Actress Lark Voorhies recently went on “Dr. Oz” and talked about being excluded from the upcoming reboot of the ’90s sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” As the sole Black cast member on the show, her story speaks volumes about how she could’ve possibly been excluded not just as a Black woman, but as a Black woman who has a mental disorder.
According to Entertainment Weekly, “Saved by the Bell” is getting a reboot on NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service Peacock. The series will feature some new teen talent including Mitchell Hoog as Mac Morris, the privileged son of Governor Zack Morris, and Belmont Cameli as Jamie Spano, the captain of the Bayside football team and son of Jessie Spano. Mario Lopez will reprise his role as A.C. Slater, while Elizabeth Berkley will take on the role of Jessie once again. Mark-Paul Gosselaar will also return as Zack for at least three episodes in the upcoming series. Tiffani Thiessen, who originally played Kelly Kapowski, is reportedly in talks to reprise her role as well.
For fans of the ’90s teen comedy, the news could be exciting. However, Voorhies’ absence stands out, especially considering her revelation on “Dr. Oz” that she has a mental disorder known as schizoaffective disorder.
According to WebMD, the disorder is characterized by symptoms of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. For example, people with schizoaffective disorder can have mood swings that include depression and mania. They can also get psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia like hallucinations or voices in the head. Voorhies and Dr. Oz talked about it more on his show.
“Do you feel like you know your thoughts but you have trouble expressing them,” Dr. Oz asked Voorhies, to which she responded, “Yes.”
“So the thoughts are formed? You know what you want to say,” continued Dr. Oz.
“Yea and everyone’s ticker taping it to the top to figure out who’s going to get the the least of Voorhie’s thought. ‘Who’s going to get her thought? I am,'” Voorhies explained when describing what goes on in her head.
Dr. Phil also mentioned that Voorhies wasn’t invited to participate in the “Save by the Bell” reboot and in cast reunion photos. She explained how this made her feel in a passage she wrote, which she shared with the audience.
“I have to admit I did feel a bit slighted and hurt when I was not invited to be part of the ‘Saved by the Bell’ reunion as well as other cast members events,” she read. “Yet of course, I also realized that having this puzzling disorder may have played a major part in that factual decision.”
She continued, “With that in mind, I am truly thankful for having had the chance to work on a show that has been so successful.”
Voorhies was a key cast member of “Saved by the Bell” from 1989 to 1992. Then, she left the show when it returned for “Saved By The Bell: College Years” in 1993, although she did make an appearance towards the end of the series for Kelly and Zack’s wedding. Throughout the original series, Voorhies’ character, Lisa Turtle, was known as a fashion wiz and she played a key part in rounding out a mostly white cast.
However, the show arguably took a colorblind approach to storytelling, considering the series rarely mentioned Lisa’s Blackness, nor did she have a lot of Black friends or a romantic storyline comparable to Kelly and Zack’s relationship. The fact that she doesn’t get invited to cast reunions says a lot about her role on the show. She was just enough to add diversity to the cast, but not enough to be fully celebrated like the rest of the characters.
It should be noted that Voorhies doesn’t have any bad memories from the show either, and it’s clear that she wanted to be a part of the reunions. “It was some of the happiest moments of my childhood,” she explained to Dr. Oz. Unlike another former cast mate, Dustin Diamond (who played Screech), Voorhies also doesn’t have any bad blood with the cast mates — at least, none that has been made public. While Diamond has written a tell-all book airing his former cast mates’ romantic business, Voorhies described her cast mates as “family.”
So why not invite her to the reboot or cast reunions?
There have been plenty of opportunities, including a memorable appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2015 where Gosselaar, Berkley, Lopez and Thiessen all returned for a skit in their nostalgic Bayside threads.
With Voorhies not appearing in the reunions or reboot, it further erases a character pivotal to Black representation in the ’90s and it further slights someone who was already relegated to the sidelines when the series originally aired.
It’s possible Voorhies’ mental health also played a part in her exclusion.
Around 2012, rumors started swirling that she had mental health issues when in interviews, she would “frequently stop mid-sentence and stare off, often mumbling to herself or to others who weren’t there,” according to PEOPLE. Rumors about her mental health were further cemented when her mom initially misdiagnosed her as having bipolar disorder. While cast mates like Diamond were saying that Voorhies “wasn’t the Lark I knew” in public, it’s questionable how cast mates were supporting or not supporting her in private.
If they truly were a “family,” wouldn’t that entail regular check-ups on your friend? A conversation with Voorhies could have also been had, making sure she was ready to hit the spotlight again. This would’ve been better than not reaching out to her at all.
None of the cast members of “Saved by the Bell” have spoken out in response to Voorhies’ “Dr. Oz” episode, but there’s clear outrage over the sitcom favorite not being included.
Maybe with the current demands of social media, Voorhies’ cast mates and the producers of the upcoming reboot will take note, and Voorhies can, at least, appear in a couple of episodes.
Zack Morris, A.C. Slater…