‘Saved By The Bell,’ is one of the most iconic and memorable sitcoms in history. The original series ended in 1993 but nobody could forget the whacky and laughable moments that impacted their life growing up. Now, 17 years later the “reinvention” of ‘Saved By The Bell’ is taking the world by storm.
Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Tiffani Thiessen are reprising their beloved roles as A.C Slater, Jessie, Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski and fans of the original show can expect to find easter eggs throughout the season. But even more exciting, they can expect to fall in love with the new latinx leading ladies Haskiri Velazquez, and Alycia Pascual-Peña.
Pascual-Peña is a young, up-and-coming, Afro-Latina actress from New York. She’ll next be seen in the upcoming film Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler. On the other hand, Velazquez is a multitalented up-and-coming actress making her mark as one of the most exciting newcomers in the industry. Velazquez, who is Dominican and Puerto Rican, was raised in New York City and began to develop her craft when she auditioned for a nonprofit program called Urban Arts Partnership, where she joined their Lifestories theater program. In the future, Velazquez plans to form her own nonprofit organization for youth in underserved and low-income neighborhoods.
HOLA! USA had the pleasure of interviewing Velazquez who plays Daisy, a smart, ambitious sophomore who is excited at the prospect of attending Bayside High after her local school gets shut down. And Pascual-Peña an Afro-Latina, who plays Aisha, Daisy’s fun-loving, but ultra-competitive best friend who grew up playing on boys’ sports teams. All 10 episodes of the first season just dropped today on the streaming service Peacock and are available to binge for free!
Find out what they love about their characters, what it was like working with Lopez, and what they hope young people feel when they see them on the show.
In the series, “when California governor Zack Morris gets into hot water for closing too many underfunded high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the most well-funded schools in the state – including Bayside High. The influx of new students gives the privileged Bayside kids (who never have a problem that can‘t be solved in twenty-two minutes) a much-needed dose of reality.”
HOLA! USA: So how are you two feeling about the SBTB release? I know usually when we aren‘t in quarantine you would probably be traveling and doing press and stuff, so that might be a bummer but how are you feeling about this whole thing? It’s big, it’s huge!
Haskiri Velazquez: It is huge. I feel like *AHH!* you know? [she said this with her hands in the air excited] like there‘s no real words because I’m like so excited. But then there’s a part of me that’s so emotional because it means so much to me. I almost kind of want to cry when I think about the accomplishment and the fact that I’m on a show that has such a big following. So it’s still very surreal to me, but it is so crazy and I’m like I don’t even have the right words to say. Because before I felt like ‘Oh yeah the shows coming soon… everything’s gonna be cool.’ But now I know it’s dropping tomorrow and like my head is just like in the clouds. I’m just so thankful and so blessed to be a part of such an amazing cast and amazing production. The cast and crew the writers, everyone attached to this project just means so much to me. But the fact that quarantine is happening around, you know what would originally be press, I think it works. I get to sit here and really take in the moment and really interact with people around me and see the responses that we’re getting. I’m able to read these articles that everyone writes and I’m just so so thankful, and so blessed for this amazing opportunity.
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Same I share all the same sentiments. I know Haskiri and I are constantly texting or talking about how grateful we are. We just feel so blessed we‘re really grateful to have this opportunity and we’re just excited for it to come out and be shared with the world. It’s been almost a year’s process and for sure it’s unconventional terms in which the show is coming out but that doesn’t change how much we love this show and how grateful we are to be a part of it. And we’re excited for people to watch it and hear their opinions and hopefully have it resonate with people and make people laugh at home when I think everybody needs a little bit of joy right now. And it’s just amazing. I’m completely grateful and completely in awe, I feel surreal. I still don’t believe that this show is coming out tomorrow. But we’re blessed- we’re home with our families and safe and that’s all that you can ask. So the press and all of the other components that usually come with this moment, doesn’t mean anything as long as my loved ones are safe. I’m healthy, Haskiri’s healthy and my pastor’s healthy, thank God. So we’re just grateful that it’s coming out and it can be shown.
HOLA! USA: That’s awesome. And that’s such a great way to think about it to cause at the end of the day that is really all that matters. You’ll have your red carpets and paparazzi all that stuff soon. So both of your characters are really strong, we have Daisy and Aisha. So tell me a little bit about what your experience was getting the script. Like what did you really like about these characters when you started to find out more about them?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: I was so excited when I read the script for Aisha. Not only was she a character that I immediately personally gravitated towards because a lot of the adversity and obstacles that she faces in Bayside, I faced in my own personal life ( as Alycia, I went to a predominately caucasian very affluent school) so I immediately connected to her, but it was really exciting to see all of the different components of who she is as a young woman. She‘s super strong, she goes after what she wants, she plays this sport that seems unorthodox at first because it’s male-dominated, but you also get to see fascists of her when she’s exploring a new romance or being a really loyal friend and becoming more pervasive at this school. So I was so excited to dig my teeth into this character and have so much fun with her, and really get to be this sense of satirical realism in this whacky show sometimes. So I was super excited when I got the script and really excited to walk in the room and hopefully prove to them why I should have that role, and now we’re here.
Haskiri Velazquez: And you did because you’re here! For me it was definitely an instant connection when I read Daisy’s breakdown. One of the audition pieces was a monologue where Daisy talks to Mac and Lexie and she says ‘you know the deck is stacked so high in your favor that people like me never even had a chance’ and I instantly liked it. Some times when I say those words it pulls like the strings in my heart a little because there’s so much that as a Latina and just as women in general that we want to give and we could give and I feel like we never really have that opportunity. So you know being a Latina and being able to speak those words as Daisy, it was almost like I was speaking it as myself. I go into auditions and I give my all, I give 100% in everything I do, I’m so passionate, I’m so determined, I think I’m funny and Daisy’s a little funny too, but we have like so much to give and when I first read that I said ‘oh my gosh this is a character I would love to bring on-screen’ because I know I can pursue that character and really make her, her because it’s essentially, it’s me. So it’s just so crazy to play her and it means a lot to me, and in the struggles that Daisy goes through, she comes from a low-income household: when she makes choices it’s never just about her, it’s about everyone around her and that’s how I grew up too. When I make a choice it’s never just about me and what benefits me, its what benefits those around me, and you kind of see that as Latinas because we have to grow up a little bit more because maybe your mom doesn’t speak English that well and she passes you the phone and she says ‘translate, translate what I’m trying to say.’
HOLA! USA: So what was it like working with George Lopez? [both the girls looked a little confused when I said this because George Lopez obviously doesn’t play A.C. Slater] How is your family reacting to you working with such a huge icon?
Haskiri Velazquez: Oh Mario yeah. It’s funny cause I said this a couple of times already, he’s like a tio? He’s very funny, he does not age, I don’t know what kind of alkaline water he is drinking but I need the deets on that. He’s very down-to-earth, he’s very welcoming and he was always there for me and Alycia and the rest of the cast. He always said ‘hey if you guys need any help I’m always here any advice I’m here.’ And he’s just someone that I felt like I knew. But it was also like a star-struck moment when I first saw him because I grew up watching him on TV so it was kind of like, ‘oh my gosh this is really real.’ I kind of wanted to poke him, but that probably would have been very odd so I didn’t. I probably pinched myself.
HOLA! USA: I think I just realized that I said George Lopez and not Mario Lopez. It‘s obviously, not George Lopez. I know they are two different people.
[The girls both supported my embarrassing moment and told me it was all good. “All the Lopez’s can group together, although I would love to work with George Lopez too,” Velazques joked.]
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Specifically for me it‘s been such a fun ride. You know growing up and watching someone on screen and then working next to them as an artist is a pretty surreal experience. So I’ve been super blessed and it’s been nothing but a fun ride. He’s always cracking jokes, he very much is like a Tio on set and specifically my coach on our show so we had a lot of moments on the football field where we just talked about this or that or singing like R&B songs or me teaching him like a little TikTok dance. So it was a good time throughout the season shooting with Mario and he’s amazing and it’s just so much fun working alongside the original cast.
HOLA! USA: So younger girls are going to be watching these episodes and looking to both of your characters and relating to them in some way and it sounds like a lot of the stuff you are covering is pretty woke, like you’re calling out privilege. You‘re going in there playing the lead roles that are typically played by caucasian actors and your character’s struggles and stories- they are just different. So what do you hope the people who are watching you and relate to you, what do you hope they feel and take away when they see your friendship and see you two on the screen just doing your thing?
Alycia Pascual-Peña: Essentially I just hope that when people watch our show-but especially Latinas and young Latinx girls- [they feel] empowered. I hope that people feel empowered and feel motivated to persevere amidst adversity. I think a common thread between both our characters is resilience through it all, we both are met with a different monsoon of obstacles at Bayside but really go after what we want even though that were met with discontent. And I think it‘s really beautiful to see this narrative centered around two powerful Latinas who are very distinctly different. You’ll learn through the friendship that Aisha and Daisy are these very different women but both always come home to each other and take so much pride in their culture and heritage. So I pray that people back home feel empowered and feel as if they have a voice and feel motivated to go after whatever it may be, even if they’re told that they’re not capable of it.
Haskiri Velazquez: Everything you said and more because I really want people, young Latinas when they see this that they feel inspired, that we spark something in them where they continue to push for their dreams no matter what it is. That to know that anything and everything is possible. To work hard- that no matter what comes in between your dreams that you know that can overcome them. I want them to feel represented in the right way, so I hope that me and Alycia were able to portray that on-screen, because when we do read for our character‘s there’s a part of us that we’re making sure that we read for everyone around us and make sure that we make them proud. So yeah I hope that they do feel empowered and we spark inspiration and they feel joy when they see us, because the characters brought us a lot of joy, and we hope to give that back to them.