"Saved by the Bell" veterans, left to right, Lark Voorhies, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar reunite to pay tribute to Dustin Diamond. Photo courtesy of Peacock
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The cast and producers of Saved By the Bell said plans existed to welcome back Dustin Diamond in Season 2, premiering Wednesday, before he died Feb. 1. Diamond played Screech on the original series, and the Peacock revival depicts the same Bayside High School in 2021.
"We had said in Season 1 that Screech and Kevin the robot lived on the International Space Station," executive producer Franco Bario told UPI in a Zoom interview. "It was all versions of how did they show up at Bayside? What is their real relationship?"
Diamond announced his cancer diagnosis in January. The first episode of Season 2 features a tribute to him in which Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Slater (Mario Lopez), Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley Lauren), Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) and Lisa (Lark Voorhies) gather at a diner, The Max, for a memorial.
"We tried to celebrate him, but at the end of the day, it's very sad because he was far too young," Lopez, 48, said.
Berkley Lauren, 49, said the scene was the first time all of the remaining Saved by the Bell cast members filmed together. Lopez and Berkley Lauren are regulars in the Peacock revival, while Gosselaar, Thiessen and Voorhies guest-starred in separate scenes during Season 1.
"It was surreal and heartbreaking," Berkley Lauren said. "We got through it. We just wanted to give it the love it deserved."
In addition to Saved by the Bell history, Season 2 pays homage to Berkley Lauren's career outside the series. In one episode, Jessie dresses like her Showgirls character and performs some of her signature moves.
The 1995 drama about Las Vegas dancers took a critical drubbing when released and failed to make back its budget at the box office. Showgirls has become a cult favorite since its release, and Berkley said she welcomed the chance to have the last word on the film.
"You get to reclaim a certain narrative through humor," Berkley Lauren said.
The original cast poses some problems for the new Bayside High students. Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog) is Zack and Kelly's son, but Zack invades his son's territory when he returns to Bayside as a substitute teacher.
"It's a big shadow to be under," said Hoog, 22. "All high school kids go through trying to figure out how you differentiate yourself from your parents."
Season 2 picks up after the COVID-19 pandemic. The season premiere shows the Bayside students in Zoom school before returning to their physical classrooms.
"I'd seen a lot of TV with people in masks and on Zoom," said Wigfield, 38. "So I wanted to deal with it, but then get back to our show as quickly as we could."
Season 1 already dealt with modern realities of schooling. Students from inner city Douglas High got transferred to Bayside, where they critiqued the wealth and privilege on display in Saved By the Bell.
Douglas students Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Pena), Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez) and Devante (Dexter Darden) taught the Bayside students that many high schoolers struggle without access to expensive technology like computers and tablets. Pascual-Pena said Season 2 shows that it takes more than a very special episode to make lasting change.
"We see them creep into their old ways of being ignorant and having certain biases," Pascual-Pena said. "It's fun that the Douglas character and the Bayside characters learn from each other and our growing together."
Devante begins to date a wealthy Black student from Bayside. Their storyline illustrates differences within the Black community.
"At the end of the day, we still have Black skin and we're still viewed differently because of the people who we are and the color that we are," said Darden, 30. "We all have a similar struggle if we all just drop the finances and drop the wealth."
Daisy also has a new love interest. The studious overachiever struggles with putting her studies on hold for romance.
"For her, fun is reading, getting work done, doing homework and getting straight As," Velazquez said. "She's just too stuck in her ways to allow herself to just explore and relax."
Bayside veteran Lexi (Josie Totah) also explores social issues. Twenty-year-old trans woman Totah, who also is a producer on Saved By the Bell, said writers incorporated her and other cast members' ideas in a storyline about Lexi becoming involved with LGBTQ activism.
"We get to tell stories that are prevalent today that people are having at their dinner tables," Totah said. "We're a show that showcases real people and with that comes real experiences."
Jamie Spano (Belmont Cameli), Jessie's son, is coping with his parents' divorce. Saved By the Bell fans may hope a newly single Jessie rekindles her romance with Slater, but Jamie is struggling with the breakup of his family.
"He's got to sift through these emotional issues with his friends, lean on his girlfriend, Lexi, for support," said Cameli, 23. "The beauty of the Bayside kids is that everybody's there to support each other."
All 10 episodes of Saved By the Bell Season 2 are available on Peacock on Wednesday.