFF's and never anything more, in real life they were a serious item. The two dated for three years while the show was filming! Everyone may have been dating everyone else, but it seems that casual hooking up wasn't enough for these two. Unfortunately, they didn't stay together for the long haul and Voorhies is often absent from cast reunions and publicity events. Maybe they didn't end things too amicably!
Many know Lopez for his role as hunky Slater, but when he first auditioned for the role, the actor wasn't really that interested in landing the part. In his memoir, he recounts that he was just coming into his teen years and was way more interested in chasing girls than chasing a role! Which explains why there was so much dating on set! He clearly did something right, though, since he got the gig. Even more impressive is the fact that the character was supposed to be Italian but Lopez was so good they changed Slater's ethnicity to fit the actor!
Voorhies made a lot of sacrifices to be on Saved by the Bell. The actress was going through her teen years on the show and in real life. But outside of work, she had to give up a few teen rites of passage. She wasn't able to go to her high school prom or graduation because she was too busy working on Saved by the Bell. Voorhies was able to recreate those moments on-screen but, still, it's not the same! Luckily, Voorhies was pretty okay with missing out since she was spending time with the co-stars that had become family and they were all making up for those missed moments together!
Most of the character names weren't just thought of for the show — they were inspired by real people! Engel recalls meeting a producer named Screech Washington and knew he had to use that name on a show. The other characters are also inspired by people he's come across in real life. Zack was named after a close friend's son; Lisa Turtle was a real girl Engel knew; Slater was a kid Engel's son went to school with, and Mr. Belding was named after one of Engel's old editors.
Rebellious teen who skips school and "stops time" for a quick fourth wall break? That could describe both Zack Morris and Ferris Bueller! It turns out Gosselaar was inspired by the hit Matthew Broderick film and modeled Morris after Bueller. Gosselaar even admits that he was ripping off his idol constantly! He told Jimmy Fallon that many people think he invented the classic move where he stops times and talks to the camera, but it's all from his muse: Mr. Bueller!
We're honestly surprised he has any hair left! Zack Morris's signature bleach blonde hair didn't come naturally for Gosselaar — he had to dye his hair constantly! The actor dyed his hair blonde for six years while playing Morris. He's said in interviews that fans are often surprised that he's no longer blonde. His reply? He never was! Thinking back it makes a ton of sense, his hair always did look a little fake! But hey, at least it wasn't a perm like some of his co-stars!
Berkley was originally gunning to play Kelly Kapowski, the de facto female lead of the show. As we all know, she didn't get the part. That went to Tiffani Amber Thiessen, whom the network didn't even want to cast. In an interview, Engel said that he knew she wasn't the best of the bunch but she was going to be a huge star and he had to cast her. So where did that leave Berkley? As smart, feminist queen Jessie Spano! The showrunners didn't want to lose a talent like Berkley's and cast her in a slightly different role on the show.
Saved by the Bell first aired almost 30 years ago, but the set the show was filmed on is still standing and being used to this day! The classroom sets have been used on shows like iCarly and That's So Raven. We also wouldn't be surprised if you recognized the exterior shot of the school from a few other TV shows and films. The exterior is of Grant High School in California which has been used as a filming location for everything from B-roll to the entire set for tons of your fave movies and TV shows. Everything from The Secret Life of the American Teenager to American Vandal have been filmed there!
On the last season of the show lots of things change. Kelly and Jessie basically vanish from the show and in their place is a new character named Tori (Leanna Creel). She immediately becomes a love interest for Zack (what was Kelly, chopped liver?!) and no one really mentions how weird it is that she is just plopped into the show to replace the two female leads fans had grown to love. Turns out, the show had no choice but to replace the actresses since Thiessen and Berkley both decided not to renew their contracts in favor of exploring different projects. Thus, Tori was sent in as a replacement!
At one time in Hollywood there was no bigger television producer than Aaron Spelling. He's the man responsible for Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place, just to name a few! His daughter Tori was, of course, cast on his shows and even appeared on Saved by the Bell on the series' earlier seasons. Rumor has it that Spellings power and influence was so wide that Tori Scott was actually named after his daughter. We totally believed it — Aaron Spelling could make or break your career in television during the '90s! Why not kiss the ring and name a character after his daughter?!
Never forget the classic spin-off of Saved by the Bell where they all went to college. Saved by the Bell: The College Years was an attempt at a more mature look at the gang we knew from Bayside and eagle-eyed viewers noticed one thing instantly: Zack Morris got buff between high school and college! Diamond alleged in his tell-all book that Gosselaar was taking steroids in between the two shows to bulk up and seem more manly. He recalled his former co-star getting super buff in the span of just a month! While his claims are to be taken with a grain of salt (his tell-all is not exactly gospel) we can't deny that Zack got even hunkier before he went to college!
In 2009 Diamond tried to capitalize on his Saved by the Bell fame and released his memoir titled Behind the Bell. The book was full of salacious details and big reveals about his cast mates and the show. But the big issue was everyone denied any of it was true! Because of the book, Diamond was further alienated from his former co-stars. Mario Lopez, though, did welcome his former co-star for an interview to discuss the book in 2016 to try and clear the air. What that interview really did, though, was reveal that Diamond barely wrote the book and his ghostwriter may have made a bunch of stuff up. He essentially denied every crazy thing in the memoir. Okay then!
In order to maintain the wholesome image of the show, Peter Engel reportedly banned any kind of swearing on set. He wanted to preserve the idea of kids playing kids on one of the most squeaky-clean shows of all time. This also probably meant any off-screen drama was pretty tame since no one could swear at each other! While Dustin Diamond's memoir may allege they were all doing crack in their dressing rooms, at least we know they weren't swearing while they were doing it!
You all know what episode we're talking about. "Jessie's Song", the iconic ep where Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills and is so excited and so scared is a fan favorite. But originally she wasn't supposed to be taking seemingly-innocent caffeine pulls — it was supposed to be speed! In his book about the series, Engel said that it was originally supposed to be speed but NBC's Standards and Practices department deemed that too serious for a Saturday morning kids' show. So that's why Jessie seemed way too strung out for someone taking pills that equaled a cup of coffee!
Saved by the Bell is one of the most popular kids' shows of all time, but the cast didn't make as much money as you'd think! As Gosselaar put it in an interview, it was a tiny Saturday morning show and there was no budget to pay them well. Well, his exact words were a little less poetic! (He clearly didn't take Engel's rule about no swearing into his adult life!). Luckily, now, most of the cast has stayed steadily relevant in the entertainment industry and are making much more money than they did in their teen years!