Saved By the Jingle Bells: Mario Lopez to visit Westfield Montgomery for holidays

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Mario Lopez at Westfield Montgomery (Part 1)

When you wake up in the morning and your alarm clock gives out a warning, it’s alright because you’re saved by the jingle bells. Mario Lopez is coming to Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Maryland for “Home for the Holidays” on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The “Access Hollywood” host will emcee the event with a string quartet of Tom Dziekonski (violin), Virginia Dziekonski (cello), Erica Schwartz of The U.S. Army Strings (viola) and Patrick Lin of The U.S. Army Band (second violin). You’ll also see The Little Mermen, the Washington Nationals Raging Presidents and Maryland Youth Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

“I am gonna be there hanging out, meeting the nice people of Maryland and kicking off the holiday season,” Lopez told WTOP. “We’re going to be doing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a family, we’re in the first float, then lighting the Rockefeller Christmas Tree the next week. … I’ve also got a new holiday movie, ‘Steppin’ Into the Holiday,’ on Lifetime.”

The Lifetime original movie airs the day after Thanksgiving, starring Lopez as former Broadway star Billy Holiday, who falls in love with a dance instructor in his hometown.

“I host a show like ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I get fired and my ex takes over,” Lopez said. “I go back home to lick my wounds and connect with someone, then I end up not wanting to leave and you’ll have to see how it plays out. There’s romance, dancing, a lot of fun.”

That day, Lifetime is also airing encores of his previous holiday flicks “Holiday in Santa Fe” (2021) at 12 p.m. and “Feliz NaviDAD” (2020) at 2 p.m. directed by Melissa Joan Hart.

“We’ve worked together for a long time and we go way back,” Lopez said. “She’s a great director and a sweetheart and I really like her. We get along really well.”

Born in San Diego in 1973, he grew up watching all of the holiday classics.

“When I was a kid, everybody loved the ‘Rudolph’ ones and the old-school ‘Frosty’ ones,” Lopez said. “‘Love Actually’ is probably one of the more modern-take ones, it’s a romantic great film. Then of course ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas,’ those are always fun.”

He soon became a child actor, including an episode of “The Golden Girls.”

“I’m going to be approaching my 40th year,” Lopez said. “I got into it as a kid, I just kind of fell into it. Mom put me into a bunch of stuff to keep me busy and out of trouble. Growing up in San Diego only a couple hours south, it was a world of difference, but somehow I still got an opportunity. I started auditioning, an agent saw me and I fell in love with it.”

He became a household name as A.C. Slater in “Saved By the Bell” (1989), coming up with the trademark move of sitting backward on a chair like the coolest kid in school.

“I think I did it just messing around one time,” Lopez said. “That’s the way I used to sit as a kid and they just sort of incorporated it. … [The episodes are] sort of a blur, they’re all kind of the same for me, I just remember whenever we got to leave the classroom that was fun, I worked at the beach, we went to Hawaii, Palm Springs, those were always my favorite.”

He developed a bond with his fellow cast members growing up together on set, including the late Dustin “Screech” Diamond, who died at the young age of 44 in 2021.

“It’s like when you go to school in real life, you get close, you take the summers off, you come back and see each other and you pick up where you left off,” Lopez said. “Dustin, I was probably always the closest to him, so we obviously lost him way too soon, but I’m glad I got to speak with him before he passed and I have nothing but fond memories.”

The cast recently reunited for the “Saved by the Bell” reboot on Peacock in 2020.

“It was fun,” Lopez said. “I still see them when we’re not working, so it wasn’t like I haven’t seen them, but I was doing that while doing ‘Access Hollywood’ and my radio show and all that, so it’s just been so busy. The whole thing has been a blur just like when I was a kid!”

Lately, he’s been hosting celebrity magazine-style shows like “Extra” (2008-2019) and “Access Hollywood” (2019-present). He says being an actor himself helps inform his role as a host, similar to a former athlete calling sports games, but hosting is its own animal.

“They’re completely different skill sets,” Lopez said. “A lot of people that are actors aren’t necessarily comfortable in that situation or don’t even like to be interviewed for that matter, but I do. I think you’re a host naturally or not. Whether it’s hosting game nights or barbecues at my house, I’m the same guy you get when hosting radio or TV shows.”

After years of a celebrity life, he’s happy to settle down as a family man.

“I’ve got three kids, I’m all about representing family and leaning into that brand,” Lopez said. “The holiday of course represents that, it’s all about the family, so it just works out great. It makes everybody feel good and I think we could all use that right now.”

Click here for more information about the Westfield Montgomery event.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Mario Lopez at Westfield Montgomery (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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