Saved By the Bell‘s Screech, AKA Dustin Diamond, responded to Breckin Meyer’s recent harsh words and came clean about his sordid reputation in a lengthy new interview with The Daily Beast that touched on his recent efforts to embrace the role that made him famous 25 years ago.
A running theme throughout the conversation was Diamond’s “bad boy” years, a period during the 2000s where he portrayed himself as a jerk on the VH1 reality series Celebrity Fit Club (which he said was entirely scripted); “penned” a tell-all book, Behind the Bell, which he now says was written by a ghostwriter who misconstrued his stories; and even released a fake sex tape. While Diamond intended for the tape to be a get-rich-quick gambit (“I got a stunt wang. I’m not an idiot.”), he admitted the plan backfired.
“But after that, people looked at me dirty, like, ‘He does porn,'” Diamond said. “No, I don’t! I faked that one at a chance for millions. I’m an opportunist, really. Needless to say, it did not make millions. But I had to take the shot. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t.”
This era of Diamond’s life caught up to him again last week when his former Bell co-star, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, called him “negative” during an interview with HuffPost Live, while Breckin Meyer (who appears alongside Gosselaar on Franklin & Bash) went for the jugular, saying Diamond was “such a dick.”
“A lot of people do that for ratings — I don’t know what his reason was for,” Diamond said of Meyer. “But he even said, ‘I’ve never met Dustin.’ So how can he say these things when he’s never met me? We’ve never shared a conversation. We’ve never met face to face. We’ve never been in the same room. That makes me judge someone, personally.”
To that end, Diamond took a jab at Meyer, adding: “Breckin, I’m sure, is a nice guy and there might be some blind loyalty to his co-star, but I don’t know all the things he’s been in. I know he’s been in Clueless, but that’s about it. But if you say Screech or the guy from Clueless, who are people going to know? So the bigger the name, the more attention it’s going to draw.”
Diamond also spoke about Lifetime’s upcoming movie, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, on which he’s serving as an executive producer. But despite the titillating title, Diamond said the television movie won’t be a salacious, scathing romp: “No, it’s definitely going to be in a positive light. It’s not out to trash anybody or put anybody down or make anybody look in a negative way. That was never the intent, so it’s definitely not the way it’s going to end up.”
In another effort to place his post-Bell career in a more favorable context, Diamond is set to play a version of himself in National Lampoon’s loving, on-stage spoof, Bayside! The Musical!, which has received positive reviews since it started its New York City in March 2013. “I’m doing it because I like the people and I like the cast,” Diamond said. “I think it’s really fun. I started out in theater so it’s a step back to that and to my roots, so to speak. I like that. I’m at home on stage. I’m at home performing. I’ve been doing it 29 years and I think it’s a nice opportunity to be in New York and close to family and friends and have an experience I’ve never had before.”