'Saved by the Bell' star Dustin Diamond dies of cancer at age 44

By Zach Harper

Dustin Diamond, best known for his portrayal of the quirky, zany nerd Samuel "Screech" Powers on Saved by the Bell, has died of cancer at age 44.

The star was diagnosed with stage four small cell lung carcinoma, which his spokesperson Roger Paul described as a "brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer," just 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," Roger said in a statement. "Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.

"Dustin was a humorous and high-spirited individual whose greatest passion was to make others laugh," Roger's statement continued. "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."

The cast of Saved by the Bell circa 1991.

Dustin's former Saved by the Bell castmates were quick to express their shock at his death.

"Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius," Mark-Paul Gosselaar, famous for playing Zack Morris, tweeted. "My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade."

"I am deeply saddened by the news of my old co-star @realdustindiamond passing," Tiffani Amber Thiessen, who played Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell, wrote on Instagram, as she shared a photo of Dustin. "Life is extremely fragile and it's something we should never take for granted. God speed, Dustin."

"Dustin, you will be missed, my man," Mario Lopez, known for his role as A.C. Slater, tweeted, sharing a photo of the two together. He echoed Tiffani's thoughts about life being fragile. "Prayers for your family will continue on," he said.

Born in San Jose, Calif. in 1977, Dustin started acting from a young age, and landed his best-known role in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the predecessor to Saved by the Bell. He was with the show itself through its entire time on television, along with its sequels Saved by the Bell: The New Class and Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Dustin had his share of struggles, filing for bankruptcy in 2001. He was also arrested in connection with a bar altercation and spent time in prison.

"We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malevolent," Roger said in his statement. "[Dustin] – 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."

Following his time playing Screech, Dustin appeared on reality shows such as The Weakest Link and toured as a stand-up comic. He married Jennifer Misner, his longtime girlfriend, in 2009. The two divorced in 2013.

Don't miss a beat with HELLO! Canada's Daily Hits newsletter, your daily dose of royal and celebrity news, fashion, weddings and more. CLICK HERE to sign up for free!