Tragic Details About The Cast Of Saved By The Bell

The following article contains references to suicide, mental health issues, domestic abuse, and bullying.

Nothing screams peak '90s nostalgia quite like "Saved by the Bell." From the quintessential '90s wardrobes and hairdos of Zack Morris and Co to the characters' zany misadventures, the series remains beloved by many. "Saved by the Bell" is a time capsule into a seemingly more innocent era, one before the advent of smartphones or social media, where kids could just be kids. This is part of why people continue to love and cherish the hit high school comedy all these decades later, not to mention the memes that have graced many a group chat: "I'm so excited," anyone?

But it's admittedly easy to look at shows like "Saved by the Bell" and their ilk with rose colored lenses. It must be said that the series got away with some pretty un-PC storylines, which would no doubt result in a major backlash if it aired in the roaring 2020s (lead actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar has since apologized for any offence caused). Likewise, much of the characterization, though endearing, did arguably rely on heavy stereotyping, particularly when it came to the incessantly taunted "dorks." What's more, things weren't quite as carefree behind the scenes for these budding young stars.

Lurking beneath those neon prints and mom jeans lay some truly harrowing secrets. Throughout the years, the show's cast members have been beset by innumerable hardships. From untimely deaths to restraining orders — and everything in between — here are the tragic details about the cast of "Saved by the Bell."

The tragic death of Tiffani Thiessen's boyfriend

The most popular cheerleader in school, Kelly Kapowski was the archetypal '90s it-girl, perfectly embodied by Tiffani Thiessen. Her perennially chirpy demeanor enamored viewers, and, of course, her long-time beau Mr. Zack Morris. But beneath that plucky veneer, Thiessen has endured devastating loss. Thiessen and fellow TV star David Strickland were an item in the late '90s. Strickland was best known for his role as Todd on sitcom "Suddenly Susan" and, with his pretty boy looks, he could very well have been on his way towards A-list heartthrob status. Sadly, that all came to an end one night in March 1999. The pair had only been dating for six months when Strickland died by suicide.

According to Los Angeles Magazine, Thiessen and Strickland went for dinner a few days before his death, and he was supposed to accompany her to an Oscars party over the weekend. But Strickland didn't show up. He ended up partying with comedian Andy Dick, before being found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room. He was just 29.

Although Thiessen didn't comment on her former boyfriend's death, Strickland's passing made a devastating impact on those who knew him. "He wasn't the cast member anybody worried about — the one who was late, or difficult, or who had problems and got special treatment," a director told TV Guide (via E! News). "He was just nice and sweet and funny."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) .

Dustin Diamond's troubled life

Screech was often the butt of the joke on "Saved by the Bell" and the borderline bullying he faced at the hands of his pals would, without doubt, be unacceptable today. Akin to Screech, the actor who played him, Dustin Diamond, led a troubled and tragic life. According to the Mirror, Diamond filed for bankruptcy in 2000, when he was in his early 20s, amid claims that his parents stole all his cash. Subsequently, in 2006, he was reduced to selling Screech shirts to try and save his house from foreclosure, per Chron. In 2016, Page Six reported that he owed $94,000 in unpaid taxes. That year, he was sent to jail for violating his probation, having been incarcerated two years earlier for allegedly stabbing a man. 

Reflecting on his numerous past indiscretions, Diamond opened up to Oprah during a "Where Are They Now?" segment. "I didn't really know what I was gonna do," he admitted. "You know, it was hard to get work that wasn't Screech clone stuff... I felt lost. As I mature, I realize, 'Wow, I was kinda going through my rebellious teens in my 20s.'" 

Former co-star Tiffani Thiessen has shed some light on Diamond's troubled life and expressed sympathy for him. "I actually feel sorry for him," she told Howard Stern. "I really do because he had a very hard childhood. He didn't have a great relationship with his father. His mother passed away when he was young."

The actor who played Mrs. Belding died

Louan Gideon may have only appeared in "Saved By the Bell" — along with its spinoff "The New Class" — twice, but she made a lasting impression on fans. As Becky, the wife of Mr. Belding, Gideon was hilarious in the Season 4 episode "Earthquake," in which she gives birth in an elevator after a series of comical false alarms. Though this plot line has served as the basis for one of Funny or Die's "Zack Morris Is Trash" episodes, Gideon herself was a master of her craft.

A kids' TV staple, Gideon appeared on classic shows such as "The Secret World of Alex Mack" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." Sadly, her life and career came to an end all too soon when she died of breast cancer in 2014, aged 58. According to a tribute in the Citizen Times, Gideon was a force to reckon with. A cancer awareness campaigner, she refused to wear a wig when she made public appearances whilst undergoing chemotherapy. Although she had seemingly recovered from cancer in 2009, her obituary notes that the illness unfortunately returned within a few years.

Husband Walt Borchers, who she wed on November 11, 2011, recalled his wife's bittersweet final moment. "As she was dying, she took her last breath on 11:11," Borchers said, per Citizen Times. "It was beautiful. We knew it would be a sign. We were all like, oh my god — it was a perfect stage exit."

The actors were swindled out of royalties

Since the "Saved by the Bell" stars were literal children when the show began, they scarcely had a say in financial matters. Alas, this is something that rings all too true for many a child actor; from Macaulay Culkin to Jena Malone, there have been far too many adolescent stars who were swindled out of their hard earned dough.

In the case of the "Saved by the Bell" actors, it would appear that producers exploited their naivete for their own means and left them with little cash as a result. During an interview with Howard Stern, Tiffani Thiessen joked that the actors hardly got paid at all. When Stern asked the erstwhile Kelly Kapowski if she had been racking in "big bucks" from the show, she replied incredulously, "No, no, no! I wasn't Disney Channel kid. No, not at all actually. ... It was crappy money." And Thiessen isn't wrong. According to Celebrity Net Worth, co-star Mario Lopez, who played macho kid Slater, made just $3,500 an episode.

Meanwhile, when Andy Cohen asked Mark-Paul Gosselaar, AKA Zack Morris, whether he was raking in any money from royalties, the actor replied, "We're not." After refuting any notion that he was able to lead an A-list lifestyle from residuals, he explained, "We made really bad deals. Poor deals, back then. ... It is what it is. You know, you move on, you learn."

Lark Voorhies was mistreated by her ex

Lisa Turtle was the girl boss of Bayside High, always immaculately turned out in her neon power suits and attracting the hottest hunks. Alas, Lark Voorhies, who expertly brought Lisa to life, has not been as lucky in love. In 2015, Vorhies married Jimmy Green. The pair called it quits after just a few months. But the heartbreak didn't end there; Voorhies was betrayed by Green horrifically. 

In 2016, Green attempted to sell a sex tape without Voorhies' consent and even gloated about it to Radar Online, telling the outlet, "Ain't nobody seen Lark like that!" He added that he would consider selling it "If somebody offered me $2 million." Green claimed that his ex consented to the filming of the tape. But even if Voorhies did agree, distributing and selling a sex tape without a partner's consent is revenge porn, the ultimate breach of trust and a form of domestic abuse according to Domestic Shelters. "As far as a sex tape I am not aware of nor have I consented to any sex tape or nude recordings," Voorhies emphasized to People.

Of the ordeal, Voorhies reportedly wrote on Instagram (via ET), "There's an active restraining order that he continues to violate. No sex tape even physically exists. Do you really think he could afford a camera?" However, she has since claimed that her account was hacked.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Dustin Diamond felt like an outcast

Screech never quite fit in with his Bayside pals and it appears that life imitated art. When Andy Cohen asked Mark-Paul Gosselaar when he last spoke to Dustin Diamond, the actor laughed and replied, "1994... Well, it's the truth! I'm not making anything up." On the "Zack to the Future" podcast, Gosselaar clarified, "It's no secret that the rest of the cast wasn't very close with Dustin."

In his memoir, "Just Between Us," Mario Lopez confirmed that Diamond was an outsider. "Not everyone got along with Screech AKA Dustin Diamond," he wrote. "I did, but maybe I was the exception. He was one of those dorky kids who thought it was hilarious to take polaroids of his genitals and leave the photos all over the set."

This outsider status was something that Diamond knew all too well. Although he released a tell-all book in 2009, which he later claimed was ghostwritten, his ostracization predates this unfortunate literary faux pas. "I haven't seen Mark-Paul since I was 16," Diamond told Mario Lopez in an interview with Extra. "Yeah, I haven't seen Tiffani or Elizabeth since then either. You know, I'm 39. It's been a minute!" Reflecting on the "Saved by the Bell" reunion, he shared with Lopez that he felt left out. "Oh, I wish I could have been a part of it," he admitted with palpable sadness. "You know, I didn't know that was going on until it was already done."

Elizabeth Berkley says she was bullied out of Hollywood

Jessie Spano was arguably the feminist icon of her time, which is why it surprised fans when Elizabeth Berkley took on a role than was decidedly un-Jessie. Life took an awful turn for Berkley in 1995, after she starred in the widely panned box office bomb "Showgirls." The reviews were brutal, with Entertainment Weekly lamenting, "As an actress, Berkley is, to put it mildly, limited. She has exactly two emotions: hot and bothered."

Not only did her agent drop her as a result, but Berkley quickly saw her Hollywood dreams dashed: Berkely has not had a major film role since the flop. An insider suggested that the backlash may have been rooted in sexism, telling the Los Angeles Times that the criticism "all smells kind of foul to me... She's been getting the blame for this movie and it's so unfair. She is an innocent." It should be noted that Berkley was a mere 21 years old at the time.

Berkely says she feels like she was driven out of show business. "Of course it was disappointing that it didn't do well, but there was so much cruelty around it," she told People. "I was bullied. And I didn't understand why I was being blamed." She continued, "No one associated with the film spoke up on my behalf to protect me. I was left out in the cold and I was a pariah in the industry I had worked so hard for."

Lark Voorhies' mental health issues

Lark Voorhies has opened up about her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Tragically, she believes that her illness is the reason why she was written out of the "Saved By the Bell" reunions. Voorhies' mom, Tricia, previously told People that her daughter had bipolar disorder, which turned out to be incorrect. "There are things that have traumatized her," Tricia said back in 2012. At the time, Voorhies told ET (via Radar) that she didn't have a mental health condition. However, she has since openly discussed her diagnosis, which is reflective of changing attitudes towards mental illness.

Appearing on "Doctor Oz," Voorhies discussed living with schizoaffective disorder, which she likened to numerous competing voices inside her brain. A 2019 psychiatric study defined schizoaffective disorder as a chronic illness that consists of sudden mood changes and "symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech."

When Oz asked Voorhies if she wished she had been included in the "Saved By the Bell" reunions, the actor read a moving extract from a statement she wrote. "I have to admit I did feel a bit slighted and hurt when I was not invited to be part of the 'Saved by the Bell' reunion, as well as other cast members' events," Voorhies explained. "Yet, of course, I also realize that having this puzzling disorder may have played a major part in that factual decision." Thankfully, Voorhies shared on Instagram that she was invited to appear on the series reboot in 2020.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Dustin Diamond died young

In January 2021, fans were devastated when Dustin Diamond revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. According to TMZ, he was taken to hospital after suffering from severe body aches and began a course of chemotherapy. Tragically, Diamond's mom had died of breast cancer years earlier.

On January 23rd, his final Instagram post, written by someone on his behalf, read, "The stage 4 small cell carcinoma diagnosis is definitely not what we were hoping for. However Dustin is being treated and fighting this." A few weeks after his diagnosis, Diamond died of metastatic cancer, which had spread to his lungs, as reported by TMZ. He was just 44.

His numerous "Saved by the Bell" cast mates paid tribute to him. In a statement to TV Line, Mark-Paul Gosselaar said, "I'm deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius... I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade." Lark Voorhies paid tribute to their "warm and special friendship," calling the late star "a caring gentleman." Meanwhile, his on screen love interest Tori Spelling wrote, "Before there was David and Donna, there was Screech and Violet. Dustin was my first on-screen kiss. He welcomed me with open arms onto the set of 'Saved by the Bell.'" Tiffani Thiessen, Mario Lopez, and Elizabeth Berkley openly mourned his passing, with the latter calling Diamond "a truly gifted talent."

Leah Remini's battle with Scientology

Leah Remini appeared in six episodes of "Saved By the Bell," as Zack's love interest Stacey. Her stint on the sitcom was a delight, but her life behind the scenes was anything but a casual day at the Malibu Sands Beach Resorts. 

Remini has devoted her life to exposing her alleged mistreatment at the hands of the Church of Scientology, which she left in 2013. Despite parting ways with the organization, Remini claims that she and her family continue to be harassed. "Members of the Church go to my mother's restaurant, confront my little sister, and my step kids in San Francisco, trying to intimidate us... These abusive scare tactics are what they call a religion!" she told LaPalme Magazine (via Daily Mail). The "King of Queens" star also developed an Emmy-winning A&E series that takes the church head on. 

When she was a child, Remini was allegedly subjected to humiliation by the Church after joining the Sea Org sect. "You have to wear black. You have to run everywhere you go. You have to call everyone 'sir'... So it's pretty severe punishment for an adult, not to mention a child," she told ABC News. In her memoir, "Troublemaker," she recounts the time an adult member of the church took her out on a boat on the ocean and threw her into the water. "I thought I was going to drown," she writes. The Church of Scientology categorically denies Remini's allegations.

Tori Spelling's husband cheated on her

Tori Spelling played Screech's soulmate Violet Bickerstaff on "Saved By the Bell," providing the oft-derided character with some much-needed happiness. But Spelling's life would later take a turn for the worse when her husband, Dean McDermott, cheated on her. In 2013, Us Magazine reported that McDermott had a fling with Emily Goodhand, who is 19 years his junior. To rub salt in the wound, Goodhand dished on the pair's tryst to the outlet. Detailing her hotel room encounter with McDermott, Goodhand claimed that "he told me he and Tori had a sexless marriage."

McDermott addressed his infidelity on the "Daddy Issues" podcast in 2019. "I've cheated and it's so not about the person you're with... It was about inadequacies with myself... I needed to do that to feel some kind of power," he explained (via TooFab).

The cheating was particularly painful for Spelling since her "biggest fear" throughout the marriage was the prospect of McDermott cheating on her. "So when it happened, I was like, 'See, I always thought from day one he was going to cheat on me,'" she told Women on Top in 2020. "And it wasn't about him, that was about me. I was like, 'Okay, I know I'm not good enough.'" Although she told the hosts that she had mended her relationship with McDermott, the following year a source informed ET that the couple were again "going through a rough patch" and "things aren't great between them."

Tiffani Thiessen had a 'rough' go with 90210 co-stars

Along with her role as Kelly Kapowski, Tiffani Thiessen was famed for starring on teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210" as the charming Valerie Malone. But unlike her "Saved by the Bell" family, Thiessen's "90210" co-stars did not welcome her onto the set with open arms. In particular, she has called out fellow '90s it-girl Jennie Garth. "The girls were not very nice to me when I first came on the show," she told Howard Stern.

However, she and Garth eventually became close pals after the on-set animosity waned and Thiessen was even present when Garth gave birth. But it wasn't long before their reconciliation grew sour. "We had a falling out and we grew apart. I was the one who was hurt, let's just say that," Thiessen told Stern, adding, "It's funny, our relationship started really rough and ended the way it started."

In 2017, Garth and fellow "90210" and "Saved by the Bell" alum Tori Spelling went on to throw shade at Thiessen when they were judges on "RuPaul's Drag Race" (per The Daily Mail). During a segment in which the contestants parodied "Beverly Hills, 90210," Garth said, "As Ti—, how do you say it?", to which Spelling quipped, "Just say, 'That which we don't speak of.'" Ouch. Garth later told Us Magazine that the skit was edited in a misleading way. Regardless of what Garth may claim, we wouldn't blame Thiessen for telling her to sashay away.

The Saved By the Bell stars didn't get to be kids

Being a child star isn't all rosy. One sad reality that many have to deal with is losing out on youth. The "Saved by the Bell" actors were treated like adults despite being kids, and the trauma that came with is something Mark-Paul Gosselaar has reflected on. As he told People, "The rejection that you deal with as a kid, I thought it was pretty blunt growing up, like, the reasons for why you didn't get [the role]. They're like, 'Eh, they just didn't like your look.' 'Oh, okay. Yeah, I'll go process that,'" He continued, "The director was saying, 'The minute you walk through these double doors leading onto the stage, you're no longer a child anymore, you're an adult. You have to act like an adult,'"

Tiffani Thiessen told Howard Stern that, during her time on "Saved by the Bell," she began dating a guy when she was 14 and he was 19, to which Stern replied that it was "a miracle" her father didn't kill him. Speaking with Us Magazine, Thiessen said that she "didn't find it to be that strange" dating a man when she was a kid, due to such relationships being normalized in the biz.

Additionally, Dustin Diamond opened up to Oprah about the struggles that come with being a household name when you're still a kid. "The hardest thing about being a child star is giving up your childhood," he poignantly reflected. "You don't get a childhood."