Dustin Diamond, best known for his recurring role as Samuel “Screech” Powers on Saved By The Bell and its spin-offs, has died. He died on Monday of stage 4 lung cancer, a diagnosis that the actor revealed earlier this month. TMZ first reported the news, and The Hollywood Reporter confirmed it shortly after. He was 44.
Diamond played the sweet, dorky, and curlicued Screech on just about every iteration of Saved By The Bell, from its precursor series Good Morning, Miss Bliss to The College Years to The New Class, in which he played the assistant to Dennis Haskins’ Principal Belding. As a child, Diamond also appeared on TV shows like The Wonder Years, American Playhouse, and The Munsters Today, and in films like Big Top Pee-wee and Purple People Eater.
Diamond was 23 when he left the franchise, and spent much of his adult career playing the bad guy on reality shows like Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Boxing 2, and Celebrity Big Brother. He also saw his name in the tabloids after the release of a sex tape, Screeched—Saved by The Smell, and a book, Behind The Bell, that was filled with scandalous stories about his former castmates. He would later claim that a “stunt person” stood in for him in the tape, and that the stories in the book were mostly fabricated by a ghost writer. He was not included in The Tonight Show’s 2015 reunion of the cast, nor in Peacock’s new Saved By The Bell reboot.
He spoke candidly about these topics and others in a 2013 interview with OWN, saying he “was kind of going through my rebellious teens in my 20s.” In a 2016 interview with Extra’s Mario Lopez, his former Saved By The Bell costar, he asked his other former castmates for “forgiveness for any misunderstandings.”
Diamond appeared in a few film roles as an adult—Made, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Pauly Shore Is Dead—though it was usually as a heightened version of himself. His career skidded to a halt, however, after he was convicted of disorderly conduct in 2015 after he stabbed someone with a switchblade in a 2014 bar fight. He served three months in jail.
“I’m proud of the work that I’ve done when I’ve done it,” he told Lopez. “It’s just, how do you come off such a phenom role of this Screech character and break out of that mold and do something different?”