Mark-Paul Gosselaar became a TV teen idol as bleached-blond Zack on Saved by the Bell and spent the latter half of the 1990s trying to live down that legacy. Born in California to Dutch parents, Gosselaar had already made numerous TV guest appearances as a child actor by the time he was cast on Saved by the Bell in 1989. Though the perky high school/college sitcom made him a hit with the young audience, he had difficulties finding work after leaving the show in 1994. Still, he managed to land roles in TV and B-films, including Sticks and Stones (1996), Kounterfeit (1996), and the Western Brothers of the Frontier (1996).
Confirming that his teen (and perhaps teen idol) years were behind him, Gosselaar played a college date rapist in She Cried No (1996) and co-starred with Hilary Swank in the college hazing TV movie Dying to Belong (1997). Moving to higher profile feature films, Gosselaar engaged in slightly more lighthearted college hijinks in MTV Films' black comedy Dead Man on Campus (1998). He was back on TV, however, playing young adults in two short-lived drama series, Hyperion Bay (1998) and D.C. (2000). In 2001, Gosselaar was finally able to truly graduate from Saved by the Bell to bona-fide grown-up roles when he was selected to take over for Rick Schroeder on the long-running gritty cop series NYPD Blue. His four year run with the series cemented the actor's new reputation as an adult actor, and he would go on to star on several other shows, like Commander in Chief, Raising the Bar, and Franklin & Bash. In 2015, secure in his adult career, Gosselaar reunited with some of his Saved By the Bell cast members for a skit on The Tonight Show.