Tiffani Thiessen is an American actress. She played Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell and Valerie Malone on Beverly Hills, 90210. She also starred in Fastlane as Wilhelmina 'Billie' Chambers. Her most recent recurring role is as Elizabeth Burke in the USA Network television series White Collar.
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With my new show, Dinner at Tiffani's on the cooking channel!
A little bit about me: I'm a sixth-generation Californian, currently living in Los Angeles. Actress for 32 years, crazily enough! You might recognize me from popular shows like BEVERLY HILLS 90210 or SAVED BY THE BELL.
Victoria's helping me out via phone. AMA!
Update: Thanks so much, you guys, for joining me today! It was really fun to answer a lot of your questions. I hope to get to do it again, and please watch Dinner at Tiffani's on Cooking Channel tonight at 10 PM eastern / 7 PM Pacific!
I was doing a lot of my fan mail way-back-when, so if it was back then - probably!
Hi Tiffani! What happened to the "Amber?"
Oh! Hahah! it was a professional decision that my agent of 20-some odd years decided I shouldn't use it anymore and just go with my first and last name.
It was nothing crazy.
I love how you play a 'seriously, I'm not an idiot' kind of lady on White Collar. Do you wish you could have taken the character deeper?
I always think that characters are fun to explore. They're almost like an onion peeling back the layers. And I don't think you ever get enough time to explore a character, especially if you've been on for 6 seasons. So yeah!
Hi Tiffani, thank you for doing this AMA. My question is simple. Who is a better kisser, Mark Paul Gosselaar or Jaime Pressly?
Um... oh gosh, that's such a hard question. It depends on if you're asking a 16 year old little girl, or someone a little bit older! I can't pick just one. I love them both.
Holy goodness. What was it like to grew up in front of the entire viewing country? Was it strange knowing that you were the first crush for almost every single boy that grew up in the 90s?
Also, if you are ever in Iowa, my wife and I would love to cook you dinner or take you some place to eat! HA!
Thank you for the lovely invitation. I will keep you posted when I am in your area.
And you know, it's funny? I never really thought of myself that way. I was kinda just a kid who enjoyed doing what I did, which was acting, and I felt very fortunate to be on a show that I enjoyed working with the people I worked with. I got to do a lot of things that a lot of 14 year olds don't get to do. So I felt very privileged and fortunate in that sense. And that sense of feeling like an icon amongst the boys - my eyes didn't open to that until I was a little bit older, when I was 15, 16, when that sort of became what happens as you're a teenager? And when Mark-Paul and I were starting to travel to different states as well as different countries, and we started to see what types of audiences were for the show, and what types of people were attracted to our show and attracted to our characters.
Can you please share with us your anti-aging secrets? How do I age like you and not like Tommy Lee Jones?
That's hilarious. I would say the number one thing that i tell everybody with regards to health and beauty is WATER. You can never drink enough water. Water to me is the secret - even though I don't think it's a secret - to keeping healthy inside and out.
Tiffani, your work on White Collar was great. Any word on whether or not there will be a White Collar movie? Also what was the experience like revisiting your past with Jimmy Fallon in the Saved By The Bell reunion.
Not that I'm aware of! But sign me up if there was!
What's Kelly doing now in your mind?
She'd probably be living in the Midwest somewhere, with 5 children probably and Zac Morris, ahahaha!
Hi Tiffani! So nice to have you here on /r/IAmA with us today!
My question is this - how did Jimmy Fallon convince you guys to do a Saved by the Bell reunion? That was an absolute blast to watch, and us kids of the 90s loved every second!
Also, how much do you keep in touch with your former coworkers from the show?
We all had a blast! I'm a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon, and it wasn't too hard to be convinced to do something like that with him. I think they'd been pressuring us for the last couple years to do a reunion, and it felt like this was the right time to do it. I keep in contact with all 3 of those people - Mark-Paul, Mario and Elizabeth - and you'll actually see Mario and Elizabeth on Dinner at Tiffani's!
I’m Canadian, and last July was on a trip to New York when I saw something being filmed in Lower Manhattan. A person by the barricade told me it was White Collar. I wanted to stick around for the chance to say hi, but the group I was with wanted to keep moving, so I missed my only chance to say hi to Kelly Kapowski :(
Anywho, I’m a big fan, but since I was born in ’92, I never got to see SBTB live, but I watched everyday before school on TBS growing up. My questions, what was it that made you want to start your own cooking show, and what’s your all-time favourite dish?
Awwww. I'm so sad to hear that.
I've always had a love of cooking. I've been cooking with my mother, grandmother, my aunt since I was young, and I've always had a love of entertaining as well. So as I've gotten older, I've enjoyed sharing my love of cooking with friends & family, which is how I came up with the show idea, and I was happy to hear that Cooking Channel was onboard to want to do it!
My favorite dish - that's a hard question. The most requested dish I get from friends is my flatbread pizzas, and if my husband is asking, it's anything on the grill. And of course, if it's my daughter, it's ice cream for dinner (but that usually doesn't happen).
What was your favorite behind the scenes moment from your time on Saved by the Bell?
Also, we share the same birthday; I just thought you'd like to know.
Well, hello fellow Aquarian! Hope you had a good birthday!
Some of my favorite moments were definitely ones where we were playing practical jokes on each other, offset.
Your new show has a few guests per episode? Is that turning out to be a challenge - to book enough interesting and complimentary guests?
Haha! Well, being that I've been in the business for 32 years, I've met a LOT of amazing people, so I'm hoping that between those people, I have a LOT of episodes I can shoot.
Hey! Any chance we'll see Sarah Michelle on your cooking show? Absolutely adore you - you were the reason I watched White Collar!
Haha! Yes, Sarah was definitely invited this season, but for her own working schedule and travel, she wasn't able to come this season, so I'm hoping to have her come by next season. Sarah's a good friend of mine.
How surreal was it to watch the SBTB movie? The wrong parts, the right parts?
I wouldn't know, because i never watched the movie. I have no idea! I just know that it was based on a book that was completely unreal (from what I know, that people have told me of stories from the book).
Hi Tiffani, what is going to make your show different than other cooking shows? What is unique about your point of view? (loved you on White Collar)
Hmm. I think my show's very different in that you're seeing a lot of familiar faces in a very organic way. I find that people coming over to someone's house to have a dinner party is a pretty fun, relaxed natural setting, so you get to see these familiar faces in that kind of setting.
When you first signed up for Saved by the Bell, did you ever in your wildest imagination expect it to be so popular and such a pop culture staple 25 years later?
Ever ever ever.
I don't think you ever know what's going to take off, or what's not, when you're auditioning for roles in film or TV. So it definitely exceeded any of our expectations on how much the show has become iconic over the years.
Loved you on white collar. Looking forward to your new show. What is one of your fondest memories of working on White Collar?
Wow! Um... again, such a hard question. There's so many fond memories that I have. I always loved working with the guys - which I got to do a lot. I have fond memories of having my daughter, and literally having a brand-new baby on set - she was half-raised in New York, and that set was like her second home.
Who was the biggest jokester on set? And also, what was the best one that still sticks with you??
Hmmm. Oooh, it's a toss-up between Tim Dekai or Willie Garson.
Again, you're asking a woman who's pregnant, and that was over 25 years ago!
Oh! The biggest joker on SBTB was Mark-Paul, for sure. And he still is today.
How do you stay in shape? Do you lift, pump iron or Run...and Do you have fitness role models?
Uh, I am someone who gets bored very easily. So I do a lot of different things. Right now, being that I'm pregnant, I train 5-6 days a week. I do Pilates, I do spin classes, I have a trainer so I do circuit training and weight training, and I hike on the weekends with my family.
What's your ideal vacation?
Oh! Ideal vacation! Um... well being from Southern California, I'm definitely a girl who was raised close to the beach, so it would have to be someplace warm, someplace with an ocean and a pool, and when I'm NOT pregnant, flowing cocktails! Cocktails that keep coming!
Is it true you weren't able to do Scorsese's Cape Fear because of your Saved by the Bell schedule?
No. I've never even auditioned for that role, nor have i ever heard that story. You're the first.
Always something new!
I watch a lot of cooking shows so ill tune in for sure.
what are you cooking tonight for dinner?
also, please dont over exaggerate the 'tasting' part of your show. i hate that part. bobby flay does it well.
Oh, that's funny!
Well, I kinda answered what's tonight - it's a Texas Feast tonight, with the boys of WHITE COLLAR. I'm cooking up bbq ribs, I'm showing them how to do a fun Texas Tea cocktail, I have collard greens, and I do a pimento-cheese spread (which is a very Southern dish that I learned how to make from my best friend from the South).
We eat everything that you see us eat! that's not fake! There's nothing not real about the show. I cook in real-time, I eat in real-time!
Why is it when TV cooks/chefs say they're adding a tablespoon of something like flour or oil, they proceed to add at least half a cup of the stuff?
Well, I don't know about other chefs, but I don't do that, ahhahaa! I add what I say I'm adding, haha!
If I were to have breakfast at Tiffani's, what would you make me?
Well, funny enough, not tonight but next week I do a special episode of Breakfast at Tiffani's (or brunch as you would say). I cook up a beautiful frittata, a beautiful plum caprese salad, and I show everyone how to do maple-fennel bacon - it's a really fun episode that you'll see Lance Bass in! It's to die for, people who have the bacon say it's the best bacon they've ever had. So...
Thanks for taking some time to answer our questions! I actually have two questions for you, if you don't mind.
1.) How do you feel about the recent resurgence of Kelly Kapowski as a celebrity crush for teenage guys/young adults? Between shirts with your image on it and you being featured on many Twitter profiles as a "woman crush Wednesday", millennial guys have discovered Saved by the Bell and have taken special interest in you
2.) Did you find it strange when Kelly was dating a much older man in Jeff? If not, was there anything particularly bothersome about Kelly Kapowski to you?
Sorry that my questions are so SBTB centric. I'm only 20, so that's really what I know you from (though I have made it a point to start watching Beverly Hills 90210). Thanks again!
1.) I find it pretty funny? I mean, it was a character I played over 25 years ago, so I find it pretty hilarious, at the same time pretty surreal.
2.) You know, I think they were touching on a subject that is sometimes popular - with kids dating people that are older or younger. I didn't find it to be that strange, maybe because growing up in the business, I think I was dating at the time someone who was a little older than me, so it didn't feel that odd to me.
Hi Tiffani, over the years, you've shaped my view of a perfect woman with all of your roles. I once told a girl she'll always be number two to you in my heart, which she replied she totally understood. Did you ever have any celebrity crushes you met along your path in Hollywood?
Oh gosh. I feel like i've been pretty fortunate to work with some amazing people that I think - sometimes when you have that work relationship, it's hard to have a crush? But the very first one that I had when I was young - and very innocently had a crush - I was a pre-teen, was Ricky Schroder from a show called SILVER SPOONS back in the day.
I really like your genuineness in your interviews. You have a humility about you that a lot of up and coming stars seem to lack.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
Mmmm! Thank you for the nice compliments.
I would say the one thing I would love to gain, quality-wise... could I go crazy and say the one gift I would love to have would be to learn how to fly! Who wouldn't love to learn how to fly!?
What is one food staple you couldn't live without? :]
It would have to be cheese.
What is your perfect burger?
Well, if it's a burger that I'm making, it would be topped with probably... I'm an old-fashioned girl, so I'd have to say cheddar or American, with avocado, grilled onions, lettuce, I'm not a tomato girl on my burger (I know I'm crazy like that) and you gotta do the sauce. Thousand island! And if I really want to get crazy, I put a fried egg on top.
And if it's a quick trip in New York, it's Shake Shack. And if it's in Los Angeles, it's all about the classic In-N-Out.
London fan here! I wonder, if you were to host a Saved by the Bell themed dinner party, what would be on the menu?
Well, I just had Elizabeth Berkley on last week, so that hopefully answers part of that question.
I would probably bring it back a little old school, so I'd probably whip up some old school recipes from my mom, my grandmother and my aunt's recipe box.
What is it like being a guest on Howard Stern? How is it different than other interview shows, as a guest?
Well, you definitely have to have ... kind've, you have to be aware of what's happening. You have to be centered when you go into Howard Stern. I'd heard so many things about him being a nice guy, so I wasn't too too concerned, but I think he actually - I felt that he was pretty nice and pretty easy on me, so I felt like I was able to do a pretty decent interview without getting too embarrassed at times!
Hello!!! Have to ask, how do you feel about Kelly being such an icon for girls and guys, (albeit for different reasons) for so many years? I just saw a kid around 19 years of age wearing a shirt with you on it.
Yeah, those shirts are floating around all the time. It's quite interesting to see that old face of mine (even though it's a young face). It's kinda surreal at times. It's funny to see how popular that character has become and still is for 25 years.
Isn't Zack Attack like the most radical band ever?
I guess that's a question for YOU, not me!
Big fan of SBTB; my twin and I would watch reruns every morning waiting for the bus! Thanks for the memories!
Anyways ... What should I cook for myself tonight for dinner?
Umm... let's see, tonight? If you want something EASY, I say my roasted chicken from my special is one of my easiest recipes and a home-run! Recipe can be found here.
I have a question about Matt Bomer and Willie Garson.
How awesome are they?
Oh and any cool stories with Tim DeKay maybe?
Who was the main prankster on the set? :D
Uhh. All the boys of WHITE COLLAR are awesome, yes. And I would say the biggest prankster would be - it's a tossup between Tim DeKay and WIllie Garson.
What is your favorite book?
Well, it's funny, I'm not a traditional book person. My husband reads a ton of books. So we have a plethora of books. But the books that I read are cookbooks, or books that I'm reading out loud to my daughter.
Hey Tiffani, with your success in Saved by the Bell and 90210, during their most popular years, how often did people see you on the street and have trouble differentiating you from your characters? Do you have any funny stories about any of those interactions if so?
I've had a lot of that, over the years, yes.
It was a tossup between people recognizing me from SBTB or 90210. Probably the most memorable fan interaction was in Las Vegas, with a woman who had a little too much to drink, and thought that I was really Valerie Malone and wanted to pick a fight with me. As my mother taught me, I walked away like a lady.
What's the 2015 Summer blockbuster film you're looking forward to most? Jurassic World, Mad Max, Furious 7 or Terminator?
Well, gosh. You know what, it's hard? None of those are my kind of movies. You could ask my husband, and he's excited about ALL of them. I think I'm most excited about Cinderella, and I got to see an advance screening of it last Sunday, and I brought my daughter to it, and we both loved it.
What was it like working with the esteemed Woody Allen?
Amazing. Definitely memorable. One of the top, I'd say, 10 best moments, for sure. He is a definite genius, and I enjoyed every moment that I got to work with him. I felt very fortunate to have that opportunity.
Valedictorian? What was your graduation speech about?
Yes, I was valedictorian. But it was for a private school that wasn't probably more than 100 children? It was a school meant for professionals - anyone from actors to musicians to Olympians. So yes, it was neat to be Valedictorian, but it wasn't a normal high school! I was a straight A student, though.
Oh, good question. I have NO idea what my speech was. You're talking to a woman who's pregnant right now, so I have massive baby brain!
What's your favorite sandwich?
My favorite sandwich?
It would have to be a good classic grilled cheese with caramelized onions.
That does sound delicious right now, doesn't it?
I grew up watching Saved By The Bell everyday. What was your favorite episode to film and why? And who was your favorite cast member? Looking forward to your new show!
I would have to say probably my favorite episodes (and it was plural) was when we shot a few episodes on the beach. Those were my favorites. Definitely fondest memories there.
Oh, I can't pick a favorite! There's no way! That's an impossible question.
So, first of all, you should know that you have played (in my opinion) the best law enforcement/gov't agency spouse in any medium I've ever seen. Loved you on White Collar, obviously.
My question is-- was the chemistry among the cast regulars as good off-screen as on, or was it just really spectacular acting? The chemistry is what majorly sold that show.
I wish I could say it was our AMAZING acting skills that allowed us to be that amazing with our chemistry on screen? But i will say it was definitely real. We all enjoyed each other's company, we all loved and respected each other, and we had such an amazing time that we were sad to see the show end last year.
Do you actually have any personality or quirks that you share with Kelly on SBTB, and if so what are they?
Even after growing up it always seemed like a natural part of your acting. It might just be my teenage perception though. Thanks for your hard work, you've always been fun to watch!
Well, that's very sweet of you to say, thank you for the nice compliments.
I would definitely say that I share some similarities with Kelly. Being that i was portraying a young girl in high school, it was very much true to my heart in that sense. Dancing was a big part of my life, and even though she wasn't a dancer, she was a cheerleader, that was definitely part of it. She's very close to her family, and I can say that's a similarity. I remember her having a lot more brothers and sisters than I did - I only had 2, but she had a ton. That's why if you asked where Kelly is today, I feel like she would probably have a ton of children.
Who are your favorite TV chefs? Any other shows you looked at when getting ready? (Dinner for Five, Politically Incorrect?)
Hmm! Dinner for Five was actually a show I did look at a lot. I did enjoy that show a lot. I love Bobby Flay, the Barefoot Contessa, all the mainstream chefs, and then I have personal favorites, friends of mine who have influenced me in the cooking world as well as my family.
Hi Tiffani! What kind of role would you like to play next, and when do you plan to get back into acting after having your son? I'd really like to see you step into a more family oriented drama (tv show) and play a wife and a mom. Is this something you see happening?
Yeah, it all depends on what comes down the pipe, you know, after I have my son! I hope to do many more seasons of Dinner at Tiffani's. But I love acting, acting is my first love, and I never want to give that up, so hopefully I will find another show or something creative that I can do as well as Dinner at Tiffani's.
Thanks so much for doing this AMA Tiffani! Everyone has a sort of golden rule they try to follow in life, whats yours?
I think to live my life loving the people that I love, and cherishing them, and making sure they know how much they mean to me, and living an honest life. Living a life that allows me to work hard (because I actually enjoy working hard) and hopefully staying as healthy as possible!
You were in two of my favourite programmes shown over here in the UK, and we're almost the same age. I had quite a crush on you - still do in fact! What was your favourite show when you were a teenager? Do you get over to the Uk much? x
I wish I would come and visit the UK more than I do. I haven't been there in AGES.
My most popular shows that i watched when I was young were the COSBY SHOW and SILVER SPOONS.
Hi Tiffani, how does it feel being a part of such an iconic show like SBTB?
Also if you could move to another country to learn to cook their food, which country/cuisine would you choose?
Ooh, that's a good one! France, for sure. French food is my weakness.
Iron Chef, Master Chef, Top Chef and who's your favorite chef?
That's hard. I would probably have to say, it's a toss between - that's so hard, I watch all 3 of 'em!
I watch more TOP CHEF and MASTER CHEF. So it's probably a toss-up between those 2.