Actor Dustin Diamond, best known for his portrayal of Samuel “Screech” Powers in the “Saved by the Bell” franchise, died Monday following a hospitalization earlier this year, his representatives confirmed. He was 44 years old.
Diamond’s agent, Roger Paul, confirmed the actor’s death Monday to Rolling Stone. His death was first reported by TMZ.
Last month, Diamond announced he had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, or lung cancer.
“He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago,” Diamond’s representatives said in a statement posted Monday on his Facebook page. “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.”
Diamond portrayed the lovable nerd Screech for more than a decade, starting in 1988 with the precursor to “Saved by the Bell,” “Good Morning, Miss Bliss.” He was 11 years old at the time, according to Rolling Stone. For years after the show ended in 1993, Diamond reprised his role in the series’ spin-offs, including “Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style,” “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” and “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.”
The actor struggled to shake off his persona as Screech after the end of the show and its spin-offs. He appeared in a handful of reality television shows, including “The Weakest Link” and “Celebrity Fit Club,” and made cameo appearances in several films. During an appearance in 2013 on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” he said he struggled in the aftermath of childhood fame.
“The hardest thing about being a child star is giving up your childhood,” Diamond said, according to The Huffington Post. “You don’t get a childhood, really. You’re a professional and you got to know your lines and rehearse and practice. It was making sure that you were the funniest and the best that you can be because if you weren’t funny, you could be replaced.”
Diamond was sued several times for delinquent taxes and in foreclosure proceedings for missing mortgage payments. He has appeared on reality TV shows, made a sex tape and produced a tell-all documentary on Lifetime TV called “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story.” In 2015, he was sentenced to serve four months in jail for his part in a Wisconsin barroom stabbing.
“Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored,” his representatives said Monday. “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.”
Last fall, Peacock debuted a sequel to the “Saved by the Bell” main series which included many members of the show’s original cast, including Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Diamond was not included.
“Dustin was a humorous and high-spirited individual whose greatest passion was to make others laugh,” Paul said, according to The Associated Press. “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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.