By Brady Rhoades
Who is Mario Lopez to you?
Access Hollywood host?
Creator of the Latinx series, The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, which debuted on Netflix in February?
Saved by the Bell icon?
Lopez is many things to many people—a modern-day Renaissance Man.
Currently, he’s rebooting Saved by the Bell—which stole the hearts of a generation during its run from 1989 to 1993—and overseeing the already-popular Ashley Garcia, about a teenage robotics engineer and rocket scientist who works for NASA.
Lopez said Saved by the Bell, which features many of the original cast members, is off to a rousing start.
“We’ve gotten great reviews,” he said. It’s a fun, charming, sweet show that shows us in a great light.”
Ashley Garcia is a different animal. There have been other programs about young geniuses (Doogie Howser, MD comes to mind), but this series features a Latina lead and layered storylines. For one thing, Ashley, who earned a PhD at 15, has a complicated relationship with her mother, so she moves from the East Coast to Pasadena to live with her uncle Vito, a high school football coach (Lopez made an appearance in the show’s pilot episode, as uncle Vito’s friend Nico).
“The actors have great charm and the whole show has gentle tween appeal with strong pro-girl messages,” a review in Common Sense Media stated.
Lopez is indeed a Renaissance story, and it traces back to Dick Clark, the original host of the iconic Bandstand and a staple in the lives of TV viewers.
“He persuaded me to look at myself as a brand, as a host,” Lopez, the 46-year-old husband and father of three, said. “He influenced me in a big way.”
Taking advice from a legend was a pivotal moment in Lopez’ career. It’s easier to list what he hasn’t done than what he has done.
Across many platforms, Lopez has served as a role model for Latino and Latina entertainers and entrepreneurs.
He prefers to lead by example. Becoming a powerhouse brand is what allowed him to create the groundbreaking Ashley Garcia.
“We need more people to tell our stories,” he said of the Latinx community. “And that comes from writers and producers.”
Asked about Latino values, he chuckled.
“I just celebrate good values,” he said. “Good values are good values. We raise our kids in a faith-based environment.”
Lopez, who in 2018 was baptized in the Jordan River, said his own faith plays an important role in his prosperity as well as his peace.
“It helps me be still,” he said. “It helps me be humble and focused. It balances me.”
Mario Lopez Jr. was born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California, to Elvira, a telephone company clerk, and Mario Sr., who worked for the municipality of National City. Lopez was raised in a large Catholic family of Mexican descent. He started to learn to dance at the age of 3, training in tap and jazz. He also did tumbling, karate, and wrestling at his local Boys and Girls Club when he was 7 years old.
A fitness fanatic to this day, he competed in wrestling in high school, placing second in the San Diego Section and seventh in the state of California in his senior year while attending Chula Vista High School, where he graduated in 1991.
Lopez was discovered by a talent agent at a recital when he was 10 years old and landed jobs in local ads and commercials.
In 1984, he appeared as younger brother Tomás in the short-lived ABC comedy series a.k.a. Pablo. That same year, he was cast as a drummer and dancer on Kids Incorporated for three seasons. In March 1987, he was cast as a guest star on the sitcom The Golden Girls as a Latino boy named Mario who faces deportation. He was cast in a small part in the movie Colors.
Then came his big break. In 1989, Lopez was cast as A.C. Slater in the hugely successful sitcom Saved by the Bell.
His career was off and running.
In 1997, Lopez starred as Olympic diver Greg Louganis in the television movie Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story. The following year, he was cast as Bobby Cruz in the USA Network series Pacific Blue. In In 2006, Lopez joined the cast of the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, playing the role of Dr. Christian Ramirez.
In the fall of 2006, Lopez appeared on the third season of Dancing with the Stars, where he placed second in the competition and once again stole the hearts of women across the country.
Lopez began hosting Access Hollywood in 2019.
Asked about his most memorable interviews as a radio and TV host, he mentioned President Barack Obama.
“He knew who I was and that was pretty flattering,” Lopez said. “He’s very down to Earth and a cool guy. We talked about our kids.”
Lopez branched out to radio in the 1990s. Today, he hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, ON with Mario Lopez. In addition, he’s starred on Broadway and published three books: Mario Lopez Knockout Fitness, Extra Lean, and Mario and Baby Gia, about Lopez and his daughter.
At the end of the day, Lopez is a family man, a businessman, his own brand and an advocate for the advancement in all walks of life for Latinos.
Admirers often cite his heartthrob looks, but Lopez is all about hard work and… no excuses.
He recently cited the fact that Latinos are opening more small businesses than anyone in the United States. Not everyone can build a brand like Mario Lopez, but they can strive to be their best every day.
“No opportunity?” Lopez said, “We’ll make our own opportunities, and flourish!”