Dustin Diamond, the goofy nerd Screech on Saved by the Bell has died.
According to TMZ, Diamond died today. The actor was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and was receiving treatments at a Florida hospital in mid-January.
When he was 11 Diamond beat out 5,000 other hopefuls in 1988 to land the role of Samuel “Screech” Powers on the Disney Channel comedy Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the forerunner to Saved by the Bell.
Diamond said in a Where Are They Now? interview in 2013,
“The hardest thing about being a child star is giving up your childhood. You don’t get a childhood, really.
You’re a performer, you have to know your lines and rehearse and practice, making sure you are the funniest and the best you can be. Because if you weren’t funny, you could be replaced.”
We all watched as Diamond grew up and continued as the chess-loving Screech on Saved by the Bell, which lasted four seasons (1989-93), Saved by the Bell: The College Years (one primetime season, 1993-94) and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (seven seasons, 1994-2000), all on NBC.
When last final episode aired, Diamond was 23.
Diamond began a new career as a stand-up comic and was on a series of reality shows.
In 2006, Diamond made Screeched — Saved by the Smell, a 52-minute sex tape that involved him and two women. Later, he said that a “stunt person” stood in for him, with his face added during editing.
“It’s the thing I’m most embarrassed about.
The rumor that I think had been put on TV was that Paris Hilton had made $14 million off [her] sex tape. My buddy said, ‘Fourteen million? Holy smokes! Where’s the Screech sex tape? You’ve got to be worth at least a million.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe.’ … I got some money off of it, but it wasn’t worth the fallout.”
Three years later, Diamond shared salacious behind-the-scenes tales in the book Behind the Bell.
In 2006, Diamond was selling T-shirts at $15 a pop in an attempt to stave off a foreclosure of his home in Port Washington, Wisconsin. He said he had filed for bankruptcy protection in California in 2001. He said that his parents had spent money he had earned on Saved by the Bell.
In 2015, Diamond was convicted of disorderly conduct after he stabbed a bar patron with a switchblade on Christmas Day 2014 in an incident involving his then-fiancee. He served three months in jail before being released in April 2016.
NBC’s Peacock streaming service premiered a follow-up Saved by the Bell series with original stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez and Tiffani Thiessen. But Diamond was not included. Screech, it was explained, was living on the International Space Station with Kevin, the robot pal that he built.
Diamond showed up occasionally on the big screen in Made (2001), Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003), Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), Tetherball: The Movie (2010), All Wifed Out (2012) and College Fright Night (2014).
He executive produced a 2014 Lifetime telefilm, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story.
Mario Lopez interviewed him on Extra in 2016 where he said,
“I’m proud of the work that I’ve done when I’ve done it. It’s just, how to you come off such a phenom role of this Screech character and break out of that mold and do something different?
I’d audition, and every single time they’d say, ‘Hey, we loved it, but we saw too much Screech in it.’ Well, I can’t change my bone structure, what do you want me to do?”
Dustin Diamond was 44.
Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade.— Mark-Paul Gosselaar (@MPG) February 1, 2021