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How Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Mom Helped Launch His Acting Career
The actor started out doing commercials and print shoots before playing Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar may look like he's been carved from marble but he's a human being, just like the rest of us.
The actor has long attracted attention for his charming good looks. At the age of 4 he started modeling, appearing in commercials for Oreo cookies and booking roles in TV shows by the age of 10. His success continued into his teens, with the actor landing the role of Zack Morris on the series Saved By the Bell.
Since then, Gosselaar has starred in multiple TV shows, including Franklin & Bash, NYPD Blue, and Law & Order: SVU. His most recent role is Sir in the NBC series Found, airing Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.
And while Gosselaar's talent and charm played a role in his shining star, he also credits his mother, Paula van den Brink. In addition to sharing her good genes, van den Brink was his manager up until he was 19.
All About Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Mom, Paula van den Brink
Gosselaar's parents, Hans Gosselaar and Paula van den Brink, met when van den Brink was a flight attendant for KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, and Hans was a plant supervisor for Anheuser-Busch, according to PEOPLE. The pair married and would go on to have four children, the youngest of whom was Mark-Paul.
The Gosselaar family initially lived in the Netherlands but relocated to California just before Mark-Paul was born in March 1974. They lived in Sun Valley, north of Los Angeles, where Gosselaar caught the attention of his mother's friend, a print model who thought he had potential and connected him with an agent, he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019.
Though acting wasn't his dream job — he actually wanted to be a Marine — Gosselaar said he continued to pursue roles because it was all he knew.
"It's not like I could go and get a job waiting tables," he said on Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum. "I can't even walk into a mall without people recognizing me but I'm fighting to get a job. What am I going to do?"
As Gosselaar began to take his career more seriously, he had to reevaluate his working relationship with van den Brink, who served as his manager in the early years of his career. Worried that he was missing out on opportunities, he decided to fire his mother at the age of 19.
"You’re driving your kids to set and taking them to auditions, and I don’t know if that categorizes [someone] as being a manager... I don’t think a parent should be compensated for just being a parent. I don’t think you need 10 percent to sit on set and basically chaperone your son or daughter," he said to The Hollywood Reporter.
The decision caused a rift between van den Brink and Gosselaar, though they've since reconciled.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Childhood
Though Gosselaar was a child star, he's said that he felt more insulated from the industry since he lived in the San Fernando Valley, a middle class neighborhood northeast of Los Angeles.
While his parents were not familiar with the filmmaking industry, Gosselaar said they were largely supportive and wanted him to have the best. 'I had nothing but love from my parents. I heard that word, 'I love you,' every day," he shared with Rosenbaum.
The only aspect of his childhood that he would describe as "really odd" was the fact that his parents separated but never officially divorced, as far as he knows.
"My dad would sometimes be there and sometimes he wouldn't. So I never knew what you were going to get and I know that he had an apartment somewhere and I stayed there a few times," he remembered.
His father, Hans, began a relationship with another woman who Gosselaar now considers a "part of my family." The actor noted that she cared for his father until he passed away from an undisclosed illness in 2020.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar on Being Biracial
While Mark-Paul was aware that he was biracial, he didn't necessarily have the same experience as other children of mixed race.
"Because of the way I looked, no one questioned it," he explained on Tamron Hall in 2021. "My father was my father and my mother was my mother. I never even questioned why my mom looked different than me because it was never a question."
As Gosselaar has grown older, he said that he's had time to think about his identity and how he was treated because of his appearance.
"I was arguably America's favorite white boy at one point, and it's like, 'Wait, that guy is mixed?' It's one of those things that because of the way I looked, I didn't have to deal with it. It's a conversation I have had and I do have with my kids because they are — as well — mixed," he said in a 2019 Newsweek interview.
Many people learned of Gosselaar's background when he shared that he dyed his hair blonde during his time on Saved By the Bell in 1989.
"My mother is from Indonesia. My mother is this tiny little Indonesian woman! People don’t know this: Zack Morris is half-Asian. That’s why the hair, the blond hair, was dyed for all those years," he shared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2015.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Siblings
When Mark-Paul Gosselaar is not acting, he enjoys racing, whether it's on two wheels or four. It's a hobby he shares with older brother Mike "Goose" Gosselaar, who is a celebrated motocross mechanic.
"I was born into a motocross family,” Gosselaar told Kansas City Star in 2015. “My brother Mike Gosselaar is one of the most prolific AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) mechanics ever. He was the mechanic for Ricky Carmichael during Ricky Carmichael’s two perfect seasons in motocross."
Gosselaar also has two older sisters, Lydia and Sylvia.