The most popular girl at Bayside High will be portrayed by a transgender teen.
Josie Totah has been cast as Lexi, a lead role of the Saved by the Bell reboot. The series will live on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming platform that will debut in April.
The Hollywood Reporter, which broke the news, describes Lexi as “a beautiful, sharp-tongued cheerleader and the most popular girl at Bayside High who is both admired and feared by her fellow students.”
Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley will also return to their original roles of A.C. Slater and Jessie Spano for the reboot. The premise? California Gov. Zack Morris is pressured to send low-income students to high-performing schools, including Bayside High.
Totah was the breakout star of Champions, NBC’s short-lived comedy helmed by Mindy Kaling. Her credits also include the films Other People and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The 18-year-old actress came out as a transgender woman in an August 2018 essay for Time in which she expressed excitement for new casting opportunities.
“I plan to play roles I haven’t had the opportunity to play,” she wrote in the article. “And I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy. I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world.”
Totah’s now-castmate Lopez was criticized for anti-transgender remarks last June; he said it was “dangerous” for parents to support their transgender children on The Candace Owens Show. Following the backlash, the actor and Access Hollywood host apologized in a statement sent to The Advocate.
“The comments I made were ignorant and insensitive, and I now have a deeper understanding of how hurtful they were,” he said.