Dustin Diamond, best known for playing the endearingly geeky high-school student Samuel “Screech” Powers in the original Saved by the Bell television series, has died at the age of 44. In a statement to Vulture, Diamond’s reps confirmed that the actor passed away on February 1 due to carcinoma. “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,” the statement read. “Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.” Last month, Diamond was hospitalized in Florida after seeking medical care for “a huge lump on his throat.” He subsequently underwent several rounds of chemotherapy in the hopes of alleviating “a lot of pain.”
In addition to his iconic Saved by the Bell role — which he didn’t reprise in the current Peacock revival — Diamond was a fixture in the reality-television circuit, appearing in programs such as Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Big Brother, and Celebrity Boxing 2. He returned to his Screech character in the spinoff series Saved by the Bell: The New Class and Saved by the Bell: The College Years, last portraying the role in 2000 — in addition to writing a scandalous behind-the-scenes memoir about his time in the franchise.
Diamond’s last few years had been plagued by legal issues: In 2015, he was sentenced to four months in jail due to a stabbing incident, and returned to jail in 2016 for violating the terms of his parole. “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,” Diamond’s reps added. “His actions, though rebukable, 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.”