Big shoes to fill! John Michael Higgins opened up about the pressure he felt when taking on the role of Bayview High’s principal — a part that was previously held by Dennis Haskins across the Saved by the Bell franchise.
“I do feel the pressure. I don’t play the same man as Dennis Haskins does. My guy’s called Ronald Todman, and he just has the same job in the same building,” the Pitch Perfect actor, 57, told Us Weekly exclusively while promoting the show. “Many years have gone by, and my guy has a whole other set of problems than his guy does. But, yeah, I did feel the pressure to some extent.”
Higgins continued, “There was a huge fanbase for Saved by the Bell. They have very big memories, you know, memories that are very much alive, I’ve discovered. A lot of people keep wondering about little details and things like that.”
The America Says alum believes that longtime fans “will be very pleased” with how the new series revisits the Saved by the Bell world. Additionally, Higgins said that there are “Easter eggs and little references” to its predecessor.
Haskins, 71, played Principal Richard Belding in the Saved by the Bell franchise beginning in 1988. He starred on Good Morning, Miss Bliss for its solo season before reprising the role on Saved by the Bell from 1989 to 1993 and Saved by the Bell: The New Class from 1993 to 2000.
The Tennessee native has not been confirmed to return to the Peacock revival series, which will be released later this month.
Higgins raved about Haskins’ long tenure in the Saved by the Bell franchise. “It was a great run for him and it was a great performance,” he told Us of Haskins. “I admire him enormously.”
In December 2019, it was announced that Higgins would be joining the show as the newest principal of Bayview High. However, he revealed to Us that he had not watched the show until showrunner Tracy Wakefield approached him for the part.
“I went back and looked at a few of the episodes from the old four-camera show, and I was just delighted,” he shared. “I just thought, ‘Why are you remaking this? It’s perfect.’ You know, it’s so colorful and funny and all that stuff. But I think our version — we’d like to say a re-imagining, not a reboot, mostly because there are so many new characters — is slightly edgier in tone comedically.”
The Break-Up actor added, “The old show did do a lot of issues, you know, drugs [and such] — they did all these things. Almost every episode is someone bumping into some issue, and ours does too. But again, it’s an NBC comedy and here at NBC, we like to do funny first — at least in the comedy department. So, that’s our primary goal. Anything that gets said will probably make you laugh, and maybe think a little too.”
Original cast members Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Lark Voorhies are set to reprise their former roles. However, Berkeley, 48, recently admitted on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that she is unsure whether OG star Dustin Diamond will return for the revival.
“We’ll see if there’s another season, maybe it’s something to explore,” she said on the Tuesday, November 17, episode.
The Saved by the Bell revival series will premiere on Peacock on Wednesday, November 25.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi