Tiffani Thiessen is probably best known for her role as Kelly Kapowski on “Saved by the Bell,” but the actress says she had no idea at that time how popular the teenage sitcom was.
“I mean, I was so young. I was 15 when I started that show,” said Thiessen, now 39.
“I remember Mark-Paul (Gosselaar) and I touring the (United) States and going overseas. … That was the first time that I realized what an impact that show had when 5,000, 6,000, 10,000 kids were showing up to these malls, and these places where we would sit there for hours and do autograph signings,” she said.
“That’s when I was really like, ‘Where am I? What is this?’ Kids wanted my empty cup of water and, you know, things like that. It was strange. I had to constantly remind myself that what I was doing was a job, and I enjoyed my job and I was going back to school and do homework like all these other kids who were sitting here.”
“Saved by the Bell,” which also starred Mario Lopez and Dustin Diamond, aired from 1989 to 1993.
The show now airs in syndication and remains a part of the pop culture zeitgeist. Jimmy Fallon tried — unsuccessfully — to rally the cast for a reunion in 2009. They did pose for a People magazine cover.
Justin Bieber wore a T-shirt with the likeness of Kelly Kapowski to the MuchMusic Awards in 2011.
Thiessen is grateful that she grew up in the limelight before TMZ and other 24-hour media outlets and gossip blogs came along on the Internet.
“Thank God I missed that. The photographers that would follow us were like for Teen Beat and Bop (magazines),” she said.
She said the limelight got a little more intense with her next big role as Valerie Malone on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” But it was “nothing like (what) the kids are going through now.”
Thiessen credits Aaron Spelling, who was an executive producer of “90210,” with giving her a perspective on fame.
“Aaron Spelling said something to me a long time ago that was really interesting,” she said. “He said movie stars are in big screens and you have to go see them in the theater.
“TV stars are in people’s homes and they feel much more of a connection because you’re watching them in your home.”
Thiessen divides her time between Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughter, and New York, where she films the USA series “White Collar,”