Mark-Paul Gosselaar has come a long way as an actor since his breakout role on the NBC Saturday morning series Saved by the Bell as alpha prankster and main character Zack Morris only to find his way back to the Peacock reboot series ushering in a new generation in a more supporting role. One such younger actor along with Lark Voorhies was also there with him from the very beginning since the first season when the series was then known as Good Morning, Miss Bliss on the Disney Channel was the late Dustin Diamond, who played his best friend and lovable nerd Samuel "Screech" Powers. On Michael Rosenbaum's podcast Inside of You, the host asked Gosselaar if he had any memories he could share about their original NBC run with Diamond.
"We were close when we were doing the show and then all of us went our own way," Gosselaar said. "There were many years where we weren't in each other's lives, but I just remember laughing a lot with Dustin. He was the goofiest motherfucker you could get in the same room with. He made these choices that only he could make on the screen. He was really good. He was a very talented actor at a very young age, but we had a lot of good times. I just remember a lot of laughter with him and playing video games. I remember playing a lot of video games with the guy too. His dad would just sit in his room and he had a Neo Geo back when that was the premiere gaming platform and he was the coolest kid."
Diamond wasn't asked to return in the first season when the Peacock iteration of Saved by the Bell focused on the younger talent along with holdovers Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Mario Lopez reprising their roles as Jessie Spano and A.C. Slater, now working at their alma mater. Voorhies and Tiffani Thiessen returned in guest appearances reprising their roles as Lisa Turtle and Kelly Kapowski-Morris, respectively with Gosselaar recurring his role as Zack, now the governor of California. With the original student cast also in producer roles for the Peacock reboot of SBTB, plans were to include Diamond in the new series and executive producers revealed they were keeping him in the loop creatively before his tragic passing at the age of 44 in 2021 from cancer altered them. Screech's only mention in season one was that he was an astronaut on the International Space Station. The season two premiere "The Last Year Dance" featured the five surviving cast members in a burger tribute at their favorite Bayside hangout "The Max" during the episode's final scene before we're treated to a montage from Diamond's run on the original series.
"I was totally shocked because the year before, I had seen him at a Comic-Con and we were next to each other and he never said a word about his health," Gosselaar recalled. "Then to find out he died so quickly without any of us really knowing what was going on, that was shocking and really sad that he didn't connect with us a little bit more before his passing. I don't think it's his fault. I guess maybe he thought things were going to be better. It was shocking and it was very sad and I mean, Jesus Christ, he was only 42 or so?"