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Former 'Saved by the Bell' star Dustin Diamond dies at 44

The actor, known for playing Screech on the popular series, revealed he had cancer in January.
Image: Dustin Diamond On "Extra"
Dustin Diamond, seen here in 2016 at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California, was a teen star of "Saved by the Bell," playing the eccentric and nerdy Samuel "Screech" Powers.Noel Vasquez / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Dustin Diamond, the former “Saved by the Bell” star known for playing nerdy Samuel “Screech” Powers on the popular ‘90s Saturday morning NBC comedy, died Monday morning. He was 44 years old.

Roger Paul, a spokesperson for the actor, told NBC News: "We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma. He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful. "

The statement also read, in part, "We are aware that Dustin is not considered reputable by most. He’s had a history of mishaps, of unfortunate events. We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent. He — much like the rest of those who act out and behave poorly — had undergone a great deal of turmoil and heartache. His actions, though rebukeable, stemmed from loss and the lack of knowledge on how to process that pain properly. In actuality, Dustin was a humorous and high-spirited individual whose greatest passion was to make others laugh. He was able to sense and feel other peoples’ emotions to such a length that he was able to feel them too—a strength and a flaw, all in one."

Diamond's spokesperson had announced he had stage 4 cancer in January 2021 after he was hospitalized in Florida.

A week after that, Paul told NBC News that he was battling stage 4 small cell carcinoma, or lung cancer.

According to Paul, Diamond's condition "had greatly declined since last week, and he was taken off of breathing machines in an attempt to get him to hospice care."

Paul added, "There were two people very close to him by his side when he passed away."

Image: Saved by the Bell
On "Saved by the Bell," Diamond's Screech was the geeky best friend of Zack, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar.NBC

Born Jan. 7, 1977, Diamond landed some small roles as a child actor, including "The Wonder Years." His breakthrough came when he landed the role of Screech at the age of 11, a role he would keep for more than a decade, first portraying him in 1988 on “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” which would later be made over and transformed into “Saved by the Bell” in 1989 for the duration of the comedy's run.

Screech is best remembered for his unwavering devotion to best friend Zack, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, as well as his unrequited crush on Lisa, portrayed by Lark Voorhies.

Diamond continued with the part on “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” from 1993 to 1994. When that show was canceled after one season, he joined the cast of “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” in its second season and remained until the series ended in January 2000.

Image: Saved by the Bell
The cast of "Saved by the Bell."NBC

After his run as Screech concluded, Diamond performed stand-up comedy and appeared on reality shows such as “Celebrity Boxing 2” and “Celebrity Fit Club.” He also played himself in films such as “Made” and “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.”

While “Saved by the Bell” proved to be the zenith of his acting career, it also proved to be the source of scandal. In 2009, Diamond wrote a book about his time on the series called “Behind the Bell,” which alleged bad behavior by the cast. He would not take part in various reunion projects over the years, including a high profile one on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2015.

In 2016, Diamond, who was not married and did not have children, apologized to his former co-stars for the book while on "The Dr. Oz Show."

“I'm sorry that this has taken advantage of me, the book and other situations I'm sure we'll talk about here,” he said. “But I'm sure that you've experienced downfalls as well in your time and I'm still loving you guys.”

Diamond also told former “Saved by the Bell” co-star Mario Lopez in a 2016 interview on “Extra” that he didn’t actually write the book.

“I wanted to write a book about my life… I was supposed to talk to a ghostwriter for 40 hours total,” he said. “I talked to a guy for 90 minutes total… another two weeks go by, and I get something in the mail, I get a copy of the book… They fabricated a whole bunch of stuff… I kind of super railroaded on that.”

Image: Saved by the Bell
Screech was often Zack's No. 2 man when it came to pulling off his schemes.NBC

At least one co-star went on record as saying he didn’t hold a grudge against Diamond.

"Listen, I've worked with actors that I couldn't stand being in the room with. Dustin is not one of those people," Gosselaar told The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast in 2019.

"(I'd say), 'Hey, what's going on, man?' Would we go grab a beer afterwards? Probably not, but that doesn't mean anything," he said when asked what he’d do if Diamond were to walk into the room during his interview.

Diamond served three months in prison in 2015 after getting into a brawl in a Wisconsin bar in 2014. He also released a sex tape in 2006 that he later said in multiple interviews featured a stunt double. In addition, he filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

Diamond was not included in the “Saved by the Bell” reboot on the streaming service Peacock, making him the lone child star from the series not to be featured on screen in some capacity.

“How do you have ‘Saved by the Bell’ without Screech?” he told TMZ in February 2020. “It seems like there’s a missed opportunity there.”

“So, I don’t know if he will make an appearance,” Elizabeth Berkley Lauren told “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” in November 2020 about his potential return to the reboot.

“We’ll see if there’s another season. Maybe it’s something to explore, and I haven’t talked to him in a long time,” she said.