Mario Lopez is feeling introspective as he celebrates turning the big 5-0 on October 10. “It’s an age where you pause and reflect on how you got here and what’s to come in the future,” he shares. One thing’s for sure as he looks ahead — he won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
“I want to keep grinding. The fact that I was a former child actor who was able to make that transition into working as consistently as I have is what I’m most proud of,” explains the Saved by the Bell alum and father of three, who shares Gia, 13, Dominic, 10, and Santino, 4, with his wife of 10 years, Courtney.
“I don’t take it for granted,” he continues. “I’m thankful for my blessings, and I want to keep doing what I’m doing and more of it.
For this week’s cover story, the busy host exclusively invites Us into his L.A. home to talk more about turning 50, life with his family and why he’ll never retire.
How does it feel to turn 50?
I feel good. It isn’t going to slow me down. It’s one of those birthdays where you’re like, “Whoa, it sounds old,” but it isn’t. If you make health a priority, there’s no reason why you can’t keep going another 50.
Is this where you imagined you’d be at this age?
When you’re young, you don’t even think about 50. It seems like a million years away. But now that I’m here, I’m like, “50 is the new 30!”
Well, you don’t look a day over 30!
I’m always flattered when somebody says something like that, but it’s not like I do anything in particular. I’m just lucky, and I always say that I drink a lot of tequila, and it preserves you. It’s like an embalming fluid. And I’m happy — that keeps you youthful.
What’s the rest of your diet like?
I’m not a calorie counter or anything, and I love food, so I don’t discriminate. I try not to eat a lot of junk during the week, and then on the weekends, I go a little nuts and eat a lot and have some cocktails and maybe a cigar or two. It’s all about balance.
And what about exercise?
I like to train every day, usually jiu-jitsu or boxing. It makes me feel alive and young and keeps me sharp. It’s a big stress release — I like to say I train more for sanity than for vanity.
Your skin is remarkably smooth!
I don’t have a special routine, but I use St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub. I like it because it’s grainy. It makes me feel like rocks are cleaning it. [Laughs.]
Would you say you’ve gotten more confident as you’ve gotten older?
You learn from your mistakes. I think you never stop wanting to grow. As I look back, I’m happy. And as I look forward, I’m happy. So, no regrets.
When you think about what you’ve accomplished, what stands out the most?
I’m most proud of my family. Both my parents, who recently just celebrated 51 years together, and my awesome sister and her family and my wonderful wife and my kids. A lot of things in life come and go, but having a great family is priceless.
What’s the best part of fatherhood?
No matter what kind of day you’re having, you come home and you hear, “Daddy!” and they’re opening their arms and loving you unconditionally. That makes it all worthwhile.
What lessons from your own life do you hope to instill in your kids?
There are no shortcuts. If you work hard, stay focused and do the right thing, the right thing should happen. And if you have a family that supports you, then God’s on your side, and you can do anything.
What’re they all up to these days?
Gia just turned 13, but she might as well be 25. She’s very mature. I can talk to her like an adult. She’s singing, dancing and playing the piano and doing competitive cheer. Dominic is also busy singing, dancing and playing the piano, and he wrestles and does jiu-jitsu competitively at a pretty high level. Santino just started wrestling. He’s a bit of a rascal, so I have to keep my eye on him.
What do you guys like to do together as a family?
I like it when we’re all home, either watching a movie or hanging out in the pool or making a TikTok video.
How do you keep your relationship with Courtney so strong?
She’s super cool and very supportive. Courtney understands the fluidity of my schedule, and she’s a great mom, and we have a lot of fun and laugh together.
Do you do date nights?
We make it a point to carve out little getaways because you can get caught up in everything. You have to make it a priority to take care of that relationship, too — you don’t want to just give leftovers to your significant other.
Have your kids seen Saved by the Bell?
They tried but didn’t really dig it. I think my mom introduced it to them, and they were like, “No, we’re good.” They don’t want to see any more of me; they get enough! [Laughs.]
Are you still close with your costars?
Yeah, I see them pretty often. I just saw Tiffani [Theissen] not too long ago, and I do jiu-jitsu with Mark-Paul [Gosselaar] and Elizabeth [Berkley] sometimes. It’s nice. It’s like when you run into your old high school friends — you pick up where you left off.
What are some of your favorite memories from the set?
I have a hard time remembering what happened a couple weeks ago, much less thirty-something years ago. Fans mention stuff from the show that I don’t even remember. We shot it in the summertime. We were teenagers, which is maybe why it resonated with kids because often older people played teens. It was fun.
It made you a ’90s heartthrob.
It’s wild. It didn’t suck when you were young and wanted to date, I’ll tell you that. [Laughs.]
Any secret romances we don’t know about?
A gentleman never kisses and tells.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There were a lot of distractions where I would’ve said, “Hey, don’t pay attention to that” or “Make a different choice,” but no one has a looking glass to predict the future. The important thing is when you mess up, you learn and try to become a better individual.
What’s the best part of your job?
I love what I do. I love TV and music and film. The fact that I get to talk to the most talented, fascinating people in the world is awesome. It doesn’t get old. On my birthday next year, I’m going to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I’m a little Mexican kid from Chula Vista and I was able to do that. That’s cool.
Biggest career highlight to date?
As my dad has said, I’ve never had to get a real job. You hear about former child actors who don’t make that transition, or they’re just not as busy. I never thought at 50 I’d have my own nationally syndicated radio show, a daytime talk show and a nighttime show, and then Access Daily and Access Hollywood. I’m proud I’ve been in the game for so long.
What’s been the biggest challenge of being in the spotlight?
What I do is not who I am. I’m not up in the scene going to parties and premieres all the time. My friends are the buddies I grew up with. When you’re in the public eye, people create narratives about you, but I’m going on my 40th year in this business, so I know that comes with the territory.
How do you handle critics?
I’m not worried about what anybody has to say. If it doesn’t affect my family, work or health, then I’m not tripping on it. I care about the people I love and whoever’s writing my check.
If you weren’t in showbiz, what would you be doing?
As a kid, I wanted to be an anchorman because I thought they worked an hour a day and were reporting to their community. I’d probably do something along those lines, which is sort of what I do now, but more news-oriented.
Have there been any roles that you wish you’d landed?
Oh, there’s a lot! When I was younger, I auditioned for Walker, Texas Ranger opposite Chuck Norris. I was going to be his costar, but I was too tall. He wanted me, [but] he wanted someone smaller than him. That one put me out because I liked Chuck Norris when I was a kid.
Where do you hope to find yourself in the next 10 years?
I want to be the Latin Dick Clark, [and] produce and create and tell more stories about people in my culture. I want to be on your TV for the next 30 years. I love it, and I don’t see myself slowing down. I want to keep going until I’m 100.