Dustin Diamond, who was best known for playing Samuel “Screech” Powers on the TV sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” died Monday after a battle with cancer.
“We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” his publicist Roger Paul told USA TODAY.
“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.”
In January, Diamond’s Facebook page revealed he was hospitalized to undergo “medical testing.” Diamond’s representative Roger Paul later confirmed his cancer diagnosis to USA TODAY.
‘A true comedic genius’:Mario Lopez, Mark-Paul Gosselar, more mourn Dustin Diamond
Diamond played the relatable and (at times) irritating geek Screech from the late 1980s until 2000, reprising his role for “Saved by the Bell” extensions, “The College Years” and “The New Class.”
On the original series, the brainy Screech had an interest in chess club and robotics and was the best friend to Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), often helping him with his schemes, like making the high school students fake IDs or creating a zit cream which Zack markets. Screech desperately longed to be with Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), and was successful in having onscreen romance with Tori Spelling, who portrayed the nerdy Violet Bickerstaff.
Diamond later toured as a stand-up comedian and appeared on reality TV shows and in a few small movie roles.
However, life after Screech Powers wasn’t easy for Diamond.
He put his name on the controversial 2009 memoir, “Behind the Bell,” which painted an unflattering picture of his fellow actors and their allegedly sordid adventures behind the scenes of the show.
In 2015, in a Port Washington, Wisconsin courtroom, the late actor was found guilty of two misdemeanors – carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct with a concealed weapon – in connection with a stabbing during a brawl. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail and 15 months of probation and released from jail in April 2016, a month early, for helping with jail cleanup work. By late May he was jailed for what corrections officials described as a probation violation after a urine test was positive for oxycodone.
A “Saved by the Bell” revival debuted on Peacock in late November, offering Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie) and Mario Lopez (A.C.) as regular cast members, with appearances by Gosselaar (Zack), Tiffani Thiessen (Kelly) and Voorhies (Lisa). Though Diamond was not featured in the first season, Lopez hoped Screech would return. “I hope we get him back, and I was rooting for that,” Lopez told USA TODAY ahead of the show’s premiere.
Lopez grieved his former co-star on Twitter Monday.
“Dustin, you will be missed my man,” he tweeted. “The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on…”
When news of Diamond’s illness broke, Lopez shared a message of hope with his Instagram followers.
“I connected with Dustin earlier this evening and although the news of his diagnosis is heartbreaking, we remain positive that he’ll overcome this,” Lopez wrote in the caption of the photos showing the actors in the roles and then photographed closer to present day. “Praying for him & his family and for a speedy recovery.”
Voorhies also posted a throwback picture and well wishes in light of his health ordeal.
“I’d like to take the time to send special love and special best wishes to Dustin Diamond, who is one of my dearest friends,” she wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post. “Dustin, all the many in your close circle who know you to be the great person that you are, are truly pulling for you and praying for the best outcome.”
In addition to his memorable role of Screech, Diamond appeared as himself on reality TV series including “Celebrity Fit Club,” “Celebrity Boxing 2″ and Season 12 of “Celebrity Big Brother.”
Contributing: Jenna Ryu and The Associated Press