Thiessen’s ca­reer com­ing full cir­cle

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - By Joseph V. Amodio

Tif­fani Thiessen ad­mits that her work life has been “pretty sur­real” th­ese days.

That’s be­cause the ac­tress — who first made a splash as cheer­leader Kelly Kapowski on the ’90s teen sit­com “Saved By the Bell” — is now play­ing the mother of a teenager in the Net­flix sit­com “Alexa & Katie,” work­ing on the very same sound­stage where she shot “Saved By the Bell” for four sea­sons 30 years ago.

“Alexa & Katie” fol­lows two high school besties, re­bel­lious Alexa (Paris Berelc) and rule-fol­low­ing Katie (Is­abel May), as they run the gamut of teen angst, but with one ex­tra hitch: Alexa has can­cer. Thiessen plays Alexa’s clingy but well-mean­ing mom, Lori.

At 45, Thiessen hasn’t lost that cheer­leader charm. She tran­si­tioned to work­ing adult ac­tress thanks to stints on Fox’s “Bev­erly Hills 90210,” USA’s “White Col­lar,” and even a turn on her own cook­ing show, “Din­ner at Tif­fani’s.”

“I’m play­ing the mom to kids the same age as I was when I started.” — Tif­fani Thiessen

Q: How much is “mom Lori” like “mom Tif­fani?”

A: Well, they’ve tai­lored the char­ac­ter to me a lit­tle bit. She’s very into food, which is very much a part of my life. It’s in­ter­est­ing how that hap­pens a lot on TV shows. I re­mem­ber when I was shoot­ing “White Col­lar,” and they couldn’t fig­ure out what they wanted that char­ac­ter to do for a liv­ing. They wound up mak­ing her an event plan­ner, which spoke to my pas­sion for food and plan­ning par­ties.

Q: What I like about the show is the way it deals with can­cer. It’s an el­e­ment in this fam­ily’s life but isn’t all-con­sum­ing.

A: Alexa wants to have a nor­mal high school ex­pe­ri­ence as much as pos­si­ble. We’re also show­cas­ing this friend­ship be­tween girls who’ve been friends since they were lit­tle. That’s huge for girls.

Q: I’ve in­ter­viewed can­cer pa­tients. They of­ten say how the di­ag­no­sis is rough, but there’s more to their life than just that.

A: Yeah. You’ll see a lot of that with Alexa’s sto­ry­line in the next sea­son.

How she doesn’t want can­cer to de­fine her.

Q: This show is like com­ing full cir­cle for you.

A: I’m play­ing the mom to kids the same age as I was when I started out — and on the same (sound) stage. It’s kind of cool to watch th­ese two young girls at work, to see the in­no­cence about it. The ea­ger­ness. The ex­cite­ment. I’m al­most reliving it through their eyes, which is re­ally fun.

Q: Have they asked for your ad­vice?

A: Very much. Paris comes to me still, and we’re not even shoot­ing right now. She texts me for ad­vice. She’s a hard-work­ing, very smart girl. And she’s seen that I am still work­ing. She’s seen my work ethic. So she’s asked for my opin­ion of­ten, which is sweet.

AMANDA ED­WARDS/GETTY

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