Dustin Diamond Dead at 44 After Cancer Battle
Dustin Diamond, who played Samuel "Screech" Powers on Saved by the Bell, died Monday morning
Diamond — who died on Monday at age 44, three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer — was in talks to join season 2 of the Saved By the Bell Peacock reboot and reprise his role as the lovable nerd Screech after being excluded from the first season.
"He was upset that he wasn't asked to be a part of the reboot, but he talked to one of the executive producers about possibly coming to appear on the second season and he was happy about that," the actor's longtime manager, Roger Paul, tells PEOPLE.
Diamond found fame at a young age while playing Screech on the original NBC series. After Saved by the Bell concluded in 1993 following four seasons on the air, Diamond went on to star in spinoffs The College Years (1993-94) and The New Class (1993-2000).
In the years after the show went off the air, Diamond had a complicated relationship with the series and his former costars, including Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Lark Voorhies, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley.
NBC Dustin Diamond on Saved by the Bell
Paul tells PEOPLE that Diamond initially struggled to move on from his character and the legacy of the show before finally learning to "embrace" it.
"He played such an iconic character and he just became pigeonholed for that. He wanted to play different kinds of characters but he couldn't break through. It was tough," he says.
"He fought it, but then he learned to embrace his character. He realized how important Screech was to so many kids," Paul continues. "And he helped so many kids who were bullied over the years, helped them use humor."
And with Diamond now unable to reprise his character, Lopez told Variety that he hopes the show will find a way to pay tribute to the actor moving forward.
Everett Dustin Diamond (bottom center) and the cast of Saved by the Bell
"We were really hoping he'd make an appearance on season 2," Lopez said. "Now I'm really going to push for some sort of tribute. I would love a whole episode dedicated to some of his most iconic moments or something like that. We have a lot of very creative minds who can try to figure it out, but I haven't had those conversations yet."
Calling Diamond "an integral part of the chemistry and the comedy" of the original series, Lopez admitted, "I don't know if [the show] would have worked without him."
Paul confirmed the actor's cancer diagnosis to PEOPLE last month. A week later, on Jan. 21, he said Diamond had started chemotherapy for stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a cancer that commonly occurs in lungs, but can also manifest in the prostate or gastrointestinal tract.
In a lengthy statement announcing Diamond's death on Monday, Paul said while the cancer "spread rapidly throughout his system," he "did not suffer."