“I cringed seeing myself portraying a white dude being Zack Morris, who is, like, the all-American, blonde-haired white dude in an Indian Native American headdress,” Gosselaar, 47, said during the “Zack to the Future” podcast released Wednesday, March 31.
The actor was referring to a 1990 episode titled “Running Zack,” where his character wears a traditional Native American headdress to class.
In the Saved by the Bell episode, during which Zack‘s class is presenting about their ancestry, he decides that he has a “distant Indian relative” based on a photo he finds at home. When asked in school what tribe he is from, Zack randomly guesses, “Cherokee.” He then comes to class in a stereotypical Native American headdress to show off his family history.
This episode is hard for the Mixed-ish star to place more than 30 years since it aired.
“This is one of those that I don’t — I don’t remember putting on the headdress,” he said on the podcast. “I don’t remember putting face paint on. I don’t remember standing in that awkward way that I was standing where my arms are folded in, like, a very stereotypical way.”
Gosselaar did mention that he doesn’t see these insensitive choices appearing on television again any time soon. “Again, there are protocols in place and filters that, you know, like, a director, standards and practices,” he explained. “We’re much more sensitive now, for good reason, that those things would not happen today. Like, this episode would never get made in current times, and rightly so.”
The actor has reflected on his time on the hit show frequently over the years, including when he confirmed that he and former costar Dustin Diamond had grown apart before Diamond’s death in February. “It’s no secret that the rest of the cast wasn’t very close with Dustin toward the end of his life,” he told his cohost, Dashiell Driscoll, during the March 10 episode of the “Zack to the Future” podcast.
“We did a comic con back in 2019. I saw him. He looked healthy. I met his girlfriend. We had a nice little conversation and took some photos with some of the fans. That was it. We didn’t talk after that,” the Pitch alum said. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that you can work with somebody for many years [and not talk to them again]. … It’s a sad thing about the business, but it does happen.”