As an apparent dig against Mario Lopez, the “Saved by the Bell” reboot will be featuring a transgender teen actor in the lead role.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), transgender actor Josie Totah – a biological male presenting himself as a woman – has been cast star alongside Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley in the upcoming reboot to the beloved early-’90s sitcom.
“Totah will star as Lexi, a beautiful, sharp-tongued cheerleader and the most popular girl at Bayside High who is both admired and feared by her fellow students,” reports THR. “The series is expected to launch this year on NBCUniversal’s forthcoming streamer Peacock. Totah will also be credited as a producer on the show.”
The show will also delve into other social justice themes by featuring a plotline in which the character Zack Morris closes “too many low-income high schools” while serving as Governor of California. More from THR:
Original stars Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley will reprise their roles as A.C. Slater and Jessie Spano, respectively, in the single-camera comedy that explores what happens when California Gov. Zack Morris (Mark Gosselaar’s role) gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools and proposes the affected students be sent to the highest-performing schools in the state — including Bayside High.
The new Saved by the Bell was picked up straight to series in September. The comedy hails from writer Wigfield and is produced by Universal Television, where the 30 Rock grad and Great News creator recently renewed her overall deal. Wigfield will serve as showrunner and executive produce alongside original series creator Peter Engel and Franco Bario (Great News). Lopez and Berkley will also produce.
Totah came out as transgender in 2018 while starring on the show “Champions.” In an essay for TIME, Totah expressed fear that they would be rejected by their peers.
“In the past, I’ve halfway corrected people by telling them I identify as LGBTQ,” the teen wrote at the time. “I wasn’t ready to be more specific. I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted, that I would be embarrassed, that the fans who knew me from the time when I acted in a Disney show would be confused. But I realized over the past few years that hiding my true self is not healthy. I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free. So, listen up y’all: You can jump on or jump off. Either way this is where I’m heading.”
Actor Mario Lopez faced a heated cancellation campaign last year when he told conservative commentator Candace Owens that it was “dangerous” for parents to allow children as young as three to choose their gender.
“My God, if you’re three years old, I just think it’s dangerous as a parent to make this determination then,” Lopez said on the show. “It’s sort of alarming and my gosh, I just think about the repercussions later on.”
After an intense public backlash and calls for “Access Hollywood” to terminate his employment, Mario Lopez ultimately apologized for offending the LGBTQ community.
“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,” Lopez said. “I have been and always will be an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community, and I am going to use this opportunity to better educate myself. Moving forward I will be more informed and thoughtful.”