Stephen Colbert Reveals He Once Auditioned for the Role of Screech in 'Saved by the Bell'

The Late Show host said casting agents told him he was too "over the top"

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Dustin Diamond playing Screech in Saved by the Bell — but another familiar face actually tried out for the part.

During a virtual interview on Wednesday with guest Ryan Reynolds for the at-home edition of The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert let it slip that he auditioned for the role way back in the day.

The reveal came about after Reynolds recalled how he was told to dress “nice casual” during his own first audition.

“I didn’t know what that meant, but I know that I did show up wearing a thin leather tie that had piano keys on it,” he said, adding that he looked like someone from “the crew of Saved by the Bell.”

“Oh! I auditioned for Saved by the Bell,” exclaimed Colbert, 55. “That was my first professional audition. 1986? They came to Chicago, I was a student at Northwestern University. And I don’t know, somebody had seen me do something, somebody had scouted me at the school.”

“I got called down to a casting agent on Michigan Avenue in Chicago,” he continued. “I walk in, they hand me the thing and I was auditioning for the part of — was the character’s name Screech? Was it Screech?”

Stephen Colbert, Screech
Jamie McCarthy/Getty; Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty

Reynolds, 43, was in disbelief.

“Dustin Diamond?! Who ended up getting the role of Screech?” he said.

“I auditioned for Screech! I’m not joking,” Colbert said with a laugh. “Let me tell you how big I was — imagine how that character ended up in broadcast. I did my audition and they said to me, ‘There’s a term you’re going to need to know about as a professional. It’s called over the top. You just went over the top.’ And then I saw the subtle interplay of status dynamics Dustin Diamond brought to that part.”

“Screech was not the My Left Foot role that you thought it would be,” Reynolds joked.

Saved by the Bell ran for four seasons on NBC from 1989 to 1993. The sitcom followed a group of high school friends, played by Diamond, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley and Lark Voorhies.

A reboot of the series with some of the original stars is in the works for NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service, Peacock.

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