Whatever Happened To Elizabeth Berkley?

There's no shortage of famous stars who got their start on popular sitcoms back in the day. From Will Smith to Jennifer Aniston, these A-listers were able to crack the code, becoming incredibly successful actors by playing their cards right. Others, like "Saved by the Bell" star Elizabeth Berkley seem to have fallen by the wayside, unable to score a major role in a critically acclaimed project or lock down a consistent role. 

Berkley's lackluster résumé certainly isn't for lack of trying. After leaving her character, Jessie Spano, behind in the early '90s, she did her best to break into the film industry. While she had all the momentum to churn her into the fame machine, several setbacks hindered her path to Aniston-like stardom. While she hasn't completely disappeared from the spotlight, she isn't exactly the talk of the town either. So, what has the former sitcom star been up to for the last few decades? We're taking a look at all that's happened to Elizabeth Berkley since her days at Bayside High.

She left Saved by the Bell rather abruptly

While some argued that Elizabeth Berkley should have stayed on "SBTB" until the very end, she had bigger and better things in mind (at least, she thought so at the time). The Michigan native bowed out of her Jessie Spano role in 1992, deciding not to partake in the additional 11 episodes ordered for Season 4. She wasn't the only one, however, as her castmate Kelly Kapowski also left, forcing the showrunners to bring in two replacements to wrap up the show in its final season. 

While Berkley kept quiet about her intentions behind leaving the show, many assumed she desired to branch out as an actor. While some say it's better to leave too early than too late, the decision could have backfired on the "Any Given Sunday" actor. Some casting directors might have branded Berkley as a quitter, which wouldn't have helped her score roles in the future. Regardless of her intentions, Berkley decided to leave before she was aware that the network added more episodes. At the time, the cast had already filmed the series finale when the 11 additional episodes were ordered.

Berkley's first major film role was a total flop

It's not ideal when an actor's first major film turns out to be a complete disaster. Elizabeth Berkley is all too familiar with that narrative, as her decision to leave "SBTB" early may have been one that she later regretted. 

Berkley's breakout role came knocking in 1995 when she starred in the film "Showgirls" as lead character Nomi Malone. The story revolves around Malone's journey from small-town stripper to Las Vegas showgirl and all the road bumps and heartbreak in between. While it could have landed Berkley on the map as a solid actor, it did the exact opposite, racking up terrible reviews that only stunted her growth. Entertainment Weekly dubbed it the "worst movie of the year," ripping apart Berkley's attempt at the big leagues. "By Hollywood's near consensus, it's also the worst thing that ever happened to its star, Elizabeth Berkley, who has gone from red-hot hype to ice-cold chill faster than a $5 lap dance," wrote the scathing review. 

That kind of false start did a number on Berkley, who later admitted how traumatic it was to be cast aside when she felt she had done right by her character. "Of course, it was disappointing that it didn't do well, but there was so much cruelty around it," she told People in 2020. "I was bullied. And I didn't understand why I was being blamed. The job as an actor is to fulfill the vision of the director. And I did everything I was supposed to do."

No one wanted to work with her after Showgirls

Elizabeth Berkley was cast aside after her starring role in "Showgirls," left to fend for herself as horrible reviews tainted her burgeoning career. The "SBTB" star told People that even her former castmates did little to fan the flames, making it even harder to attain future roles. "No one associated with the film spoke up on my behalf to protect me. I was left out in the cold and I was a pariah in the industry I had worked so hard for," she reflected in 2020.

Shortly after the film, a then-22-year-old Berkley was left without an agent, as the one she had been working with dropped her in the aftermath. The outcry from "Showgirls" seemed to be directed solely at her, as her male counterparts and the film's director weren't part of the backlash. Even the film's director, Paul Verhoeven, couldn't understand why Berkley became the scapegoat, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I think she did exactly what we wanted and what we thought would be good. And apparently, we failed."

She eventually landed a role in the 1996 film "The First Wives Club" alongside Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn. The movie proved to be one of Berkley's favorite projects, thanks to Hawn's mentorship. "As a young woman in the industry, having just walked through the storm/backlash of #Showgirls, she was like an angel... [She] came at the right time in my life and I'm forever grateful to her now as a friend," the actor wrote in an Instagram post in 2015.

Berkley tried (and failed) to break into theater

When acting jobs weren't exactly lining up for Elizabeth Berkley, she tried her hand at theater. Unfortunately, her deviation didn't exactly pan out in her favor. 

Berkley took on the role of Rusty in the 1999 play "Lenny," alongside the British comedian Eddie Izzard. She pulled off an impressive performance, even earning a positive nod from one critic. The only downfall, however, was due to the tremendous bashing of Izzard's acting, with Berkley diminished to simply a small mention. In a review from the Independent, Berkley was named just once. "We watch in disbelief as Izzard takes his wife Rusty (an impressive Elizabeth Berkley) back to meet his mum," wrote Robert Butler. 

A few years later, in 2004, Berkley made her Broadway debut when she starred in "Sly Fox." The play revolves around Foxwell J. Sly, who pretends to be on his deathbed to trick people into vying for his inheritance. Berkley takes on the role of Mrs. Truckle and is later solicited by Abner to Sly in an attempt to become an heir to the fortune. This time around, Berkley didn't have as positive of reviews. "Less successful are Rachel York as a prostitute who wants to marry Sly and Elizabeth Berkley as Truckle's virginal wife," wrote Frank Rizzo for Variety. "Berkley mostly fails to mine the comic gold lining the script. (An absurdly funny reference to "chastity shoes" misses its mark.)"

She was at the center of a lawsuit against Leonardo DiCaprio

For some women, having two men fight over them is a dream. For others, like Elizabeth Berkley, it meant an impending lawsuit. Berkley found herself at the center of a huge controversy in 1998 when she caught the eye of Leonardo DiCaprio while she was seeing her then-boyfriend Roger Wilson. The "Titanic" actor had reportedly flirted with the former sitcom star at the premiere of his film "The Man in the Iron Mask," but she refused his advances. DiCaprio didn't budge, however, and continued to call Berkley, much to Wilson's dismay. Wilson ended up confronting DiCaprio, leading the latter to tell his posse to "kick his a**," according to court documents obtained by Entertainment Weekly.

After the brawl, Wilson alleged he suffered a blow to his throat, preventing him from future singing roles. He filed suit against DiCaprio in 2003, asking for $15 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages for the lost opportunities. The lawsuit against the "Wolf of Wall Street" star was ultimately thrown out, however, with Judge Paula Omansky admitting that it could move forward against Todd Healy, who had confessed to hitting Wilson. 

While Berkley was merely a pawn in the ordeal, some speculate that it painted her in a bad light. On top of battling sexist backlash from "Showgirls," the actor was once again at the mercy of powerful Hollywood higher-ups. DiCaprio's distaste over the debacle could have rubbed off on Berkley, making it that much harder to be taken seriously in the industry.

Berkley married into a wealthy dynasty

While Elizabeth Berkley may not have struck gold in terms of post-sitcom acting jobs, she did hit the jackpot when it came to her husband. The "Roger Dodger" actor married into major fashion royalty in 2003 when she tied the knot with Greg Lauren, the nephew of famous designer Ralph Lauren. 

The pair met in a chance encounter in 2000 after a dance class had them crossing paths. Three years later, Berkley walked down the aisle in a Cabo San Lucas wedding ceremony in a custom-made Ralph Lauren gown. It was a full-circle moment for Greg, who admitted to crushing on his future wife back in her "SBTB" days. Nowadays, he says people are often jealous knowing he wed his leading lady. "[People] either hit me or push or they don't even talk to me anymore," he shared with Us Weekly. "I got Jessie, sorry Slater!" When she's not taking on roles in the industry, she's happy to spend time with her beau in Los Angeles. As for their ideal date night? "Sushi and meditation," her husband responded when asked by the outlet.

Berkley's acting jobs have come second to her and Greg's son Sky, who was born in 2012. Being a mother ushered in a new phase, much different than her red-carpet past. "As an actress sometimes you get cast in a job and you have to just go. I like how this has been its own journey [and] there is time for what is the role of a lifetime," she told People.

She couldn't accept criticism

Perhaps Elizabeth Berkley's less-than-stellar acting roles have something to do with her inability to accept criticism. In a 2005 New York Times piece, former Variety chief theater critic Charles Isherwood called out Berkley for responding to his poor review of her previous performance in "Sly Fox." But it wasn't only that grievance that she wanted to bring to his attention. The former "SBTB" star also expressed her disappointment in Isherwood continuing to bash her for her performance in "Showgirls." At the time, Isherwood had mentioned Berkley alongside the film in a picture-page featuring actors at an awards ceremony. 

"I had identified her as the star of a movie, now several years old, famed for its breathtaking awfulness," wrote Isherwood, adding, "She was tired of being tagged in print exclusively as the star of a movie famed for its breathtaking awfulness." While he recalled Berkley's attempts at highlighting some of her more favorable projects, like her role in a Broadway play and starring in a Woody Allen film, Isherwood had trouble differentiating her from her past. "Her renown still derived primarily from her appearance in the unspeakable movie," he quipped. 

The bold move by Berkley crossed a boundary between critics and actors that typically never blend. On the contrary, it earned her a bit of praise by Isherwood for her role in David Rabe's play "Hurlyburly," which she had been starring in New York at the time. "By way of making amends for my past sin, I hereby spread the word that she's pretty darn good," he wrote.

Berkley became a successful author

Elizabeth Berkley found a new career path in 2011 when she released her first book, "Ask Elizabeth: Real Answers to Everything You Secretly Wanted to Ask About Love, Friends, Your Body...and Life in General." Berkley was inspired to write it diary-style as an aid to the millions of teenage girls in the world struggling to find their identity in the brutal world that can otherwise be classified as high school. 

After "SBTB" went into international syndication, she was constantly recognized by younger women in her day-to-day life who were seeking advice. Berkley eventually launched professional workshops, traveling to different schools across the country to work specifically with young women and help them navigate their teenage years. "Everyone just talks about the problems our teenage girls are facing and what they're dealing with," Berkley told Entertainment Weekly. "But there was, to me, a void in how they were being served or helped. I thought, 'Wow, I'd love to create something.'"

Building on that momentum, she went on to release her own form of a tell-all, catered to helping the younger generation. Unlike many tell-all celebrity books, Berkley's fared well. "Ask Elizabeth" was met with rave reviews and a nearly five-star rating on Amazon. "Berkley hits a tone that's neither condescending nor above the reader's head. She shares personal stories without delving into TMI territory," wrote Maggie Pehanick. "Her empathy is refreshing and though her background gives her the experience and material necessary to write a book like this, it doesn't become the forefront of why she's writing."

She struggled to break back into television

Elizabeth Berkley never could quite build on her "SBTB" momentum into the 2000s and 2010s. The "Showgirls" star dabbled in a few television projects, starring in episodes here and there in "New Girl," "Melissa & Joey," "CSI: Miami," and "The L Word." Her last film project to date was "Lucky Christmas" in 2011, which has fans wondering if she might try to break back into the industry or if her box office days are behind her. 

Whether she's busy with motherhood or enjoying the residuals of her successful book, Berkley isn't pressed to keep her résumé evergreen. She's starred in a total of four projects ever since "Lucky Christmas" debuted, and at this rate, it doesn't seem like she has plans to snag an Oscar or Emmy anytime soon. Berkley is perfectly happy in her bubble among these '90s sitcom stars no one hears from anymore.

Berkley reunited with her cast mates for a 'SBTB' reboot

Elizabeth Berkley returned to Bayside High once again, this time as the guidance counselor in a reboot of "SBTB" that debuted on Peacock in 2021. Reviving her role as Jessie Spano, she reunited with her former castmates Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez. 

The transformation from carefree teenager to guidance counselor was one Berkley was happy to bring to life onscreen, giving some much-needed joy for viewers after the COVID-19 pandemic. "So, as we've evolved as human beings, and we're now women and men who have families, children and all of that, we wanted to reflect, in a comedic way, of course, where our characters would have grown into," she told Collider

Berkley even got to work behind the scenes as well as a producer, helping cast roles for the revival. "I was at every session and watched every link," she shared. "I was with people for their chemistry reads. That was really exciting. We have a couple of people who are super seasoned in the industry, but most of the cast is fresh and new."

Years after "Showgirls" tainted her reputation onscreen, Berkley looks back on her past with a new perception. One that hopefully means more open minds, especially when it comes to women in the industry. "It was a different time in our culture in 1995. I don't know if that would've been met with the same harsh criticism now," she said.