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Mark-Paul Gosselaar explains why he wasn't close with Dustin Diamond

"I would reach out to him if he needed me, but over the years we kind of just drifted apart," Gosselaar said.
Image: Saved by the Bell
Dustin Diamond, bottom right, did not remain close with the "Saved by the Bell" cast over the years.NBC
/ Source: TODAY

Mark-Paul Gosselaar wants people to know there really was no ill will between the late Dustin Diamond and the rest of the “Saved by the Bell” cast.

Diamond died in February from cancer at the age of 44 and led to an outpouring of support among his former co-stars. Gosselaar said there was no rift.

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Gosselaar's Zack and Diamond's Screech were unlikely best friends on the Saturday morning sitcom.Alice S. Hall / NBC

“It’s no secret that the rest of the cast wasn’t very close with Dustin towards the end of his life,” Gosselaar said on an episode of the “Zack to the Future” podcast released Wednesday. “The only thing I can say to that is there’s really nothing that caused that. Some people will speculate that, ‘Oh, well, he wrote a book,’ oh, he did this, oh, he did that. I know for me I would look at that and just go, ‘You know what? That’s Dustin.’ I could see where he would have to do things to make ends meet. Never took it personally.”

Gosselaar, in fact, said he had a pleasant encounter with Diamond a little over a year ago.

“We actually did a comic-con back in 2019, end of the year. Saw him. He looked healthy. Met his girlfriend,” he said. “We had a nice little conversation and we took some photos together with some of the fans. And that was it. We didn’t talk after that.”

Gosselaar then pointed out that it’s not hard to lose touch with someone after working closely for a long period of time, noting that he co-starred with Dennis Franz on “NYPD Blue” for four years and they have only spoken four times since.

“That’s just the nature of this industry that we’re in,” he said.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people in my career and there are very few people that I still remain in contact with. I’ve really enjoyed almost everyone that I’ve worked with. I mean, I could count on one hand the people I would never call and don’t have too many nice things to say about them. Dustin was not one of them. I would reach out to him if he needed me, but over the years we kind of just drifted apart.”

Gosselaar also noted that Diamond was younger than the rest of the cast, comparing it to how seniors in high school didn’t hang out with freshmen. Despite the age gap, Gosselaar marveled at how gifted Diamond was.

“Looking back on the show, he was a genius when it came to this type of comedy,” he said. “For someone his age to do some of the things he does on the screen are brilliant.”

Diamond was not part of the “Saved by the Bell” reboot or other cast reunions over the years, but people should not read too much into that.

“What people don’t understand is there’s a lot of politics involved in this stuff that is just, it’s not even in our hands at that point,” he said. “Maybe someone in our cast has an issue. And you have to respect that. If somebody says, ‘Look, I have an issue with something he said,’ OK. We kind of have to stick together and hear that person and understand it, where they’re coming from and then make a decision.”

He also said there were plans to get Diamond involved in the reboot.

“Specifically with the reboot, I know that we were talking to get Dustin on the reboot for the second season,” he said. “There were even talks to get him for the first season, but COVID cut that short. There’s a lot going on that people don’t understand.”

In the end, Gosselaar remembers the good when it comes to Diamond, even if they went their separate ways after “Saved by the Bell.”

“I just want people to know that he was an amazing actor on this show. He was a good friend, but other than that, I don’t know much about Dustin ‘cause for 20-plus years we just were not in each other’s lives. But my memories of him are all positive. I feel for his family and friends and hoping he’s resting in peace.”