A beautiful, effervescent teen star, Lark Voorhies went from being one of the original stars of the minor hit "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" (The Disney Channel, 1988-89) to one of the six iconic high school leads of the international smash "Saved by the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993). As the lovably shallow fashionista Lisa Turtle, Voorhies won two Young Artist Awards and achieved teen idol immortality as a beloved member of the Bayside High crew, a role she would repeat in all the made-for-TV movies, spin-offs and reboots. After the original "Bell" rang for the last time, she lensed long-running roles on the soaps "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) and "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ). Romantically linked to Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Martin Lawrence, Voorhies also notched film roles in "How to Be a Player" (1997) and "How High" (2001) but worked most steadily on TV in multiple guest roles, including appearances on "In the House" (NBC, 1995-96; UPN, 1996-99) and "The Parkers" (UPN, 1999-2004). In 2012, she inadvertently made headlines when she gave several interviews appearing physically altered and mentally distracted; her mother would tell People that Voorhies had suffered a breakdown after an unspecified trauma and had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which the actress denied. Although her later-in-life troubles were definite cause for concern, Lark Voorhies retained enormous goodwill with fans who had grown up idolizing her and who wished her the best in health and happiness.
Born March 25, 1974 in Nashville, TN, Lark Voorhies was blessed with beauty from an early age, but despite some initial success, her natural shyness prevented her from pursuing an acting career. As a teenager, however, Voorhies developed the confidence to try again, and she quickly broke into the business with a pair of guest spots on "Small Wonder" (syndicated, 1985-89), which led to her most famous role then to date on "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" (The Disney Channel, 1988-89), which morphed into the teen juggernaut "Saved by the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993). Part of the original cast that also included Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond), Voorhies played the bubbly, fashion-obsessed Lisa Turtle, whose apparent shallowness masked a loving heart and deep loyalty to her friends.
Set in an Indianapolis junior high school classroom presided over by the titular Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills), the series did not really catch fire until it was retooled as "Saved by the Bell," with Voorhies, Gosselaar, Diamond and principal Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) transplanted to Bayside High in sunny Southern California and new classmates Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) added to the mix. While never a critical darling, the cheesy but charming series became an international phenomenon, turning its young stars into teen idols and becoming a beloved, often-quoted pop cultural touchstone for a certain generation.
Overshadowed at times by storylines involving the other characters, Voorhies's Lisa nevertheless became a fan favorite, and her good-natured annoyance at Screech's obsession with her was played for many laughs and, occasionally, genuinely touching moments of real affection. Nominated for six Young Artist Awards for her iconic turn, Voorhies won two, and provided a point of real connection for young African-American women and men who saw too few role models on television at the time and found in the actress a talented, winning performer. Playing a crucial part in the "Bell" mythology, Voorhies also appeared in the made-for-TV movies "Saved by the Bell Hawaiian Style" (NBC, 1992), "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas" (NBC, 1994) and guested on the spin-off, "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" (NBC, 1993-94), and the reboot, "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" (NBC, 1993-2000).
Romantically linked to Gosselaar during the production of the show, the two broke up after the series ended, and Voorhies went on to attempt to launch a singing career as well as to book guest spots on such series as "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96), "Getting By" (ABC, 1993; NBC, 1993-94) and "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97). In fact, Voorhies would become engaged to that show's star, comedian Martin Lawrence, although she would only find out that he was dumping her when she heard him announce it on "The Arsenio Hall Show" (syndicated, 1989-1994). The actress then spent a year on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) and another on "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ), but was let go from the latter when she refused to shoot love scenes due to her religious beliefs.
While she occasionally appeared in films like the Def Jam comedy "How to Be a Player" (1997) and "How High" (2001), she more frequently appeared on television, notching two years on "In the House" (NBC, 1995-96; UPN, 1996-99) and guest spots on everything from "The Parkers" (UPN, 1999-2004) to "Grown Ups" (UPN, 1999-2000). She lent her distinctively perky pipes to the stop-motion animated series "Robot Chicken" (Adult Swim, 2005- ), which included a sketch where she voiced Lisa Turtle. Although she continued to appear in indie films, self-published several novels and formed her own production company and talent agency, Voorhies gradually slowed her professional output and mostly disappeared from the public eye.
It was not until a round of interviews in 2012 where her radically changed appearance and distracted, strange manner - including talking to unseen people during interviews and hearing voices - caused the blogosphere and media to light up concerning Voorhies. Her mother attempted to silence the growing buzz by revealing to People magazine that Voorhies had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had suffered a breakdown following traumatic incidents in her life. Despite confirmed reports of her troubled behavior, however, the actress denied suffering mental illness.
By Jonathan Riggs
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made TV acting debut on syndicated sitcom "Small Wonder"
Landed breakthrough role of rich girl Lisa Turtle on junior high-set comedy "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" (Disney Channel)
Reprised character of Lisa on hit NBC Saturday morning sitcom "Saved by the Bell"
Played single mom Wendy Reardon on "Days of Our Lives" (NBC)
Guest starred as Lisa Turtle on spin-off series "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" (NBC) and appeared with cast mates in TV-movie "Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas"
Formed music group X-Girls with Stacee and Yashi Brown, the daughters of Rebbie Jackson
Cast as fashion designer Jasmine Malone on "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS)
Feature film debut, "How to Be a Player"
Landed recurring role on sitcom "In the House" (NBC, UPN), starring LL Cool J
Played supporting role in comedy feature "How High"
Appeared in ABC miniseries "Widows"
First film in over six years, "The Next Hit"
Voiced several characters, including Lisa Turtle, on animated series "Robot Chicken" (Comedy Central)
Returned to film acting in family drama "Jessica's Journey"