Dustin Diamond Dead: Mario Lopez Pays Emotional Tribute to 'Saved By the Bell' Co-Star on 'Access Hollywood'

Mario Lopez is continuing to pay tribute to Dustin Diamond. Just hours after news broke Monday that Diamond, 44, died following a battle with cancer, Lopez opened up about his Saved By the Bell co-star's passing during the Feb. 1 episode of Access Hollywood, likening him to "a little brother."

During an emotional statement, Lopez announced "with a heavy heart" that his "friend and Saved by the Bell costar… passed away this morning at the age of 44 from stage IV cancer." Stating that Diamond "was like a little brother to me," Lopez revealed that he and his late friend "always remained in contact over the years," according to Us Weekly. Lopez went on to reveal that he "actually just spoke with him a couple of weeks ago" just after he received his diagnosis, adding that Diamond "was full of energy and he was so optimistic." Lopez went on to reflect on the fragility of life, stating, "life is just so fragile and not to be taken for granted. Our prayers are with Dustin's family and his friends."

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Lopez and Diamond first met on the set of the '90s sitcom, with Lopez starring as A.C. Slater while Diamond portrayed the school geek, Samuel "Screech" Powers. The series ran from 1989 to 1993, with the two actors again starring alongside each other in the spinoff, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and two spinoff movies, Hawaiian Style and Wedding in Las Vegas. Although Diamond did not reprise his role for Peacock's Saved By the Bell reboot, he and Lopez remained close, with the latter having sent the late actor a touching message of support after he announced in January he had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, which had metastasized in his lungs. After completing one round of chemotherapy, Diamond died Monday, his representative confirmed.

Lopez, who was among the first to pay his respects with an emotional social media post, further opened up about Diamond's passing as well as the close bond they shared when speaking with Variety. Reflecting on their time on Saved By the Bell, he said Diamond "was a funny kid" and he "was like my side-kick." Calling the actor "an integral part of the chemistry and the comedy," he went on to dub Diamond "iconic." Although Diamond did not appear in the reboot, something Lopez said he was hoping would happen in Season 2, he said he is "going to push for some sort of tribute" to Diamond, adding that he "would love a whole episode dedicated to some of his most iconic moments."