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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Mario Lopez, the multi-tasker

The 'Dancing With the Stars' runner-up has come a long way since 'Saved by the Bell.' With his hosting skills in demand, he's splitting his time between 'Extra' and 'America's Best Dance Crew.'

August 30, 2009|Denise Martin

Mario Lopez is still best known for playing the mulleted, spandex-wearing jock A.C. Slater on "Saved by the Bell." These days, he hosts both "Extra" and MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew."

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You're in the middle of two jobs. What are you up to at this moment?

I had to run back to do some emergency voice-over stuff. I am the voice of "Extra" as well. That video of Dr. Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor, just came in. That suddenly beat the lead story which was about the dude from "Grey's Anatomy" -- what's his name?

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Eric Dane.

Eric Dane, yes. Eric Dane and that little naked video of him and his wife with a friend.

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That's right. Not a sex tape. . . .

Well, so far!

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I'm loving "America's Best Dance Crew" this season. Lots of diversity.

It's an eclectic bunch, huh? Vogue Evolution [an all-gay dance crew] makes me smile. But I'm impressed by all of them. I think the girl crew, We Are Heroes, is great. I've been impressed by the last two seasons of girl groups. They've really been able to bring it. I'd like to see a female crew win.

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Let's talk about your own dance background. Long before "Dancing With the Stars," I remember some fancy footwork on "Kids Incorporated" and sometimes on "Saved by the Bell."

Wow, you're old school.

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Yes. When did you get into dancing?

My mom put me into a bunch of classes as a kid. That was one of my many activities. And then I took, like, a 20-year hiatus until I did "Dancing With the Stars." I've always liked to move and dance, whether in weddings or at a club, but I never took it serious or anything. I just did whatever my mom told me. And I was really small from when I was 4 to, like, 7.

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How did you get involved on "Dancing With the Stars" then?

It's my mom's favorite show.

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You are a mama's boy.

Yes, I succumbed to the pressure.

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I remember during your season that some people thought it was unfair that you were competing, having had a background in dance.

Yeah, I thought that was very flattering. I'm not a professional. I'm not. I pick up stuff quick.

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Still, how in the world did Emmitt Smith beat you?

The whole thing was fun. It's not like we were aspiring to be professionals or anything. At least, I wasn't.

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What is with the staying power of "Saved by the Bell"?

I couldn't tell you. Maybe the innocence of it? There was a little something for everyone even though it was for kids. You didn't have to think too much. It's not a "CSI" plot. Just innocent fun -- can't get enough that.

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Saw you on the cover of People magazine with the entire Bayside High gang. Why have none of you aged?

Aw, that's nice. I was their hot bachelor last year or whatever, the cover for that. They asked me then if I'd be interested in doing a reunion with the cast. I said, 'Yeah!' I had nothing but great memories. So they had it planned even a year before. They knew 2009 was the show's 20th anniver- sary.

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Were you counting down as well?

Yeah. Of course! I can count.

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Dustin Diamond, who played the nerdy Screech, was a no-show. Do you think being identified as Screech traumatized him for life? There's the sex tape, the wrestling, "Celebrity Fit Club". . . .

I was disappointed. He should have been there. I don't keep in contact with him, but I never had any issues or problems. We always got along well. As for his [recent] activities, I guess you do what you gotta do, you know?

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What separates "Extra" from all the other entertainment news shows?

It's the next generation of these kind of shows, with our interactivity and social networking. It's really got a cool, younger, hipper feel, and it's not as salacious. I try to talk to people as a friend and not be too newsy or anchor-y. Or, you know, sound old.

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Do you help come up with the segments?

I'm constantly pitching stuff. Like I'm going to get a dog, and we've turned it into this whole thing about what kind of dog I should get. I'm getting tons of viewer suggestions and celebs are really getting a kick out of it. I've gotten everything from a pit bull to a Chihuahua, a Jack Russell terrier. Viewers will vote and we'll take it from there. They know I'm single, I work a lot, I travel, I'm active. . . .

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That poor dog.

Yeah, I need something that can run around with me. An athletic, small, masculine little dog. I can't have a froufrou dog.

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