Entertainment

Josie Totah Is the Secret Weapon of 'Saved by the Bell'

Thrillist talks to the 'Saved by the Bell' star about Season 2.

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

One of the biggest gems among the countless streaming TV shows that have debuted in the past couple of years is the Saved by the Bell reboot. What at first seemed like a crass attempt to capitalize on millennial nostalgia for Peacock’s launch, revealed itself to be something far more wonderful and stranger than that. The new Saved by the Bell, developed by Tracey Wigfield, is like a reflective commentary on the original as well as a successor to 30 Rock, where Wigfield cut her teeth, complete with viciously funny insider gags. (There’s a joke at the expense of Joss Whedon in the second season that’s absolutely devastating. James Corden should also be scared.)

If the show has a secret weapon it’s Josie Totah as the gloriously self-involved Lexi, a rich girl on her way to becoming slightly more vulnerable and less self-obsessed. Lexi wears dresses with eyeballs, and has her own reality show. She only wears heels because she has “Barbie feet” and will tip over if she doesn’t. “Lexi is just like always on 10,” Totah says. “She’s psychotic.”

For Season 2, which hit Peacock on November 24, Totah, a producer on the show, also entered the writers’ room, breaking stories with the staffers, some of whom she has known since she was a teenager on Mindy Kaling’s sitcom Champions. Totah came out as trans in a 2018 Time magazine story, and Saved by the Bell has always made it clear that Lexi is trans as well, and yet never defined her by her transness.

In the fifth episode of Season 2, written by Jen Chuck and Chris Schleicher, Lexi’s friends express concern when there’s a blatant act of transphobia at a nearby school. Lexi at first brushes it off, but then decides she’s going to fix the world by writing a play, which has members of Bayside’s LGBTQ group PRISM concerned. “Why does the pope get trampled by a cow in Act 2?” a fellow student asks. Lexi, wearing a cone bra and a Statue of Liberty headdress, has an easy answer: “The cow represents Harvey Milk and the pope represents Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington who shares a last name with a notorious slaveholder George Washington. Read a book!” Eventually, Lexi realizes that she can accept the solidarity of PRISM, and that the club isn’t a dreary version of AA for queer kids. They do have fun while trying to make real change.

“She is trans and we don’t want to ignore that,” Totah says. “Then we wouldn’t be recognizing her, we would just be tokenizing her. She is also so many other things. This was just an episode to explore something that trans people deal with on a daily basis especially with the amount of traumatic things in our community. I’m glad that we got to comment on it in a way that is lighthearted. Episode 5 is a really funny episode in my opinion, and not just because I’m in most of it.”

Totah relishes in the show’s ruthlessness. When another student asks Lexi how she got her own office at Bayside, Lexi replies: “The same way Max Landis got his career. I asked my dad.” If she had it her way, Totah would double down on the industry jokes. “If anything, I think we should go further,” she says. “We hold back too hard.” The in-jokes even extend to members of Saved by the Bell‘s own cast. Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, reprising her role from the original as Jessie Spano, does an extended homage to her notorious performance in Showgirls at a career fair. “All of the writers are always trying to come up with ways to poke fun at the OGs and obviously like their embarrassing lives,” Totah says.

Lexi is modeled after a long line of hilarious and vapid heroines, among them 30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney, Mean Girls‘ Regina George, and Schitt’s Creek‘s Alexis Rose, but she’s also filtered through Totah’s own comedic idiosyncrasies. The next goal for Lexi? Expanding her family. “We really wanted Nicole Richie to play my step-grandmother,” Totah says. “We’re hoping to do that next season.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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