Dustin Diamond's Ups and Downs with His Saved by the Bell Costars Over the Years
The actor, who died Monday, played Screech on the original Saved by the Bell
Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on the original Saved by the Bell, had a complicated history with his costars from the beloved sitcom over the years.
Diamond — who died on Monday at age 44, three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer — found fame at a young age while playing the lovable nerd on the NBC series. Alongside Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Lark Voorhies, Diamond began his journey in 1988 with Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which ran for one season before being retooled as Saved by the Bell.
After Saved by the Bell concluded in 1993 following four seasons on the air, Diamond went on to star in spin-offs The College Years (1993-1994) and The New Class (1993-2000).
Almost a decade later, in 2009, the actor published a tell-all book called Behind the Bell, in which he made disparaging claims about his costars, including allegations about drug use and sexual relationships.
Diamond would later call the book a "disappointment."
"A lot of the stories were just kind of throwaways," he said on Oprah: Where Are They Now? in 2013. "Really, I have nothing but good thoughts and memories towards everybody. I expected that I was going to be sent to copy to proofread and [say], 'Okay, thumbs-up or thumbs-down.' And I was sent the copy, 'Oh, this is done.'"
Still, the book served as the basis for the 2014 Lifetime movie, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, which Diamond executive produced.
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In an interview at the time, Gosselaar described the book as "negative," telling HuffPost that his own "experience on the show was very positive."
Diamond — who also had a series of run-ins with the law, and served time in jail in 2016 in connection with a stabbing during a street brawl — later publicly apologized to Gosselaar, Voorhies, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley.
"This is my best weapon for repairing the damage that was caused by things that were done by people who took advantage of me and the situation I was in at the time," the actor told Dr. Oz. during a 2016 interview. "As it turns out, the general public doesn't realize, I didn't write the book. I had a ghostwriter."
Addressing his costars, he said, "I will say, guys, I think you're fantastic, working with you has been just one of the icons of my life and I'm sorry that this has taken advantage of me, the book and other situations. But I'm sure that you've experienced downfalls, as well, in your time and I'm still loving you guys."
As for where their relationships stood, Diamond said he hadn't talked to most of his cast mates "in a long time."
"Mario Lopez and I speak frequently and Dennis Haskins and I speak frequently," he said. "And they know what I went through, but the rest of the cast — Mark-Paul, I haven't seen since I was 16 years old. I feel terrible for it but what can I do?"
"I've gotten good at just kind of brushing it off and moving forward," he added. "If I dwell on the past, then it just eats at me and there's nothing I can do about it."
In 2019, Gosselaar said while he hadn't spoken to Diamond since 1994, he wasn't holding a grudge.
"Who cares about the book? The book was fiction," he said on an episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast. "I don't take any of that stuff personally."
And last year, Berkley noted on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that although she hadn't been in contact with Diamond since the original series wrapped in 1993, there was no bad blood between them.
"It's something we put so much time and effort into," Diamond told TMZ about his character in February 2020. "How do you have Saved by the Bell without Screech? Right? I mean, it seems like there's a missed opportunity there."
Diamond's rep confirmed the actor's cancer diagnosis to PEOPLE last month. A week later, on Jan. 21, the rep said Diamond had started chemotherapy for stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a cancer that commonly occurs in lungs, but can also manifest in the prostate or gastrointestinal tract.
In a lengthy statement announcing his death on Monday, Diamond's rep said while the cancer "spread rapidly throughout his system," Diamond "did not suffer."
Among the first to react to the news was Lopez. "Dustin, you will be missed my man. The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on…," Lopez, 47, captioned a photo of the two on Instagram.
Thiessen, Gosselaar, Voorhies and Berkley also paid tribute to their late costar.
On Instagram, Thiessen, 47, said she was "deeply saddened" by the news of his death, and in her own post, Berkley, 48, said she would forever "hold onto those sweet memories and the laughs we shared."
In a statement to PEOPLE, Gosselaar, 46, remembered Diamond as a "true comedic genius."
"Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce," he said. "A pie in your face, my comrade."
Voorhies, 46, told PEOPLE "words cannot experience the grief that I am feeling right now."
"Dustin and I had a warm and special friendship, he was a caring gentleman, and my memories of him will always be cherished," she continued. "I am so very sorry he is gone. But it's exceptionally sad for his close loved ones who have do deal with his tragic death and their own great loss. My heart goes out to them at this trying time."