The beloved Saved By The Bell returned to our screens as a reboot on Peacock. While we witnessed a reunion of some of our favorite characters, this new take on the show featured an entire new generation and in turn, new and unique stories. Alycia Pascual-Peña plays Aisha, an Afro-Latina, football-playing girl boss that faces all the typical teen challenges as well as challenges regarding her place in a majority white high school. She talked with us about the importance of not only her own role in the show, but the future of all roles that will bring genuine change to entertainment.

Can you walk us through your career from your childhood to now? 

My journey within the industry has definitely been an uphill battle. I’ve been in the industry since I was three and have always known I wanted to be an artist. But for many years I dealt with continuous rejection. But I remained dedicated to my craft and pursuing my dreams. I’m really grateful for my journey within the industry because I grew and learned from it all. I am truly blessed to be where I am as an actress and I am looking forward to everything that is to come.

Do you have a favorite memory from working on Saved By the Bell, on or off set? 

I have a lot of memories from set that I cherish, but one of my favorite memories from set would have to be filming episode seven. Episode seven allowed for the cast and I to explore Bayside out of the school a bit. We got to shoot these extravagant party scenes which were a total ball. I had so much fun dancing and laughing with my entire cast throughout filming.

How are you similar and different from Aisha? 

Aisha and I are both outspoken and motivated. We also share a lot of similarities in how we had to navigate high school. I am personally from a low income community in the Bronx but went to a high in a predominately affluent and white community. I was one of the only Black students in my entire high school, which came with a variety of hardships. But similarly to Aisha, I persevered at my school and found a way to succeed despite certain adversity I faced. Aisha paves her own unique path at Bayside, which I did throughout my own scholastic career.
Aisha and I differ in the way in which we perceive the importance of academics. Aisha is much more concerned with succeeding athletically and socially than receiving great grades. She quickly becomes one of the most popular girls at Bayside. Aisha also loves to rock the flyest outfits and cute makeup looks. I was not having nearly as much fun as Aisha does at Bayside. I was in the International Baccalaureate program in my high school and fixated on receiving good grades. You also would rarely catch me outside of sweats when I was in school. So it’s definitely a whole lotta fun being able to go back to high school in a sense. It’s been a privilege to explore all the facets of this powerful young woman.

You’ve discussed dealing with erasure and lack of representation in entertainment and you now get to contribute to progress with this role. What hopes do you have moving forward with this show and entertainment in general? 

As an Afro Latina actress I hope to uplift my community and create genuine change. Moving forward I hope the entertainment industry commits itself to telling sincere and multi dimensional stories that allow for everyone to see themselves. I hope to see more stories that empower individuals within all marginalized communities. There is still so much work yet to done. Inclusion and diversity within film is improving but it is important for there to also be tangible change and genuine diversity behind the camera as well(writers, producers, directors,etc).  I want to see more stories centered around and told by individuals who are Black, Latine/x, Asian, Indigenous,LGBTQIA+ and with disabilities.

What was it like working with Mario Lopez?

It was always a lot of fun! He was always so kind and helpful in every scene. He’s such a wonderful scene partner. And we’d always talk about our cultures and find ourselves dancing on set. I grew up watching him , so the fact that I now get to work with him and call him “coach” is amazing. I’m really grateful.

What are you hoping fans take from the show? 

I hope people are able to laugh and enjoy the wackiness of our show. But more importantly, I hope our show encourages empathy and compels people to progress the conversations we have on the show in their own lives.

Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?

I am inspired by so many artists but some people that immediately come to mind are Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Lin Manuel Miranda, Zendaya, Indya Moore,etc. I also look forward to being able to create work with my own personal friends that I’m really inspired by as well.

When you’re not working, what are you doing? 

When I’m not working I am spending quality time with my family and friends. I’m always watching movie and shows. I also am trying to dance as much as possible. Prior to Covid I also loved exploring and traveling.

Name your go-to song for 2020.

Rain by Sunday Service Choir
Talent ALYCIA PASCUAL-PENA @alyciadelsol
Interview ARIS PANGAN @arisjpangan
Photography BRANDON HICKS @brandonhicks
Production @alexbonnetwrites