These Former Child TV Stars Were Forced Into "Overly Sexualized" Scenes
ONE ACTOR THOUGHT A JOKE WAS SO FAR OVER THE LINE SHE PETITIONED NICKELODEON TO CUT IT.
The release of former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy's memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died has led to renewed interest in how the network treated its child stars and other employees at the time. The now-retired actor starred from the late 2000s to the mid-2010s on iCarly and its spin-off Sam & Cat, and she writes in her book about a person she only refers to as "The Creator," who she claims gave her alcohol and an unsolicited massage, and was eventually barred from being on set with the young performers of his hit shows. It's widely assumed that McCurdy, though she hasn't confirmed the theory, is talking about Dan Schneider, who created many of Nick's most popular series and has been the subject of much speculation over the years.
One aspect of Schneider's showrunning that has troubled many are the suggestive sight gags that were included in his shows and usually featured his young female stars. In a new report by Insider, some of those former child actors acknowledge that they were made to perform "overly sexualized" scenes that they didn't find appropriate for entertainment aimed at other kids. Read on to find out more.
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Schneider created several of Nickelodeon's most successful shows.
Schneider started out as a young actor himself in the 1980s but found greater success working behind the scenes, particularly in comedy geared toward children. He got his start at Nickelodeon as a writer for their sketch show All That and was also brought on to co-produce and write Kenan & Kel.
The series he created for the network include The Amanda Show (starring Amanda Bynes), Drake and Josh, Zoey 101, iCarly, Victorious, and Sam & Cat.
Nickelodeon ended their relationship in 2018 after an investigation.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Nickelodeon
According to a 2021 New York Times profile of Schneider, who had been conspicuously missing from TV for some time after years of developing hot new shows for kids, Nickelodeon decided in 2018 not to extend their contract with him following an internal investigation into his behavior by parent company ViacomCBS. Per the article, the investigation "found that, alongside the many co-workers who praised [Schneider's] attention to detail and work ethic, many people he worked with viewed him as verbally abusive."
The writer and producer hasn't put out any new work since the network severed their relationship, though he told the Times that he was working on a new pilot for an adult audience. However, many who worked with Schneider claim that verbal abuse of his colleagues wasn't the only problem.
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Young stars performed "sexualized" scenes on his shows.
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All of Schneider's shows, in the tradition of many Nickelodeon comedies over the years, featured the kind of physical and slapstick humor that will always be popular with kids. However, some of his co-workers told Insider that they found certain gags to be inappropriately suggestive and pointed out that those suggestive scenes often involved his show's female stars.
Alexa Nikolas, who was in the cast of Zoey 101, recalled a scene in which liquid candy explodes in the face of star Jamie Lynn Spears, which she claimed Schneider wanted to film over and over again. "We're talking about a minor," the former child actor said. "I think Jamie was 13, and they're squirting stuff on her face to make it look a certain way."
Insider notes that more questionable content can be found in the webseries offshoot of Victorious, much of which involved Ariana Grande (above right), who played Cat on the show and with whom Schneider reportedly remains close. The outlet reports that "two writers said Schneider was almost singularly responsible for this online content, which they felt could sometimes be inappropriate, especially in the early seasons of Victorious when the Grande sketches were filmed." In another web short, the exposed stomach of Victorious star Victoria Justice (above left) is covered with food and condiments by other actors.
One actor asked that a scene that she found too sexual be cut.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Kevin & Steffiana James
Daniella Monet, who also appeared on Victorious, told Insider that she thought one of her scenes was so over the line that she requested it be cut. It involved her character Trina eating a pickle and applying lip gloss. The network evidently disagreed with her, and the scene made it to air.
"Do I wish certain things, like, didn't have to be so sexualized?" the actor said. "Yeah. A hundred percent."
The actor also said that she believes some of the clothes the show's young female cast members were told to wear were "not age appropriate." Two additional sources told Insider that Schneider approved all wardrobe and that he occasionally pushed back at Nickelodeon when the network wanted the actors to be more covered up.
At the same time, Monet said that many more people in addition to Schneider were responsible for these alleged missteps, from the other writers (who Insider notes were mostly men on Schneider's shows) to Nickelodeon's standards and practices department.
Former president of content and production for Nickelodeon Russell Hicks gave a statement to Insider that reads, in part, "Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved." He also said that parents and guardians of performers were always present on set. Schneider himself has not yet commented on the report.