When it comes to the world of entertainment, actor Dustin Diamond was definitely best known for his years as the lovable nerd Samuel "Screech" Powers on Saved by the Bell, which went from being a Saturday morning series to airing seemingly every day of the week. Sadly, it's now being reported that Diamond has died at the age of 44 years old.
Dustin Diamond's death didn't come completely out of the blue, though the timing is still a shock. It was just last month when Diamond was diagnosed with lung cancer, specifically Stage 4 small cell carcinoma, which originated elsewhere in the actor's body before taking hold of his lungs. He'd completed his first round of chemotherapy a few weeks prior, but it was sadly not enough to stop the quick-spreading disease, and Diamond's rep confirmed with TMZ that he died on the morning of Monday, February 1.
It's said that Dustin Diamond's health status was in deep decline in the past week. With the end unfortunately in sight, Diamond was taken off of his breathing machines in an effort to transport him to hospice care, though it's not clear whether that happened or not. His girlfriend was reportedly by his side during his final moments.
Born on January 7, 1977, Dustin Diamond first got his break in joining the cast of Disney Channel's pre-SBTB comedy Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and after one season of the Hayley Mills-starring show, Diamond eventually followed Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Lark Voorhies to NBC for Saved by the Bell proper. The actor was a few years younger than all of his fellow costars, which was the inciting factor in how things would play out between him and other cast members in the future.
Other than Dennis Haskins as Mr. Belding, Dustin Diamond technically has the biggest Saved by the Bell pedigree of anyone, as he went from Miss Bliss through the five flagship Saved by the Bell seasons (including Hawaiian Style), into The College Years and beyond the TV movie Wedding in Las Vegas. Though he missed out on the first season of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, he signed on for Season 2 and stayed with that cast for the spinoff's next six seasons. That's the point when things started to get a little wacky for the former child actor.
Though he tried various ways to evolve his career beyond Screech, Dustin Diamond never quite reached the same heights of fame that he did during his years on Saved by the Bell. Two years after Paris Hilton's illicit acts were made public, Diamond released a highly polarizing sex tape of his own in 2006 that went by the name Screeched – Saved by the Smell. While he supposedly directed it, Diamond claimed years later that he wasn't actually the one having sex on the video. In that same year, the actor appeared on The Howard Stern Show trying to sell T-shirts to raise money so that he could avoid foreclosure on his house.
In 2009, Dustin Diamond caused a greater divide between himself and his former Saved by the Bell costars with the release of his tell-all book Behind the Bell, which featured a variety of unsubstantiated claims about the young cast's unruly behavior behind the scenes. The sex-and-drug-filled allegations were denied by cast members such as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and Diamond later claimed that Behind the Bell was ghost-written by someone who put the book together by embellishing upon a compilation of answers Diamond had given.
In the years before and after Behind the Bell, which further soured his relationships with his Saved by the Bell cast members, Dustin Diamond appeared on shows such as Celebrity Fit Club, The Bronx Bunny Show, Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling, World's Dumbest and Celebrity Big Brother, to name but a few. His most recent scripted TV role was for Adult Swim's Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, while he could also be seen in the 2020 short film Catching Up.
Unfortunately, the sex tape and tell-all book weren't the final controversial incidents that Dustin Diamond dealt with as the years went by. In 2015, the actor was arrested for a 2014 bar altercation that led to Diamond cutting another man with a switchblade. He eventually served three months in prison for it, and was arrested again in 2016 for violating his parole stipulations.
Dustin Diamond did make the attempt to set things straight with his former Saved by the Bell cast members, appearing on Dr. Oz in 2016 to offer them all a public apology. He appeared to patch things up with Mario Lopez at least, with the latter having a heartfelt interview with Diamond for Extra that same year. It doesn't appear as if he rekindled friendships with anyone else, and he was the lone original cast member who didn't appear in the Peacock reboot that debuted in late 2020. (It's possible that would have changed for Season 2, but now we'll never know.) All that said, Mark-Paul Gosselaar has frequently complimented Diamond's Saved by the Bell skills in recent months during his rewatch podcast Zack to the Future.
We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Dustin Diamond during their time of mourning. Everyone can relive his years as Screech Powers on Peacock, where all Saved by the Bell episodes are available to stream.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.