Dustin Diamond, who gained youthful fame as the nerdy Samuel “Screech” Powers on TV’s Saved by the Bell, died today in a Florida hospital, just weeks after revealing he was battling stage 4 cancer. He was 44.
Diamond’s agent confirmed the actor’s death.
“We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” his reps at Roger Paul Inc. said in a statement. “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.”
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The statement also alluded to Diamond’s various controversies, noting that the actor, who had released a self-produced sex tape, wrote a tell-all book and was arrested following a 2014 bar fight, “was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored. We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team. We wish you knew him in the way that we did.”
Read the statement below.
Born on January 7, 1977, in San Jose, CA, Diamond first played Screech on the hit show that ran on NBC from 1989-93. He would reprise the popular role for subsequent iterations Good Morning, Miss Bell, Saved by the Bell: The New Class and Saved by the Bell: The College Years. In all, he appeared as Screech for 13 years.
The franchise, which would become a generational touchstone, also starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, Tiffani Thiessen and Lark Voorhies, with Diamond’s Screech serving as the annoying but likable comic foil to his generally more popular classmates.
In addition to his signature role, Diamond starred in such reality television series as the fifth season of Celebrity Fit Club, Weakest Link and Celebrity Boxing 2. He made cameo appearances in films such as Made (2001), Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003) and American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (2009). In December 2013, Diamond appeared on an episode of OWN’s Where Are They Now? and became a house member in the 12th season of Celebrity Big Brother.
Diamond checked into a Florida hospital last month after enduring pain throughout his body from shingles and a general feeling of unease. After the cancer was discovered, he underwent chemotherapy in hope of beating it back.
Diamond’s 2009 tell-all book, Behind the Bell, detailed the dirt on the backstage antics of the show. The book angered some of his Bell co-stars, who disputed its accuracy. Diamond himself later disavowed much of the book, saying it largely was written by a ghostwriter.
Three years prior to the memoir, he directed and released his own sex tape but later expressed regret for that as well, and said he had used a stunt double for the sex scenes.
In 2014, Diamond was arrested in Wisconsin following a violent barroom altercation and was charged with carrying a concealed weapon — reportedly a switchblade knife — and disorderly conduct. Sentenced to four months in prison, Diamond was released on probation after three months. He was re-arrested in 2016 for violating the terms of his probation.
In its statement following Diamond’s death today, his representatives addressed the actor’s controversial moments:
We’ve been working alongside Dustin over the last twenty-one years. It goes without saying that our relationship cannot be categorized exclusively as business. He has become a larger part of our everyday life: A part of our family and friend circle. We are aware that Dustin is not considered reputable by most. He’s had a history of mishaps, of unfortunate events. We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent. He–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, 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.
Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored. We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team. We wish you knew him in the way that we did. We please ask that you give room for privacy to our team and Mr. Diamond’s family during this tragic time, as we grieve and remember the memories spent together. This loss is as much stinging as it is sudden.
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