"I was left out in the cold," says Elizabeth Berkley Lauren of the criticism she received following the release of 1995's Showgirls

By Aili Nahas
November 25, 2020 11:12 AM
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Credit: Cheyenne Ellis

As a working actress for over three decades, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren has had her share of memorable moments onscreen. But her role in 1995's Showgirls had a profound effect not just on her career — but on her personal character.

"It changed me," says Berkley, 48, of the controversial erotic thriller, which has since become a cult classic. "It was a life moment, and I cannot help but say I would be a different person had I not gone through the depths of what it taught me."

Now starring in the reboot of Saved by the Bell, premiering November 25 on Peacock, Berkley was just coming off the original hit series in 1992 when the then 21-year-old found herself at a crossroads.

"Saved by the Bell was a beautiful first rite of passage for me," says Berkley. "But as an artist, I was excited to dive a little deeper and explore."

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Elizabeth Berkley
| Credit: Cheyenne Ellis

Nonetheless, in taking on the role of Nomi Malone, a Las Vegas dancer in Showgirls, the first and only wide release to be given an NC-17 rating, "I wasn't looking for shock value," says Berkley. "That wasn't my intention. When I first read about the role, it was a visceral moment. I thought, 'that's mine.'"

The film was eventually released to disappointing box office numbers, and Berkley was personally lambasted in the press. "Of course it was disappointing that it didn't do well, but there was so much cruelty around it," she recalls. "I was bullied. And I didn't understand why I was being blamed. The job as an actor is to fulfill the vision of the director. And I did everything I was supposed to do."

Disappointingly for the young Berkley, "no one associated with the film spoke up on my behalf to protect me. I was left out in the cold and I was a pariah in the industry I had worked so hard for."

Bloodied but unbowed, Berkley decided to "reframe" how she approached her career. "It felt right to make it more about the people I was working with and doing different kinds of roles to bring it back."

Following small but critically acclaimed roles in First Wives Club and Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Berkley did just that. "It was a vulnerable time," she says. "But it made me stronger."

It also inspired Berkley to start Ask Elizabeth, an online advice resource for adolescents, in 2006 (a book of the same name followed five years later).

"I decided to be of service to others because of what I'd been through," she says. "I walked through fire, but I came out the other side."