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Born March 1, 1974 in Panorama City, CA, Mark-Paul Harry Gosselaar was the son of a Dutch father, Hans, and an Indonesian mother, Paula, as well as the only one of four siblings not born in the Netherlands. A former child model, he segued to acting with a 1987 guest appearance on "Highway to Heaven" (NBC, 1984-89) and soon added more guest roles on "Charles in Charge" (CBS, 1984-85; syndicated, 1987-1990) and "Punky Brewster" (NBC, 1984-86; syndicated, 1987-88) to his résumé. His breakthrough came when he was cast as the mischievous middle school student Zack Morris on a sitcom called "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" (1988-89), which had started life as an NBC pilot but was acquired by Disney Channel. Following the efforts of Indiana-based Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills) to juggle her personal and professional lives - and the problems of her various students, including Dustin Diamond as Screech and Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle, as well as the impositions of the bumbling principal, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) - the show's gentle humor and soft heart made little impression, and the show was canceled after 13 episodes.
NBC decided to give the show a second chance with some retooling, and Miss Bliss and several of the students were jettisoned. Gosselaar, Diamond, Voorhies and Haskins were spared the axe, and the show's focus became the lives of six Southern California high school friends, which now included Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez. Brightly colored and cartoonlike in many ways, "Saved by the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993) exploded into a Saturday-morning smash success. Gosselaar's Zack became the fourth-wall-breaking star of the show, narrating and controlling the action as well as continuing his streak of charming manipulation. For viewers of a certain generation, the show was a cultural phenomenon despite - or perhaps because of - its highly disposable, flashy charm, and Gosselaar benefited the most from being chief among its fresh faces. Most episodes revolved around the confident, irrepressible preppy, and with five Young Artist Award nominations and one win, there was no question who the most visible - and valuable - asset to the "Bell" empire was at its peak.
His success as the scheming-yet-lovable Zack led to a primetime spin-off "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" (NBC, 1993-94) and several popular TV movies based on the series, which happily resolved the long-running romance between Kelly Kapowski (Thiessen) and Zack. In real life, Gosselaar met his future wife Lisa Russell on "The College Years" and the two were married in 1996. Gosselaar branched out as creative consultant and host of the short-lived NBC game show "Brains and Brawn" (1993), but his massive success as a teen star both helped and hindered his career. He struggled to find a follow-up act to his iconic character, appearing in the little-seen films "White Wolves: A Cry in the Wild II" (1993) and "The St. Tammany Miracle" (1994) alongside his old "Punky Brewster" co-star Soleil Moon Frye. He played Tracey Gold's concerned brother in the anorexia drama "For the Love of Nancy" (ABC, 1994), a date rapist in "She Cried No" (NBC, 1996) and notched a string of similar middling credits. Gosselaar made his gambit for big screen success with a co-starring role in the college black comedy "Dead Man on Campus" (1998), playing a failing student who hopes to earn all A's by finding a suicidal roommate. Although he received a good review from The New York Times, the film itself flunked with critics and moviegoers.
Pop culture had been changing ever since "Saved by the Bell" proved how powerful teenage tastes could be, and with the rise of The WB, adolescents were more in charge than ever in terms of the hottest programming. Ironically, the hottest show of them all, "Dawson's Creek" (The WB, 1998-2003), owed a symbolic debt to the gang at Bayside High, and Gosselaar was recruited to topline the soapy, angsty drama "Hyperion Bay" (The WB,1998-99) in the same vein, which unfortunately fizzled. A follow-up series, the youth-minded political drama "D.C" (The WB, 2000) failed to score, but Gosselaar landed a pair of noteworthy roles that put him on track for a resurgence - but this time as an adult and not a teen heartthrob. Playing a real-life Marine whose romance with a defecting Bahrain royal captivated the world, Gosselaar scored with "The Princess and the Marine" (NBC, 2001) and earned good reviews as an unlikely gay porn star in an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999- ). His career fortunes soared that year when he was tapped to replace Rick Schroeder as the new young partner of Det. Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) on "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). As the stand-up detective John Clark, Jr., who had issues with his ex-cop father and ultimately turned to Sipowicz as a surrogate, Gosselaar impressed audiences and remained a fixture on the series until the end of its run in 2005.
Firmly entrenched as a favorite of "NYPD Blue" creator Steven Bochco, Gosselaar enjoyed another juicy guest-starring role on his Iraq War show "Over There" (FX, 2005), playing an embedded American reporter. When Bochco took the helm of the critically respected but troubled "Commander in Chief" (ABC, 2005-06), the story of the first female U.S. president (Geena Davis), he added Gosselaar to the cast as a political advisor. When the presidential show was impeached for good, the longtime race car driver and track cyclist won an event at the Encino Velodrome before playing a mysterious architect in the horror-tinged thriller "The House Next Door" (Lifetime Movie Network, 2006). Gosselaar nabbed a supporting role in the mystical surfer drama "John from Cincinnati" (HBO, 2007), which quickly wiped out with critics and audiences. In a wink to his past, Gosselaar, along with former "Bell" buddies Voorhies and Lopez, did voiceover work in a twisted parody of their old show on the satirical cult hit "Robot Chicken" (Adult Swim, 2005- ).
The actor discovered just how fondly the Bayside High gang was still held in public esteem when he made a much-buzzed-about appearance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (NBC, 2009- ) in character as Zack Morris to promote Gosselaar's legal drama "Raising the Bar" (TNT, 2008-09). Fallon received ample press for the appearance, and for his attempts to reunite the "Bell" cast. In November of 2009, Gosselaar made his stage debut in "The Understudy" in New York, and found himself the subject of scandal for the first time in years when, in 2010, he and wife Lisa Russell announced they were divorcing. Fans cheered when news of several Gosselaar projects leaked, including a starring role in the legal comedy series "Franklin & Bash" (TNT, 2010- ) with Breckin Meyer, and an upcoming guest appearance as a bartender who briefly romances Mary-Louise Parker's character on the hit series "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005- ).