Dustin Diamond, the actor known for his role as Screech in the hit sitcom Saved by the Bell, died Monday, from cancer. According to a statement from his manager Roger Paul, “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.” He was 44 years old.
As Samuel “Screech” Powers, Diamond played the goofy, nerdy sidekick on Saved by the Bell. He was a foil to the troublemaking charm of Zack Morris (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), and an annoyance to the rich and snobby Lisa Turtle (played by Lark Voorhies). Though Diamond had been attached to the show since its precursor, Good Morning, Miss Bliss, through to its spinoff Saved the Be Bell: The New Class, he did not appear in the current iteration of the show that’s streaming on Peacock.
After Saved by the Bell, Diamond distanced himself from the character. In 2006 he directed himself in and released a sex tape called “Screeched,” which he later told the Oprah Winfrey Network was faked using a stunt person.
“People, to this day, look down on me,” he said. “And I didn’t really do it.”
Diamond also made appearances on various reality TV shows throughout the 2000s, such as Celebrity Fit Club, Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling and Celebrity Big Brother. On those shows and in his 2009 book Behind the Bell, Diamond came off as acerbic and possibly off-putting. But his manager Roger Paul said in the statement, “[Diamond] — 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,” the statement continued, “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.”