The beloved original series aired on Saturday mornings from 1989 to 1993

By Emily Strohm and Breanne L. Heldman
November 25, 2020 11:15 PM
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Credit: Peacock

In the new Saved by the Bell reboot on Peacock, the son of Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski is exactly as he should be: a blonde-haired prankster who loves his school and loves to torment his principal.

But actor Mitchell Hoog didn't pick up those moves from studying Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen in the beloved original series, which aired on Saturday mornings from 1989 to 1993. In fact, the 21-year-old Colorado native had never even seen it when he landed the role.

"I was familiar with what it was, but I couldn't have named any other character than Zack Morris," he admits to PEOPLE. "And then once I got [the part], I didn't go back and watch the whole thing because I didn't want to copy anything that Mark did."

"Of course, there's a correlation because I'm playing his son, but I didn't want to go back and binge it and feel like it had to copy anything."

Eventually, though, Hoog did watch some old footage.

"There's a YouTube series that, actually, one of our writers does, and it's called Zack Morris Is Trash. I went and watched that a lot because it just sums up each episode, but it goes through every event in the episode of how Zack was setting up a prank. I feel like that actually helped quite a bit due to me in this new Bayside, being a complete schemer and prankster and king of the school."

Before becoming an actor, Hoog was a competitive snowboarder who had to leave the sport after multiple concussions. Here, the rising star discusses his journey from the slopes to Bayside.

Credit: Trae Patton/Peacock

PEOPLE: Tell us a little about your snowboarding career. How did that start?

MITCHELL HOOG: So growing up, my grandparents had this little place in Steamboat, Colorado, so I always was snowboarding. At some point, I decided that I wanted to pursue it. And so at 13, I moved up to Steamboat, away from my parents, and lived with my grandma and grandpa for a year and a half. After that, I went over to Breckenridge, Colorado, and switched teams that competed, and did slopestyle, and traveled and did online school. I wouldn't trade all of that for anything because I learned so much, and I think a lot of that has correlated to acting.

At what point did you decide to give that up and focus on acting?

The doctors told me that it would not be smart anymore to snowboard due to concussions. It wasn't one concussion that did it; it was kind of this continual event of concussions over a six-year span. It would be one month here, and then four months later I'd get another little one, and then six months later I'd get another. And then the next year I'd get a really big one. So the doctor said, "It's probably not smart for your overall health."

And then you said you started going to a bunch of plays?

That was my door to acting. And then I found this little studio in Denver, Colorado, called AEC Studios and I went down there and trained for two years. I just fell in love with acting really, really quickly. So I never second-guessed it.

Credit: Trae Patton/Peacock

And now you're playing the son of iconic characters Zack and Kelly. What is Mac like?

Mac is the king of the school. He has this abundant amount of privilege that I don't think he really knows what to do with, other than use it for his own vanity. Therefore, he looks for constant attention throughout the school because he does not get a lot from his parents, due to Zack being governor and constantly traveling. In school, Mac feels like there's this need to live up to Zack's legacy that he left at the school. And Mac wants to not only meet it but exceed it. And so between that and being the king of the school, I think Mac is constantly protecting himself over, call it my ego, my vanity, or whatever it is, there's this constant nagging of I have to be top dog.

How was it working with Mark, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani?

I only met Mario and Elizabeth at the first table read, and they were very hands-on. You could tell that nobody really knew what it was going to be, but we all had this expectation of what it could be. And so we all were just excited to execute that. Once Mark and Tiffani came on the table reads and sets and all of that, seeing the whole original cast together and how nurturing they were all to each other still and what good friends they still were, you could see the memories going in their head when they were all in the same room. I think all of us were just in awe of staring at this group of people that we're lucky enough now to be almost mentored by.

RELATED VIDEP: Saved by the Bell Stars Reflect on Returning to Bayside High for Reboot: 'It Blew My Mind'

You also worked on a film during the pandemic, called After Masks. How was that idea was born?

A couple of actors and writers and producers that I know, and it just started as just calls at the beginning of quarantine. All of us were trying to keep in touch and just keep each other motivated. And then there were a couple scripts going around, and at some point somebody in the group was like, "Why don't we just all make a project right now?" So then we started dreaming, and wondering, well, how do we even film, because you can't have this group of people filming? And how do we get this, and how did we get that? And surprisingly all come together very organically. And we wanted to touch on not the fact that there's a pandemic going on, but we want to touch on the fact of what the actual humans go through while we're going through this objective pandemic.

Why was that so important to you?

In quarantine and lock-up orders, it's like we're alone for this immense amount of time that I don't think any of us are comfortable with, and things do arise: Grief, traumas, countless other things that just come up due to having time to really talk to yourself and be with yourself. It's six stories that are woven together, and they all touch on this subject. I think we all wanted people to watch it and feel comfort in the fact that these types of times inherently bring a hard mental strain. And none of us are alone, and none of us should feel alone.

Saved by the Bell is now streaming on Peacock.