Elizabeth Berkley Lauren on Saved by the Bell’s Reboot, Showgirls’ Renaissance, and Her Mission to Help Teen Girls

Still, the Showgirls renaissance doesn’t lessen the impact of the criticisms Berkley Lauren faced post-release. Every performer gets bad reviews, but actresses are especially vulnerable to attacks that go beyond discussing their dramatic skills. The initial reactions to Showgirls often took a sexist slant, with critics directing their ire toward the film at her. “It wasn’t easy to be the person that was personally ridiculed. I still feel protective of that 21-year-old girl,” says Berkley Lauren, who remembers her initial excitement regarding the project. “These were the filmmakers who made Basic Instinct and had just turned Sharon Stone into the biggest star on the planet. Suddenly they need an actress my exact age who can dance and act. On paper with the pedigree involved, it felt like a no-brainer.” 

Looking back at some of the original reviews in advance of a 25th-anniversary event earlier this year, Berkley Lauren was struck by their overt sexism. “What was unacceptable was the way some journalists, including women, critiqued my body,” she says. “I gave a great deal of thought before deciding to do the film because I knew certain things [within the story] were vulnerable and sensitive. I felt safe on set with the team, but when it was released, I was shocked to see how journalists were allowed to humiliate a young woman and dissect my body parts instead of reviewing my work.” With few high-profile credits on her filmography, she found herself having to fight against a misguided perception. “I did my job and followed every direction, but the hardest part was I had no body of work that people could compare [my performance] to,” she says. “If no one thought I was right for other projects because they only saw me as Nomi, then clearly they bought me as a character far removed from me. When the film came out, I was still living at home with my parents!” 

The fact Berkley Lauren can look back at the period with humor speaks to her current achievements. Having built up a filmography that includes work with Oliver Stone, stints on Broadway opposite Ethan Hawke, and a turn in the producer’s seat, she’s been able to accomplish her goals on her terms. Now she balances acting with being a mother, continuing her self-esteem talks for teens, and discovering new ways to challenge herself. “People ask me about my favorite role, and it’s a wife and mother, but creatively I’ve discovered that producing is something that lights me up inside,” she says. “I have a lot of stories that I want to tell and a lot that I want to say, so I’ll be developing new projects.” 

Making the jump from actress to producer in the middle of an unprecedented year wasn’t easy, but for Berkley Lauren, the ups and downs are all part of the big picture. “I have been in this industry since I was nine years old, and I’ve never stopped,” she says. “We reach these markers in our lives where we can take inventory and approach what we do next with intention and clarity. I’m still doing what my childhood dream was, but I couldn’t have foreseen that. What I’ve learned being in this industry is that if you stay the course and stay true to yourself, it all starts to make sense.” 

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