It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Dustin Diamond as Zack Morris’ dorky pal Samuel “Screech” Powers on “Saved By The Bell”, but things could have been very different had a young Stephen Colbert nailed his audition.
While chatting with Ryan Reynolds from home on “The Late Show”, the late-night host shared that his very first auditions was for the role of Screech. The big reveal came after Reynolds said he showed up to his first audition for a garbage bag commercial dressed like one of the crew members of “Saved By The Bell” after being told to dress “nice casual.”
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“I didn’t know what that meant, but I know that I did show up wearing a thin leather tie that had piano keys on it,” Reynolds says and the reference jogs Colbert’s memory.
“Oh! I auditioned for ‘Saved by the Bell,‘” Colbert, 55, exclaims. “That was my first professional audition. 1986? They came to Chicago, I was a student at Northwestern University. And I don’t know, somebody had seen me do something, somebody had scouted me at the school.”
“I got called down to a casting agent on Michigan Avenue in Chicago,” Colbert recalls. “I walk in, they hand me the thing and I was auditioning for the part of — was the character’s name Screech? Was it Screech?”
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Reynolds is incredulous at Colbert’s revelation.
“Come on! Really?! Is this true? Dustin Diamond?! Who ended up getting the role of Screech?” he excitedly exclaims.
“I auditioned for Screech! I’m not joking,” Colbert laughs. “Let me tell you how big I was — imagine how that character ended up in broadcast. I did my audition and they said to me, ‘There’s a term you’re going to need to know about as a professional. It’s called over the top. You just went over the top. Don’t do that anymore.’ And then I saw the subtle interplay of status dynamics Dustin Diamond brought to that part.”
“Screech was not a nuanced role. Screech was not the ‘My Left Foot’ role that you thought it would be,” Reynolds jokes.
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The original “Saved By The Bell” ran from 1989 to 1993 on NBC with Diamond, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Theissen, Elizabeth Berkley and Lark Voorhies. Some of the original cast is set to return for a reboot for NBC’s streaming service, Peacock.