Dustin Diamond, best known for playing Samuel “Screech” Powers on NBC's wholesome 1990s sitcom Saved by the Bell, has died after a battle with cancer. The actor was 44.
Diamond, who revealed on Jan. 14 that he had Stage 4 cancer, died in a Florida hospital Monday morning.
Diamond's rep confirmed the news to PEOPLE in a statement: "We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond's passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 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. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."
Diamond’s publicist also shared an emotional tribute earlier today:
“We’ve been working alongside Dustin over the last 21 years. It goes without saying that our relationship cannot be categorized exclusively as a business. He has become a larger part of our everyday life: A part of our family and friend circle,” the rep told Us. “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.”
Saved by the Bell (which aired from 1989 to 1993) followed a group of high school friends and their principal at the fictional Bayside High School in Los Angeles. Primarily focusing on lighthearted comedic situations, it occasionally touched on serious social issues, such as drug use, driving under the influence, homelessness, remarriage, death, women's rights, and environmental issues.
The show was such a success it spawned two spin-off series: Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993–1994), and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993–2000).
The series also spawned two TV movies, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style in 1992 and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas in 1994.
Last year, video-streaming service Peacock launched a sequel, which featured many from the original cast, including Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, but not Diamond.
Several of Diamond's Save by the Bell costars have left an emotional tribute on Twitter.