Shanola Hampton on Chemistry with Mark-Paul Gosselaar in NBC's 'Found': "It Was Organic" (EXCLUSIVE)

Bianca Piazza - Author

Jan. 25 2024, Published 11:48 a.m. ET

'Found' stars Shanola Hampton and Mark-Paul Gosselaar at an Art of Elysium event in September 2023
Source: Getty Images

A tale of a kidnapping survivor dedicating her life to solving missing person cases that have been ignored or forgotten by the media and law enforcement is an honorable one, albeit a basic one. Where's the spice?

Well, Nkechi Okoro Carroll's (All American: Homecoming) NBC crime drama Found — which premiered on Oct. 3, 2023 — takes the story a step further, as heroic recovery specialist Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton) has her childhood kidnapper, "Sir" (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), chained up in her basement. The kidnapee becomes the kidnapper.

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Hoping to understand the mind of a monster and find America's marginalized missing people "who have slipped through the cracks," Gabi's bizarre partnership with Sir helps crack each unsolved case.

Fascinated by the codependent, oddly intimate relationship between Gabi and Sir, we exclusively spoke to actor-producer Shanola Hampton about her undeniable chemistry with co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar, the Season 2 renewal, and the importance of working on "a project with purpose."

'Found' stars Shanola Hampton and Mark-Paul Gosselaar at the Empire State Building
Source: Getty Images
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Shanola Hampton on building a working relationship with 'Found' co-star Mark-Paul Gosselaar: "He's my tribe."

Not only was "Sir" Gabi's childhood kidnapper, but he was also her high school English teacher, Hugh Evans. Their relationship is twisted, but Shanola's relationship with Mark-Paul is anything but.

"It's interesting because Mark-Paul Gosselaar is very hard to look at. Let's be honest, right? He's no Zack anymore from Saved by the Bell," she said, unable to hold back her laughter. "No, I kid. ... It was organic. It was natural. And that's the reason why it works so well."

"We looked at each other, we locked eyes," she explained, hinting that there was an immediate connection. "He's a family-first man, like I am. We realized we liked each other as people, and we just brought these characters to life in the most organic way."

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The relevant storyline of NBC's 'Found' immediately grabbed Shanola Hampton's attention.

According to NamUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), 600,000 people are declared missing every year in the U.S. Additionally, 4,400 unidentified bodies are found annually.

As explained by WVNS-TV, only about 1 percent of the 600,000 stay missing. Still, that's about 6,000 lives, many of which are forgotten. For Shanola, this is a topic that deserves more attention.

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"What drew me to the project initially was really the relevance of the subject matter, to do a project with purpose, to be able to do what I love [and] also have it mean something," she exclusively told Distractify. "There is no greater serendipitous thing to happen than finding a show like Found. We look for the forgotten [people] that are not seen all over television, brown people, Indigenous people, and unhoused people."

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Always hoping to be an example for her children, Cai MyAnna and Daren O.C. Dukes, the performer and activist wants them to see that "every missing person deserves to be found."

"That's why I wanted to do this show, because it lines up with everything I believe. I mean, mine the man in the basement," she said with a giggle.

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Having aired its midseason finale on Dec. 12, 2023, the series returned in January 2024 to air its final two episodes. Found has also officially been renewed for Season 2. Of course, Shanola is tight-lipped about the sophomore season.

"I can't tell you anything about Season 2, because I don't [even] know, I'm waiting just like everyone else to figure [it] out, especially because I know how Season 1 ended. So I don't know how we bounce back, but I know that we will," she said. "I don't know what Gabi's gonna do!"

She continued, "Found is really my No. 1. I'm going to direct the season, I'm a producer on it. So it's kind of checking all the boxes right now. And we got a 22-episode order, so I'm very proud of that. So we'll be doing that for most of 2024."

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