Imagine, if you will, how different our cultural landscape would have been if Stephen Colbert had gotten cast as Screech, Saved by the Bell‘s resident nerd? That’s the kind of alternate reality the Late Night host put in our brains when he, in the middle of Wednesday night’s virtual interview with Ryan Reynolds, dropped the tidbit that his first audition was for the role that eventually went to Dustin Diamond.
The interview, which was already a loose, relaxing break from the world around us, veered down the path of Reynolds discussing his own first audition for a garbage bag commercial. “I know that I did show up wearing a thin leather tie that had piano keys on it,” he said, comparing himself to “anyone in the crew of Saved by the Bell.”
That revelation prompted Colbert’s delighted news that he tried out for the ’80s sitcom. “I was auditioning for the part of… was the character’s name, Screech?” he recalled through his own laughter. Reynolds had the only appropriate reaction when he, in complete disbelief, said, “Dustin Diamond? Who ended up getting the role of Screech?”
Colbert said that his performance was called “over-the-top,” which we can probably attribute to a large amount of the reason he didn’t end up getting cast. “I saw the subtle interplay of status dynamics Dustin Diamond brought to that part,” he said. “Screech was not the My Left Foot role that you thought it would be,” Reynolds added.
Even so, based on this throwback photo Colbert recently shared on social media, we can kinda see it.
Screech would’ve had a lot more Lord of the Rings tidbits to share if it’d been Colbert in the role, that’s for sure.
The reveal comes amid a week of Colbert, along with many other late-night TV talk shows, getting in the swing of hosting full episodes while quarantined at home due to the coronavirus crisis. Honestly, if it leads to more stories of potential ’80s fame gone wrong, we’re all in.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on CBS.