Dustin Diamond, who shot to fame on the series Saved by the Bell, has died of lung cancer after being diagnosed just three weeks ago.
Saved by the Bell actor Dustin Diamond has died aged 44.
The former child star – who played Screech in the popular 90s sitcom – had stage 4 lung cancer and was diagnosed just three weeks ago.
Diamond’s team announced via Facebook he passed away Monday morning, local time. It is understood he was being treated in a hospital in Florida.
“We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” Diamond’s official social media page read.
“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.”
TMZ reports he was taken off breathing machines to transfer to hospice care.
RELATED: Inside the life of Dustin Diamond
The Sun reports Diamond’s close friend, Dan Block, said Diamond had a “huge lump” on his neck for a while but avoided going to the hospital out of fear people would take photos of him and post them online.
“I know that the reason he didn’t get help is because when he goes out people take pictures, put it on the internet and say not nice things about him,” Block told the publication last month.
“He’s subject to public ridicule all the time and it sucks. People need to know he is a human.”
Diamond’s Saved by the Bell co-star Mario Lopez, who played AC Slater, told Variety he had spoken to his former colleague weeks ago and urged him to seek treatment.
“I actually just spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. He was reluctant to go in (to hospital) for a while because he didn’t know if anything was going to get out,” Lopez said.
And I said, ‘Bro, that’s foolish, you’ve got to get in there and take care of yourself and forget what people are saying.’
“Some people thought his illness was a joke, which is awful, but the internet always spills tales. When all of this was happening, I was optimistic that he would make a recovery, but it was obviously too late.
“From when I found out he was sick to his passing, it’s been incredibly quick. It’s so fresh, it’s incredibly hard to process.”
Diamond started his first round of chemotherapy just two week ago.
His family have a history of the disease, with his mother dying of breast cancer.
Diamond is most famous for playing Samuel “Screech” Powers on four seasons ofNBC sitcom Saved By The Bell, which first aired in 1989.
The star was noticeably missing from the reboot that premiered in 2020, which is likely due to his complicated history with the show.
While most of the Bell cast has gone on to have successful careers including Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Diamond has not had an easy time.
He released a sex tape (which he later revealed wasn’t actually him) and a book Behind the Bell that painted an unflattering portrait of his colleagues that he similarly back-pedalled on.
He was also sentenced to four months prison in 2015 for carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
Speaking to Oprah’s Where Are They Now? in 2013, Diamond said he “felt lost” when, at 23 years of age, his role as Screech came to an end.
Despite a frosty few years, the Bell cast appear to have patched things up with Diamond in recent years.
Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris on the sitcom, led tributes on Twitter today, saying Diamond was a “true comedic genius”.
Lopez and Tiffani Thiessen – who played Kelly Kapowski – also posted loving messages.
Diamond’s team added on Facebook of his death: “Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored. We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team.
“We wish you knew him in the way that we did. We please ask that you give room for privacy to our team and Mr. Diamond’s family during this tragic time, as we grieve and remember the memories spent together. This loss is as much stinging as it is sudden.”