How Playing Screech Destroyed Dustin Diamond’s Career

Dustin Diamond tragically died of cancer on February 1st 2021, at the age of 44. The actor is best known for his role as Screech on Saved By The Bell. And although the actor is grateful for his experience on the NBC show, portraying the geeky teen has played a role in destroying his acting career. Keep reading to find out why.

Saved by the Bell
Ruth Buzzi as Roberta Powers, Dustin Diamond as Screech Powers, Dennis Haskins as Mr. Richard Belding | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Dustin Diamond’s parents allegedly spent all of his earnings from ‘Saved By The Bell’

In 2001, Diamond had to file for bankruptcy because he wasn’t receiving any earnings from his sitcom days. Because Diamond was a minor throughout most of the show’s run, his parents had control of his finances and spent all the money for themselves.

Following his role as Screech Powers on Saved By The Bell, Diamond took up a stand-up comedy career. And although he loved his work, he said that it became a “low point” financially. As a result of his financial struggles, the actor began selling $15 shirts to keep his home in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

“The back reads “I paid $15.00 to save Screech’s house,” the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports.
“I think there’s a lot of people who think it’s funny,” Diamond told the journal. “It’s not a hoax. I wouldn’t draw this kind of attention to myself for nothing.”

Dustin Diamond struggled to find work as an actor after ‘Saved By The Bell’

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It’s safe to say that Bayside High wouldn’t be the same without Screech. The cartoonishly dorky character added a sense of quirkiness to the friend group, and no one could play it better than Diamond. But sadly, whenever he tried to branch out in Hollywood, people could only associate him with his sitcom character.

“I’d audition, and every single time they’d say, ‘Hey, we loved it, but we saw too much Screech in it,'” he told his former Saved By The Bell co-star, Mario Lopez, in an interview with Extra. “Well, I can’t change my bone structure. What do you want me to do?”

“I’m proud of the work that I’ve done when I’ve done it,” Diamond continued. “It’s just, how do you come off such a phenom role of this Screech character and break out of that mold and do something different?

Dustin Diamond loved playing Screech on ‘Saved By The Bell’ because of his fans

Fortunately, there was a bright side to Diamond playing the role of the dorky high schooler. According to the actor in an interview with Doctor Oz (via ABC News,) he felt grateful for his fans’ reactions to his character.

“It was very touching to have fans that came up to me, and I’ve had people multiple times come up to me, I mean, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds … thousands of people that have come up and said, you got me through high school,” he told Doctor Oz. “You know, I was the Screech in my school, and you represented everything that I felt at that time, which I never thought of when I was doing the show. When I was 11 through 21, I was just memorizing lines and trying to make the live audience laugh and the producers laugh and everything else. Trying to work with my castmates and make the director happy and everything else. It was work for me. I didn’t think about the impact I had on the fan base until years later until I got to meet them.”