Born in Panorama City, California, on March 1, 1974, actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar is best known for playing the lead role of Zack Morris on the hit teen Saturday morning show Saved by the Bell. More recently, he's become known for roles on the television series NYPD Blue, Commander in Chief and Franklin and Bash.
Early Life and Career
Mark-Paul Gosselaar was born on March 1, 1974, in Panorama City, California, to Hans and Paula Gosselaar. The youngest of four children, Gosselaar began modeling when he was just 5 years old. He became successful in the modeling community and soon began auditioning for acting roles. In 1987, Gosselaar landed a guest spot on the popular series Highway to Heaven. This role propelled his career, with the young actor appearing in small roles on such television series as Charles in Charge, Punky Brewster and The Wonder Years.
Star of 'Saved by the Bell'
Gosselaar's breakthrough role materialized in the late 1980s when he was cast as Zack Morris, a mischievous middle school student, on a new Disney Channel series, Good Morning, Miss Bliss. The show, which ran from 1987 to 1989, also starred Dennis Haskins (as Mr. Belding), Hayley Mills (as Miss Bliss), Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) and Dustin Diamond (Samuel "Screech" Powers). Disney canceled Good Morning, Miss Bliss after 13 episodes, but NBC, seeing promise in the teen series, reformatted it slightly by recasting and restructuring, and the product was Saved by the Bell. Gosselaar's character, Zack Morris, became the focus of the series, now set at a high school, with Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez and Tiffani Thiessen—playing Morris's eclectic group of friends, Jessie Spano, A.C. Slater and Kelly Kapowski, respectively—among many others, joining the cast. The show quickly took off.
Not only was Saved by the Bell a hit, it became a cultural phenomenon. The show ran four seasons (1989-1993) on Saturday mornings and led to a primetime spin-off, Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993-1994), as well as several TV movies revolving around the series.
After The College Years ended, Gosselaar found himself pigeonholed, bound to his Zack Morris persona, and struggling to get work. During this time, he appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies.
In 1998, Gosselaar attempted to return to the spotlight with a lead part in the college dark comedy Dead Man on Campus. While critics deemed the film a flop, it marked, for the first time, the public's growing acceptance of Gosselaar as a serious actor, and he subsequently and gradually began to land more serious roles.
From 2001 to 2005, Gosselaar played Detective John Clark on the popular police drama NYPD Blue. In 2005, he appeared as Richard "Dickie" McDonald on the series Commander in Chief.
In 2010, Gosselaar made his off-Broadway debut in the Roundabout Theater Company's The Understudy, co-starring with Justin Kirk and Julie White. The following year, the actor appeared in a starring role alongside fellow '90s star Breckin Meyer on the legal drama Franklin and Bash.
Coming from meager beginnings, Gosselaar's lucrative acting career proved straining to his personal life in the mid-'90s. After attempting to gain monetary control over his career, Gosselaar severed ties with his parents in 1996.
That same year, Gosselaar married model Lisa Ann Russell, whom he met on the set of Saved by the Bell in 1993. Russell had a small part on the show, but caught the attention of its leading man. The couple had two children together, son Michael Charles (born in 2004) and daughter Ava Lorenn (born in 2006) before divorcing in 2010, after 14 years of marriage.
In July 2012, a 38-year-old Gosselaar tied the knot with advertising executive Catriona McGinn. Soon after their union, the couple announced that they were expecting their first child together—Gosselar's third—in September 2013.
Outside of his acting career, Gosselaar is an accomplished cyclist. At a young age, he raced motocross, but it proved too dangerous a sport and acting contracts did not allow him to continue. He also has a passion for car racing and hockey.
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