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Dustin Diamond Dead at 44 After Cancer Battle
Dustin Diamond, who played Samuel "Screech" Powers on Saved by the Bell, died Monday morning
Dustin Diamond was reigniting old passions in the years before his death.
"Music had been his biggest passion recently," Paul says. "He played the bass and was focused on that and on his meet and greets. The fans meant a lot to him."
"And he was so grateful to have made a difference in people's lives with that show and that character," he adds, referring to Diamond's iconic role of Screech in Saved by the Bell, which originally aired on NBC from 1989 through 1993.
Noel Vasquez/Getty Dustin Diamond
Diamond previously showed his interest in music while part of a metal band, Salty the Pocketknife, in the early 2000s. After the band put out their debut album in 2003, the star told Chaos Control that "music has always been there" for him.
"I've been involved with music for about 22 years, I just never pushed it," he said at the time. "I started learning classical guitar from my dad, and moved to electric guitar. In 1994 I picked up the bass and never turned back. Music has always been there."
Cyrus Bolooki, a drummer for the band New Found Glory, referenced Diamond's love of music in a Twitter tribute following the news of his death.
"RIP #Screech @dustindiamond I will miss your random texts/videos of the most hilarious jokes and your absolute love for all things music," he wrote on Monday. "Sad that we never got to jam together. Hope you get to keep playing music up in Heaven."
RIP #Screech @dustindiamond I will miss your random texts/videos of the most hilarious jokes and your absolute love for all things music. Sad that we never got to jam together. Hope you get to keep playing music up in Heaven.
— Cyrus Bolooki (@cyrusbolooki) February 1, 2021
Paul also tells PEOPLE that, in the years after Saved by the Bell went off the air, 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."
Chris Polk/FilmMagic Dustin Diamond
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."