EXCLUSIVE: Mario Lopez on His New Baby, A.C. Slater as a Dad & Playdates with Tiffani Thiessen

Pop Culture

Mario Lopez will likely forever be embedded in the brains of fans as A.C. Slater from the late-‘80s-early-‘90s show Saved By the Bell. But the truth is Lopez has done a veritable ton since those early days of acting. He’s a TV host (you may have seen him on a little show called EXTRA?) and a radio host. He’s been on Broadway and has written books. He recently launched a lifestyle clothing and jewelry collection for men and boys.

TBH, we’re not entirely sure the man ever sleeps. It’s possible we would have pegged him for an android — if it weren’t for the fact that Lopez has very human emotions when it comes to what he calls “the best role he’s ever had”: fatherhood. In addition to adorable kids Dominic and Gia, Lopez and his wife Courtney are expecting their third child in the very near future.

So, with Father’s Day just around the corner, we couldn’t resist picking Lopez’s brain about everything from his plans for the holiday, how his family handles social media noise and what he thinks A.C. Slater would be like as a dad.

SheKnows: Well, congratulations! You’ve got a lot of exciting things going on. But first and foremost, a new baby on the way. How does being a dad of soon-to-be three feel different from first becoming a dad?

Mario Lopez: I’m excited. If it was up to me, I’d keep going because I’m not the one having them (laughs). But I’m most excited, first and foremost, to find out what we’re having — with all of our kids, we don’t find out the gender until birth. It’s the best feeling; it’s euphoric.

SK: I have a daughter and a son, one of each like you. But anytime in the past we’ve broached the subject of having another, the kids are adamant they want another of them. So, a brother for our son, a sister for our daughter. Have you gotten any feedback from your kids and, if so, how are you preparing them?

ML: That’s exactly where we’re at right now. They’re both heavily campaigning. I told them it is what it is; we don’t really have a choice. They both campaign for gender and for their names. They’re passionate kids (laughs). They want certain names, they both want a little brother and a little sister… it’s great. But seeing their reaction when the baby finally comes is going to be the best.

SK: You and Courtney will officially be outnumbered now. Do y’all have a solid strategy in place?

ML: We come from big families, so I love the chaos. A couple of dogs, three kids — I love it all. We’re going to switch to zone defense and do our best.

SK: It can be hard to strike a work-life balance when you’re a parent. How do you and Courtney handle it?

ML: I’ve got a very understanding, great wife who totally understands it. We communicate with the kids a lot, and they understand it. I get ‘em in on the act; they’re very busy themselves. I steal time to go to jujitsu or wrestling or gymnastics or whatever the kids have got going on. I’m pretty much there. And I take them with me when I travel a lot, so it’s a team effort. Team Lopez.

SK: Love it. Go, Team Lopez! Well, you’ve got a new endeavor that has the potential to empower dads and bring fathers and sons together: the Mario Lopez Collection, which features men’s watches, jewelry and shoes — as well as boys’ shoes inspired by your Dominic. Tell us a little about that.

ML: Dads want to look cool and, as much as they can, rock the same looks as their kids. I‘m in that adorable phase right now, so I’ll take it as long as I can get it with my kid.

SK: In addition to making it easy for father-son duos to twin it, what was important for you to create with this collection?

ML: I wanted to make it affordable and accessible. And I wanted to make it cool… to have a little bit of a Latin vibe sprinkled through it. So, I’m excited to get it out. Hopefully, dads and their sons will dig it. And maybe moms will buy it for them. Father’s Day is coming up.

SK: Yes, it is — do you have any special plans to celebrate?

ML: We’re going to the Dodgers game! We’re a big Dodgers family, so we went for Mother’s Day and we’re going to go for Father’s Day, too. My wife usually sings the National Anthem, but she’s a little too pregnant to get into it now she said (laughs). But we’ll enjoy the day as a family.

SK: Let’s talk about your wife for a minute, because you’ve alluded before to the fact that she’s such a rock star mom. Do y’all ever have to deal with negative noise, like parent-shaming, on social media? If so, how do you cope?

ML: That’s one of the negatives, of course, of social media; it’s a platform for people to spew negativity — usually people who don’t feel good about themselves. But even though you may know where it’s coming from, it’s tough to always hear or see. And it unfortunately comes with the territory.

It’s the kind of thing you have to navigate as a parent as your kids start to get on social media later on. But you know, you can turn off comments… my kids are still a little too young to go there, but it’s something I’m concerned with in the future, that’s for sure.

SK: Agreed — it’s sort of terrifying being a modern parent, right? Here, let us distract you from the thought of those future convos by bringing up the newest feather in your cap. You’re about to add executive producer to your resume when The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia goes into production. What attracted you to this project in particular?

ML: First of all, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Netflix and telling these family-friendly stories — and putting a little Latin flavor in that because, everywhere I go, I like to represent my culture a little bit.

We’re just getting into it right now, developing all the characters. I came up with the premise, I fleshed it out with my personal experience growing up, and [Netflix] responded, fortunately. It’s a story I wanted to tell, so I’m glad we’re going to be launching our first season.

SK: Absolutely; representation is so important in media. Well, as if you don’t already have one million things going on at the moment, we have to know: What would it take to get you to do a Saved By the Bell reboot?

ML: I’ve got a lot on my plate. But if they come up with a clever way, then I’d be open to it. It can’t be in high school anymore, though. Too bad my kids aren’t older, because they’d be great (laughs).

SK: Do ya hear that, TV execs? Sound the potential reboot alert! Seriously, though, it’s wild to think it’s been 30 years since the show premiered. What do you think A.C. Slater would be like as a dad?

ML: I think he’d be a good dad, you know? A lot of things that he was doing as a character was really me in real life. It wasn’t like he was a wrestler originally… there were things that were me, and they just kind of incorporated them into the character. So, he’d probably be a lot like me (laughs).

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SK: You recently enjoyed a mini-reunion with some of the original Saved By the Bell crew. Considering a few of you have kids around the same age, do you ever lean on each other for parenting advice or get together for playdates?

ML: Tiffany [Thiessen] and I were trying to get together for a playdate; we’ve got one coming up. So, we see each other as much as we can, but we’re all very busy with a lot going on. It’s kind of like real high school friends — you see each other when you can, right?

SK: Definitely understand how that goes. Final question, because all this Saved By the Bell talk has us feeling nostalgic and Father’s Day is coming up. What does being a father mean to you?

ML: It’s the best role I’ve ever had. It’s a total blessing. And no matter what kind of day I’m having, when I get home and hear “Daddy!” and their little footsteps running to me, it makes it all better. It provides incredible motivation and incentive. Just the amount of love you experience is not comparable to anything else.

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