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Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Ted Bundy inspired 'Found' character

Mark-Paul Gosselaar attends a Q&A for "Found." Photo courtesy of NBC
Mark-Paul Gosselaar attends a Q&A for "Found." Photo courtesy of NBC

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Mark-Paul Gosselaar said he studied Ted Bundy for his role as kidnapper Sir on Found, airing Tuesdays on NBC.

Gosselaar, 49, said Found creator and showrunner Nkechi Carroll had told him Bundy was the greatest influence on Sir.

"He was very charismatic," Gosselaar told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "He was very disarming, not what you would think as someone who would typically do something like what he did."

Bundy kidnapped, raped and murdered at least 30 women in the 1970s. Though fictional, Sir kidnapped children and forced them to act as his family.

Sir kidnapped Gabi (Shanola Hampton) when she was a child. Now as an adult running a private firm that locates missing persons, Gabi has managed to lock Sir in a cell in her basement.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Shanola Hampton take part in a "Found" Q&A. Photo courtesy of NBC
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Shanola Hampton take part in a "Found" Q&A. Photo courtesy of NBC

Gabi brings Sir cases for consultation, and he helps her locate people. Gosselaar said even as a captive, Sir remains in control.

"I never feel like Sir is not in control," Gosselaar said. "I've played it that way."

Sir (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is now Gabi's prisoner. Photo courtesy of NBC
Sir (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is now Gabi's prisoner. Photo courtesy of NBC

Sir has had opportunities to escape. He has heard visitors upstairs, but opted not to call for help.

"If he were to yell, everything would end," Gosselaar said. "This is what he wants. He wants to be in the same air as Gabi."

Sir (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) kidnapped Gabi (A'Zaria Carter) when she was a teen. Photo courtesy of NBC
Sir (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) kidnapped Gabi (A'Zaria Carter) when she was a teen. Photo courtesy of NBC

Though Sir would prefer greater mobility and more than a cot to sleep on, he is willing to endure imprisonment to maintain his connection to Gabi, Gosselaar said. Advising her cases also appeals to him.

"She's one of the smartest people that he's come in contact with, but he wants her to do well," Gosselaar said. "He finds great joy in helping her because he really does care for her. It's just in a really sick and twisted way."

Mark-Paul Gosselaar speaks at a "Found" Q&A. Photo courtesy of NBC
Mark-Paul Gosselaar speaks at a "Found" Q&A. Photo courtesy of NBC

In addition to Bundy, Gosselaar joked that Sir is a natural extension of his Saved by the Bell character, Zack Morris. On the Saturday morning comedy, a teenage Gosselaar played a popular high-schooler who was a master manipulator for comedic purposes.

"I started my career playing a bad character, not as dark and despicable as Sir is," Gosselaar said. "There's no comparison when you see how bad of a character he is."

Recent episodes of Found have shown the abuse Sir went through with his mother as a child. Though Sir also became an abuser, Gosselaar said the backstory explains how Sir turned out the way he did as an adult.

"Obviously, it's not justifiable how Sir dealt with his trauma," Gosselaar said. "You do understand that there were some serious consequences to behaviors that he had no control over. It just felt very sad."

While Found films in Atlanta, Gosselaar said playing a dark character like Sir takes its toll as the darkness lingers after he wraps a day's filming. Fortunately, by the time he returns home to his wife and four children in California, Gosselaar said, he's left Sir behind.

"I'm not thankful for being away from my family, but that is one of the upsides of filming out of town," Gosselaar said. "I can completely wash this character off before I get home."

Before Found, Gosselaar portrayed Zack Morris as an adult in Peacock's Saved by the Bell revival. Zack is now the governor of California, and his son (Mitchell Hoog) followed in his footsteps as Bayside High's troublemaker.

"I really wish we could still be filming that show," Gosselaar said. "It was very relevant. I absolutely enjoyed every moment."

Gosselaar was not in every episode of the revival. He was able to film his scenes while being a regular on the black-ish spinoff mixed-ish.

Nevertheless, as soon as Peacock decided not to renew Saved by the Bell, Gosselaar was on to roles in Barry and Will Trent before landing Found. He said this has been a pattern in his career.

That is why Gosselaar has done few theatrical films since the 1998 comedy Dead Man on Campus. TV work has been so consistent, his limited time off rarely coordinates with a film's shooting schedule.

"I always got better offers on television," Gosselaar said. "I would love to do films. It's just that I've been very fortunate that my windows for opportunities to do film is very limited because I'm always on a television show. I really can't complain."

NBC has renewed Found, which airs at 10 p.m. EST Tuesdays, for a second season. The season finale airs Jan. 16.