Mario Lopez has turned 50, marking nearly 35 years since he first debuted as star athlete AC Slater on the iconic sitcom Saved by the Bell. From the halls of Bayside High to a varied career in Hollywood, Lopez has navigated a path many child stars struggle to tread—one of enduring success.
Growing up in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego, Lopez was a standout high school wrestler. However, his mother, who emigrated from Mexico, sought a broader upbringing for her children that went beyond just sports. Thus, Lopez found himself immersed in the arts—music, singing, dancing, and eventually, acting.
From ’90s Heartthrob to Hardest Working Man in Hollywood
In the late 1980s, one pivotal audition changed everything, steering his course toward the spotlight. Initially tailored after John Travolta’s character Vinnie Barbarino character from Welcome Back Kotter, the producers reimagined the role to work Lopez’s athletic prowess and artistic inclinations into the AC Slater character.
This formative experience paved the way for a flourishing career that seamlessly blended athletics and the arts, much to the delight of audiences worldwide. Today, the Access Hollywood co-host juggles numerous projects, including recently co-producing the HBO documentary The Golden Boy about boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya. He also hosts his popular On with Mario Lopez podcast and still fits in various TV and film roles. In early 2024, Lopez, be hosting the Game Show Network’s new Blank Slate. Next year, Lopez will also be honored by getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Despite hitting the half-century mark, his workload and pace remain steady year round. Lopez still finds the time to unwind, as he can spotted at Dodgers games, or fight nights in Las Vegas or any other sporting event. These days however, because long nights can take a toll on an older body, Lopez has become a lot more selective balancing evenings out and sleeping in to maintain such a hectic lifestyle.
“I work hard and I like to play hard,” Lopez says. “But I’m more selective now. I prioritize rest, which means saying no sometimes. I used to want to do everything, but learning to say ‘no’ has helped bring balance to my life.”
Boxing and Brazilian Jiujitsu Keep Mario Lopez Shredded
Even amidst his demanding schedule, the married father of three makes his health and fitness a priority, maintaining the chiseled six-pack that made him a teen heartthrob in the 80s and 90s. Whether it’s squeezing in pushups during a hotel stay or attending a regular workout with his wife, Lopez finds ways to keep active.
Adding to Lopez seamless invincibility has been the addition of Brazilian jiujitsu to his fitness routine, a natural step from his boxing passion and wrestling background.
“With jiujitsu, you’re continually evolving as a person,” Lopez explains. “It demands patience and calmness, rather than brute force. This mindset extends beyond the mat into everyday life. Staying consistent is the key to progress.”
With an early morning routine revolving around armbars, triangles, and tap outs, the goal for the current purple belt is to keep working consistently toward BJJ’s ultimate accomplishment—a black belt. To keep moving forward, Lopez knows the key sometimes has to be to scale back—slightly—from his Slater-era days of always all-out efforts.
“I try not to necessarily train harder but smarter, and that means knowing when to rest and be disciplined, and not just go, go, go,” he says. “I’m more conscious about stretching and rest, but other than that, I’m still going 100 miles an hour.”
Always Family First. Then Fitness
When his workouts are complete, Lopez’s role as father and mentor once again take over. Here, by channeling his mother’s early guidance and recalling his own “regular” high school experience, Lopez and his wife aim to lead their three children, ages 4, 10, and 13, down a similarly eclectic path.
“I played sports, went to prom, and graduated my class. Saved by the Bell was just my job, not who I was,” he reflects. “So I want to expose my kids to a lot of things, but also keep them busy enough to keep them out of trouble. I want them to be smart, good, respectful, polite, and emotionally tough kids. But most importantly I want to show them that there are no shortcuts in life and instill a strong work ethic. So that’s what I try to do every day.”