Actor Jennette McCurdy’s highly anticipated memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, comes out on Tuesday. As the shocking title suggests, it promises some pretty juicy stories about life under her mother’s strict, abusive management. But McCurdy also writes about another villain who wreaked havoc on her young life: a character she calls “The Creator.
McCurdy rose to stardom on Nickelodeon’s iCarly, one of the network’s most beloved late-2000s shows, on which she played Carly’s (Miranda Cosgrove) best friend, Sam Puckett. Together with their other bestie Freddy (Nathan Kress), Carly and Sam got into a lot of goofy teen antics, which they posted on their fictional blog, iCarly. But as it turns out, what was going on behind the scenes was quite a bit darker.
In an excerpt from the memoir published on Vanity Fair on Friday, McCurdy makes references to The Creator, whose behavior was abusive and manipulative and made her feel deeply uncomfortable. That includes photographing her in a bikini on set (remember, she was a teenager), massaging her during business dinners, and forcing her to drink alcohol as a minor.
Her exchanges with The Creator are nothing short of grooming, with him telling McCurdy how “special” and “talented” she is. “I chose you,” he tells her about casting the lead of Sam & Cat. Fucking gross! Even more heartbreaking, McCurdy writes about wanting The Creator’s approval—a fraught emotional dynamic that left her confused and often dissociative at work.
During a difficult period towards the end of Sam & Cat taping, after McCurdy’s mom passed away, the star admits that she counted down the days until taping wrapped. “I’m starting to expect I’ll have a bulimia-induced heart attack. I’m mortified to admit it, but a part of me actually wishes I would. Then I wouldn’t have to be here,” she writes.
iCarly and Sam & Cat (which McCurdy starred in alongside future pop star Ariana Grande) were produced and created by Dan Schneider, who also created a number of other hit shows for Nickelodeon: The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and Zoey 101, all of which launched their actors into the limelight. But over the years, rumors have circulated about Schneider’s allegedly inappropriate behavior, including indulging his foot fetish across many of his shows (remember the “My Beautiful Big Toe” skit in The Amanda Show and Victoria Justice getting ketchup squirted all over her feet in Victorious?).
In 2018, during the height of the MeToo movement, the producer was quietly let go from Nickelodeon. ViacomCBS, Nickelodeon’s parent company, investigated Schneider before his abrupt departure and found many instances of verbal abuse. In a 2021 New York Times piece, “several” unnamed former colleagues recounted incidents of Schneider asking for shoulder and neck massages on set and texting “child actors outside of work hours.”
In that same story, Schneider said that he parted ways with the network for personal reasons, and that his comedy was “totally innocent.” He has denied all allegations against him.
As the memoir details, on the morning McCurdy received the news that Sam & Cat was being canceled, her agents told her Nickelodeon was offering her $300,000 to never talk about her time there. Without a second thought, McCurdy turned the cash down. “This is a network with shows made for children. Shouldn’t they have some sort of moral compass? Shouldn’t they at least try to report to some sort of ethical standard?,” she asks in a harrowing reflection.
Whoever The Creator is, he’s not the first man to use his power to manipulate vulnerable young individuals under his control, and he certainly won’t be the last. But McCurdy’s bravery sets an encouraging precedent for speaking out about these experiences.