Mark-Paul Gosselaar thrills in ‘The Passage’ on FOX

The Passage stars Saniyya Sidney & Mark-Paul Gosselaar (all photos courtesy of FOX)

 About 30 years ago, Mark-Paul Gosselaar was doing interviews for teen magazines on the set of Saved By the Bell. Nowadays he mocks himself as a former “child star,” but Gosselaar is much more than that.

 He carved out a nice career after his teen years, because he took his acting job seriously and, for the most part, selected good projects. But fans and critics never imagined what a great actor he would become until 2001 when Gosselaar was cast in NYPD Blue and played scenes opposite Dennis Franz for the last four seasons of the show. It takes impressive skills to hold your own with the ultra-intense Franz. And Mark-Paul gave performances that blew away any doubts that he is a master at his craft.

 Gosselaar’s credits include the dramas Raising the Bar, Franklin & Bashand the short-lived but memorable FOX baseball series Pitch. At the 2018 Television Critics Association press tour he was introduced as the star of a thrilling new series on FOX, The Passage. It’s a thrill to see his acting chops get the spotlight again.

 The Passage is based on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling vampire-infused trilogy. It focuses on Project Noah, a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all diseases. But there’s also the potential to wipe out the human race.

 In addition to Mark-Paul Gosselaar, The Passage also stars 12-year-old Saniyya Sidney (Fences and Hidden Figures), Vincent Piazza, Brianne Howey, Caroline Chikezie, Jamie McShane, Emmanuelle Chriqui, McKinley Belcher III and Henry Ian Cusick. Ridley Scott is executive producing, along with Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights) who wrote the show, director Matt Reeves, David W. Zucker, and Adam Kassan.

 Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays Brad Wolgast, an FBI agent who is initially tasked with delivering a 10-year-old girl named Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney) to be part of an experiment that might save the world. But instead Agent Wolgast rescues the girl from her fate as a test subject for Project Noah. Wolgast becomes a surrogate father to Amy and they go on the run from the scientists and bureaucrats who hunt them down.

 Showrunner Liz Heldens explained, “Amy is the key for Project Noah, which is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, which is trying to prevent an advancing pandemic.” But as the scientists hone in on a cure that could save humanity, their previous test subjects begin to display horrific powers that may allow them to escape which could lead to an unimaginable apocalypse.

The Passage stars Saniyya Sidney & Mark-Paul Gosselaar (all photos courtesy of FOX)

 The relationship between Gosselaar’s Wolgast and Sidney’s Amy, helps make the thrilling story a cut above other genre productions. At the TV press tour Gosselaar said, “What hooked me was that the relationship with Amy was the heart of the story. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I can relate to the relationship. Then I became a fan of the books after reading them.”

 Mark-Paul also talked about bonding with Saniyya. “What helped us with the relationship is that we got to shoot in a linear fashion. So the first scenes we did first were the scenes when we first met. We had the ability to sort of create this relationship as we were shooting. When she first saw me she had no idea about my past, what I had done when I was her age. Now she’s watching episodes of Saved By the Bell, and she’ll announce a ‘time out’ and then give me a ‘time in’ when I’m allowed to do things again. We actually have a pretty good relationship,” Gosselaar said about working with his young co-star who he makes sure has fun and laughs and gets to be a kid on the set.

 Something else that’s fun for Mark-Paul is the hand-to-hand combat training for the show. He revealed, “I’ve been a practitioner of jiujitsu for many, many years. So there’s a bit of that. I enjoy the sport, and I like all that UFC stuff. And then there’s training with guns. As an actor, you’re always trying to look the part, so anything we can do to enhance that, I’m all game.”

 The thrilling series The Passage airs Monday nights at 9 pm on FOX. Tune in.

The Passage

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.