Elizabeth Berkley talks Dustin Diamond tribute and 'Showgirls' shout-out in Season 2 of 'Saved by the Bell'
Bayside High is back in session for Season 2 of the Saved by the Bell revival, but there's one alum who won't be returning to those hallowed halls. Dustin Diamond aka Screech died in February at age 44, weeks after being diagnosed with stage IV small cell carcinoma cancer.
Diamond's former co-stars paid tribute to the actor on social media at the time, and now their fictional selves are coming together to toast Screech in the Season 2 premiere, which debuts Nov. 24 on Peacock. The episode ends with the old gang — including Lisa (Lark Voorhies), Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley), Slater (Mario Lopez), Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) and Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) — gathering at the Max, where they raise their burgers in his memory.
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the season premiere, Berkley describes Diamond's death as "tragic," and reveals that discussions had been underway to bring Screech back in some fashion for Season 2 prior to his passing. (Watch our video interview above.)
"The whole thing is obviously sad, and it was imperative that we treat it in a delicate manner," the actress says. "I hope that fans really love it. It was tender and really moving to be in the Max, just the five of us. You could feel that something was obviously missing from this perfect puzzle, but it was definitely a way to honor Dustin and the legacy of his craft in creating such an iconic character that no one else could have done."
Berkley adds that the old Bayside crew will be getting together a lot during the revival's second season… and not always for such sad reasons. "Season 1 was so much about the introduction for the new kids so that we could really get invested and go on their journey," Berkley says of the show's younger cast of characters, which includes Jessie's son, Jamie (played by Belmont Cameli) and Zack and Kelly's son, Mac (Mitchell Hoog). "Now that people are in love with them, we can really dive deeper into the O.G. cast members. In Season 2, we're all flowing into each other's lives in amazing ways."
Speaking of amazing, prepare to get so excited for the epic Showgirls shout-out that Berkley and the show's writers have up their sleeve. Although the Season 2 trailers have already revealed that Jessie will be channeling Nomi — the wild child showgirl that Berkley played in Paul Verhoeven's 1995 box office bomb-turned-camp classic — the actress teases that the actual storyline that showrunner Tracy Wigfield dreamed up is just as wild and crazy as the movie itself.
"Tracy said, 'Listen, we have this idea,'" Berkley recalls of how Wigfield and the writers initially approached her about revisiting a role she's only recently re-embraced. "I have no idea where you stand on this, and how you feel about it. Would you be willing to check out a few pages that we have, to see if you'd like to do this? I had always thought that it would be fun to really embrace some humor around it, which can be so healing. To do something on SNL like a skit — and maybe I still will down the road!"
For now, though, Berkley is content to use Saved by the Bell as the platform for more Showgirls antics. "What they approached me with was so genius and meta," she raves. "It was so incredible to be these two iconic pop culture characters that I've been lucky enough to play, and to have Jessie need Nomi and Nomi need Jessie to be whole. You gotta check it out — that's all I'm gonna say."
Saved by the Bell Season 2 premieres Wednesday, Nov. 24 on Peacock.
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee
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