Over 20 years after becoming a star on Saved by the Bell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar is taking on his first action hero role in the upcoming film, Precious Cargo, opposite the ultimate action hero, Bruce Willis.
No big deal.
In the movie, hitting theaters on April 22, the 42-year-old actor plays Jack, a thief recruited by his ex-girlfriend for an insane jewel heist to win back the trust of a villainous crime boss (played by Willis).
"[Willis] is an icon and someone that I grew up watching," Gosselaar told ET from the Gasparilla Film Festival in Tampa, Florida, where the film premiered on April 2. "Jack is the kind of character that Bruce Willis plays in his sleep. Something he's played hundreds of times over in his career."
"He walked on the set and it was like, 'That's Bruce f**king Willis!'" Gosselaar added. "He opens his mouth and he acts and you're like, 'Holy s**t, that's Bruce Willis!'"
Admittedly, taking on such a role opposite the Die Hard star proved to be a little intimidating at times. "I wish I could read his mind, but in my head I was thinking, 'He's critiquing me on how good of an action guy I can be,'" Gosselaar said. "I was trying to play it up as much as I could because I'm thinking this is the action hero of all action heroes."
In Precious Cargo, Jack is described as the "Michelangelo of thieves." So, we asked Gosselaar what he is the Michelangelo of. "Being a husband and father," the daddy-of-four said. "I think that would be my greatest accomplishment. It's something that I enjoy, excel at."
With '90s nostalgia in full swing, Gosselaar also revealed what it's like to have portrayed someone as beloved as his Saved by the Bell character, teen heartthrob Zack Morris. "It was a show that when we were filming it was almost canceled every year," he recalled. "We only did it for five years and it's just had this long run that continues to generate more fans and new fans. This is a show that when we were filming, no one was watching."
"It's been 20-plus years later and we're still talking about it. It's wow. It's amazing," he added. "I just wish we could have had that success while we were filming it. It would have been so much sweeter."
Yet, the show has found an enduring place in fans' hearts. Much to their delight, in February 2015, Gosselaar and several of his Saved by the Bell co-stars reunited for an epic sketch with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He said shooting the sketch was a lot of fun and he "wouldn't be opposed" to doing more of the same. "I'd totally be into that," he said.
However, Gosselaar warns fans not to get their hopes up for more. He revealed that Netflix has not come calling for a series reboot or continuation as it has with shows like Fuller House and Gilmore Girls. And the actor himself doesn't seem interested in such an extended commitment.
"I don't know if I would necessarily do a Fuller House-type of thing," the actor admitted. "To do a full show, I don't know if that’s something that any of us would really want to be a part of. I could be wrong, but we haven't ever been approached with scripts or material, so I don’t know."
Nevertheless, Gosselaar is focused on returning to TV full-time after his series, Franklin & Bash, was canceled in 2014. He is currently working on a FOX pilot called Pitch, which tells the story of a female baseball pitcher who makes it to the major leagues with Gosselaar playing a veteran catcher and all-star captain on her team. "It's about her journey and the journey of major league baseball after she pitches the first game," he explained.
And the premise couldn’t be more timely. Last year, the NFL welcomed its first female official, Sarah Thomas, and currently members of the U.S. women's soccer team are petitioning to close the pay gap between male and female players.
While Major League Baseball has yet to welcome its first female player, Gosselaar doesn't think it is an impossibility. "For a woman to become pitcher, I don't think it's a question of if," he said. "I think it's a question of when."
"I would love to see, in my lifetime, a woman pitch in the majors," he added. "I think for my daughters, it would be an inspiration. I think it's something that will happen."
We couldn't agree more!
ET was on set of Saved by the Bell in 1989. Go behind the scenes with us in the video below.