Mark-Paul Gosselaar Shares Why He Wasn't Close to Dustin Diamond Before His Death

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Mark-Paul Gosselaar is opening up about his friendship with his former Saved by the Bell co-star, the late Dustin Diamond.

The 47-year-old actor, who played Zack Morris, revealed that he had lost touch with Diamond and hadn't really spoken to him for many years. Diamond, known for his role as Screech on the sitcom, died Feb. 1, less than a month after his team first confirmed he had been diagnosed with cancer.

"Three weeks before [his death] we had heard about a diagnosis…Mario [Lopez] had spoken to him and was filling me in and some of the other cast," Gosselaar told his Zack to the Future podcast co-host, Dashiell Driscoll, during the latest episode released this week. "I feel for his family and his friends. It’s no secret that the rest of the cast wasn’t very close with Dustin toward the end of his life."

"The only thing I can say is there’s really nothing that caused that. Some people will speculate that, ‘Oh, well, he wrote a book,’ ‘Oh, he did this,’ ‘Oh, he did that,’" the actor continued. "I know for me, I would look at that and just go, ‘You know what? That’s Dustin.’ I could see where he would have to do things to make ends meet. [I] never took it personally."

He revealed that the last time they connected and saw each other was in 2019, sharing, “We did a Comic-Con back in 2019. I saw him. He looked healthy. I met his girlfriend. We had a nice little conversation and we took some photos with some of the fans. That was it. We didn’t talk after that."

"What a lot of people don’t understand is that you can work with somebody for many years [and not talk to them again]," the Mixed-ish star expressed. "That's just the nature of this industry…It’s a sad thing about the business, but it does happen."

He did add that he "can count on one hand" the people he didn't like, and "Dustin was not one of them." Gosselaar also praised Diamond for being a "genius" when it came to his comedic skills on Saved by the Bell. "Watching the shows now, the respect I have for him is immense."

And while people may have wondered why Diamond wasn't part of the revival that was released earlier this year, Gosselaar noted that they were in talks about having him in the first and potential second season. However, he stated, "There's a lot going on that people don't understand."

"He was an amazing actor on the show. He was a good friend. But other than that, I don't know much about Dustin because for 20-plus years we were not in each other's lives," he concluded. "But my memories of him are all positive, and I feel for all of his family and friends.”

Shortly before Diamond's death, a member of his team confirmed to ET that he was battling stage 4 small cell carcinoma, and had completed his first round of chemotherapy. His doctors hoped that the treatment would prolong his life a few more years.

After news of his death broke, his former co-stars took to social media to express their condolences. Gosselaar tweeted that he was "deeply saddened" by Diamond's death, adding that the late actor was "a true comedic genius."

"My sincere condolences to his family and friends," he wrote. "Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade."

For more on Diamond's life, watch the video above.

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