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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Resolving some issues

August 31, 2008|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

Mark-PAUL GOSSELAAR stars in TNT's "Raising the Bar," the new Steven Bochco legal drama that debuts Monday. He previously worked for Bochco on "NYPD Blue." In the intervening years, he was on the adorable yet canceled "Commander in Chief" and "John From Cincinnati." He was also the star of "Saved by the Bell."

When did you very first meet Steven Bochco?

2001, for his project about -- I believe it was a public defender. Kim Delaney played a public defender, a show called "Philly." I went in to meet Steven for that role, and I didn't get it, but I got something better: "NYPD Blue." And he had absolutely no idea what my past was, that I was a child star. He was looking to replace Rick Schroder, who was a child star, and he replaced him with another child star and I was like, what are you doing?

There's sort of a mythology about him.

Maybe it's the white hair. I love having discussions with him, completely off-base, just about life in general, when we're not working.

But you don't go off-road racing together?

There was a period there where I had to ride a motorcycle when I was doing "NYPD Blue," and I had to take the 405 to Century City, that was the only freeway I could take, any other would take me in the opposite direction. Every day I was on the 405 south or 405 north. Steven saw me one day -- he doesn't come by the set that much, he stays away and allows us to do our work -- and he saw me at a stoplight. I pull up next to this Mercedes and I looked at him and he looked at me and I thought, "Holy . . . that's my boss." . . . . Next day I get a call: Steven wants to see me in the office. . . . He started off by saying, "I was once like you! I used to ride motorcycles and do all that stuff." But he was like, "I don't want you doing that . . . . I need you alive, so we can finish these episodes."

Were you acting out over being on "Saved by the Bell"?

No! Actually I started riding motorcycles when I was 3 and racing when I was 5.

I wonder what would have happened to a cast like the "Saved by the Bell" gang in our modern tabloid era.

That question was asked to me by [Bill] O'Reilly. . . . I was like, no, we don't have the mediums that the kids nowadays do. We didn't have paparazzi. Was I in a club at 16, smoking cigarettes, taking a drink from people? Yeah I was! I did the thing that normal kids do. Did I go to house parties and do keg stands and beer bongs? That's what kids do! I didn't live in a bubble, but I was a normal kid. Nowadays these kids are trying to have an ounce of normalcy and they have a camera in their face. . . . Should be interesting what one of my cast-mates writes in his book. You heard about that?

No?

Dustin ["Screech"] Diamond is writing a book. Just Google that. He's going to tell all the dirty laundry that was in "Saved by the Bell." I can't wait!

So now there's another TV show about lawyers. Why lawyers? Have you met lawyers? They're not that interesting!

The thing that makes this show stand apart is we're showing it from the other side of the system, from people in the system every day, with their clients who are bearers of the destructive criminal justice system. . . . We're allowing the audience to, for themselves, say what's good and what's evil.

What are you going to do this weekend?

My wife and I are celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary. We are going to do press for the show in Chicago.

Romantic!

We're gonna make it into an anniversary dinner and go from there. Our weekends are pretty quiet with two kids. We try to get a baby-sitter for one of the nights and go to a nice restaurant. We're in that phase of our lives -- the kids are that age where we're taking vacations together now. We just came back last week -- we were gone two weeks -- and I said to my wife, "It sure would be nice to go vacation."

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