Monday, November 10, 2008

Interview: Catching Up With Mario Lopez

It is an inevitability that when one mentions Mario Lopez, A.C. Slater from “Saved by the Bell” comes to mind. Since leaving the world of Bayside High, Mario has tried it all: nighttime dramas (“Nip/Tuck”), daytime dramas (Dr. Christian Ramirez on “The Bold and the Beautiful”), sitcoms (“The George Lopez Show”), reality shows (“Dancing With the Stars”) and Broadway (“A Chorus Line”).

Mario has added another item to his resume: TV host. Mario is the newest host for the entertainment television show “Extra.” He took over hosting duties from Mark McGrath this past September, and he promises a different “Extra” for his go-round.

“The whole show is different,” Mario tells me. “We have a new set, a strong Internet presence that is very interactive. We’ve got fans asking stars questions, stars asking other stars questions. Also, I am the solo host, rather than having a co-host. It’s very conversational and very loose and fun, and the whole deal is different.”

This isn’t the first time Mario has hosted a television show. It all began with “Name Your Adventure” on NBC, which was a Saturday-morning kids’ show dedicated to making the dreams of teens come true. Mario explains: “That’s what kind of started it. I just had to be myself and not work with a script, and that’s pretty much what started the whole hosting thing. That was awhile back — I was still doing ‘Saved by the Bell.’”

It wasn’t until a decade later that a cutting-edge cable show and crazy-popular dance competition caused Mario to create more than a blip on many people’s radar screens. And Mario is thankful for all of the opportunities that have been presented to him as a result.

“Things were going great, and I was feeling blessed with momentum, because I was working on ‘Nip/Tuck’ around the same time I got ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ It just seemed that things were coming together around that time, and I was thankful for that opportunity and for everything that is happening now.”

For Mario, it was a natural move to host “Extra.” He explains: “I’d been a part of the team for a couple of years doing the weekend show. At the time I think I was a little young; it was maybe too early to step in the big chair at the time. ‘Extra’ is just a wonderful opportunity that I am enjoying right now. I am loving it, and I’m having a blast.”

So what sets Mario’s “Extra” apart from the other entertainment shows on television? “We’re not too gossipy; we try to be informative and entertaining. Any time I have some of my friends come out, whether it’s Eva Longoria or George Lopez, it’s going to be fun. I love having my friends on the set because it’s always fun just messing around.”

Fun is what November sweeps is about for viewers of “Extra.” While Mario wouldn’t divulge any state secrets, he did let me know a little of what they have in store for us: “We’ve got some good people lined up to come in, and fun pieces we’re going to do. I am definitely fired up about it.”

(Check your local listings to see what time and station you can catch Mario on “Extra.”)