Dustin Diamond, who played the geeky Samuel “Screech” Powers in the beloved 1990s sitcom Saved By the Bell and its subsequent spin-offs and continuations, has died at the age of 44. He was hospitalized last month, and passed away this morning. According to news reports, he had recently completed his first round of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Diamond was on the Saved By the Bell train from the very beginning as one of the key cast members of Good Morning, Miss Bliss – a show that would eventually evolve into the Saved By the Bell that fans now fondly remember. Playing the lovably obnoxious nerd character for years – through Saved By the Bell: The College Years and into Saved By the Bell: The New Class – defined his public identity, although being years younger than the rest of the cast seemed to take its toll on the dynamics between him and his co-stars. He played himself in several film and TV productions, and made his way around the C-list reality show circuit to pay the bills. But there may be no better example of an actor being so closely associated with a single role, and it ended up being impossible for him to fully break out of that perception in the public eye.
He tried to erase his squeaky clean image by directing and starring in a sex tape in 2006, which became tabloid fodder for months. But years later, Diamond stated that he had digitally inserted his face onto a stunt performer’s body in that tape, and he regretted being a part of it at all. He supposedly wrote a memoir called Behind the Bell in 2009, but in interviews, he’s said that it was written by a ghost writer, and that despite the fact that Diamond did not agree with the way the information was presented, he didn’t have enough power to change anything before it was published.
Considering how many previous Saved By the Bell alumni have already appeared on Peacock’s revamped continuation of the series, it seemed like a certainty that Diamond would eventually join them to reprise his role as Screech Powers once again. Now, sadly, he’ll never get that chance. Rest in peace.
Here’s an interview he did with his former co-star Mario Lopez in 2016:
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