Eighteen years after Elizabeth Berkley hung up her leg warmers as Jessie Spano on the late '80s-early '90s show "Saved by the Bell," the actress has found herself back in the teen-girl driver's seat -- this time as a mentor.
In her bestselling book "Ask Elizabeth," Berkley explores the major themes in the lives of her teen audience: things like love, friends, body image and identity. The Ministry caught up with Berkley to get the scoop on ...
The inspiration: "About seven years ago, 'Saved by the Bell' went into syndication. I'd be with my husband [artist Greg Lauren] walking in SoHo or in a mall and girls would come up for an autograph or a picture, and I really enjoyed engaging with them," Berkley said.
She was approached so often that her husband suggested she start an advice column. Curious, and with a desire to do some volunteer work with that age bracket, she began hosting a series of workshops in schools across the country.
"Forty thousand girls later ... 'Ask Elizabeth' was born," she said.
The experience: The product itself has the vibe of a scrapbook, full of memories and questions and feelings from her subjects. With a workshop setting seeming like a natural way to promote the book, Berkley has been touring high school auditoriums for weeks.
"It's emotional and then, frankly, magical," she said. "These girls are from different places, different socioeconomic backgrounds, but a really supportive group dynamic takes shape when they're given the opportunity."
With books donated by Macy's, Berkley personally guides them through the issues. Even the boys, she said. "We all have a teen girl inside of us."
What about work? "I had to pass on a few [acting opportunities] because this is where my energy needed to be ... but I love what I do. I love performing, I love doing film; this is just a project that I was lucky enough to get to because of my acting."
About that one particular role: "Some people ask about 'Showgirls' and some don't, but I don't mind. I mean, I have so many other credits ... and if you love it, you're not alone."
From the auditorium to the TV screen? Berkley acknowledges the advice format lends itself to a talk show concept -- so can we expect her to take a seat on daytime TV anytime soon? "A few people have mentioned it. I'd be open to discussing it, and now that I've been doing these massive forum-type things, it's really been wonderful."
-- Matt Donnelly
Photo: Elizabeth Berkley attends the Candies Foundation gala in New York City on May 3. Credit: Andy Kropa / Getty Images