Class is back in session after three decades, preppies!

By Rosy Cordero
November 25, 2020 at 09:00 AM EST
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Yes, fans of the original learn the fates of Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley Lauren), and Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), but there's also a whole heap of new Bayside Tigers to meet.

The series opens as Governor Zack Morris has controversially shut down high schools in working-class neighborhoods, agreeing to send students from shuttered Douglas High to his alma mater to save face. The privileged student body at Bayside — including Morris' own son Mac (Mitchell Hoog) and Dr. Spano's son Jamie (Belmont Cameli) — are met by teens from Douglas who are not as financially blessed nor as connected as they are.

Principal Ronald Toddman (John Michael Higgins) is the man in the middle of all the transitions, keeping everyone cool while trying to work out issues with his own personal life.

Credit: Casey Durkin/Peacock

"Playing Ron Toddman has been a lot of fun for me because I work with a whole bunch of young, very talented actors," Higgins tells EW. "It gives me a lot of life at this point in my career when I show up on the set and I have all this young energy around me."

He adds, "I'm definitely a figure who gets pranked and who doesn't get a lot of respect. But actually, it turns out I have a lot of good dramatic arcs on the show just because I have to integrate these two populations, the Bayside kids and students being brought to Bayside from more underserved communities. They don't have as much money as these Bayside kids, and I'm the one who has to bridge them. It shows a lot of abilities that Toddman didn't even know he had because he's been so beat up by the kids at Bayside that he hasn't really had a chance to shine. When the new students arrive, he feels like he has something in common with them. He feels like an outsider at his own school and now he's fighting for them."

But there's also noticeable tension between students from Douglas who are adjusting to a new world and figuring out where they fit in. While Aisha Garcia (Alycia Pascual-Peña) is thriving on the football field, she is quick to admonish classmate Devante (Dexter Darden) to gain points with the Bayside students.

Credit: Chris Haston/Peacock

"That's one of the most important episodes to me because the original really set the foundation for having conversations and the importance of diversity," Pascual-Peña explains. "But our show is able to really expand upon that narrative. And that's why this specific episode speaks to the importance of lifting up people of color and marginalized communities but also understanding there's still so much work that needs to be done internally. Specifically for me as an Afro-Latina and being part of the Latinx community, I have dealt with seeing internalized racism and seeing our own implicit biases. The episode does a beautiful job in progressing that conversation. Even though I am a Black woman at this new school, Devante is a friend from the old school and I sell him out, essentially. The message that kept running through my mind that whole episode was, not all skinfolk are kinfolk."

Darden is excited he'll be able to represent the Black community on a series that's breathing life back into one of his old favorites. He can't help but boast about how much Voorhies inspired him as one of the first Black stars not playing a secondary or stereotypical role on TV.

"Growing up and having Lark be the only African American representation on the show —and also being beautiful and smart and having an interest in fashion — she was someone I grew up having a crush on for sure," says the actor. "So being at Bayside and having Devante reimplement himself as the first African American presence that we really see on Saved by the Bell, I look to Lark for so much inspiration in the sense of carrying that torch but now from the male perspective. We also have Afro Latina representation with Alycia and Latina representation from Haskiri. It's a really diverse opportunity for us to show so many layers of so many different cultures some people aren't privy to."

Credit: Casey Durkin/Peacock

Devante keeps a low-key profile around Bayside, though that begins to change when he meets Lexi (Josie Totah). Coach Slater (Lopez) tries to recruit him for the football team, but Devante feels more at home in theater.

"I think Lexi is a wonderful representation of so much, [like] the affluent and the ignorant people in America that just don't know any better. Well, sometimes I think there are no excuses for not knowing any better but for [Lexi], it's the bubble she's grown up in her entire life," Totah shares. "I think the beautiful relationship between Devante and Lexi [blossoms] because they learn so much from each other because of Lexi's privilege. She has this innate confidence in her that I feel she teaches Devante about. And Devante gives Lexi a better understanding of what it's like being a young Black man going through high school and everything that he goes through. It really educates her and gives her a new perspective. Devante is one of the sole vehicles that drive her evolvement throughout the season."

Related content:

Saved by the Bell (revival)

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