When it was released earlier this month, Jennette McCurdy’s memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, made headlines for its appalling anecdotes from her time as a child star—from battling an eating disorder reinforced by her abusive mom to feeling disdain for former co-star Ariana Grande. McCurdy appeared in some of Nickelodeon’s most memorable sitcoms—iCarly and Sam & Cat—when she was a teenager, but in the memoir, she alleges that her tenure at the network was marred by a man she dubbed “The Creator.”
McCurdy never reveals the man’s identity, but some publications have drawn parallels between her description of The Creator and longtime Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider, who left Nickelodeon in 2018 following allegations of workplace misconduct. Schneider was behind both shows McCurdy appeared in, as well as Drake & Josh, Zoey 101, and Victorious. The inappropriate behavior McCurdy described included receiving uninvited massages, being pressured to consume alcohol even though she was underage, and posing for photos in a bikini despite her discomfort.
An Insider report published Wednesday includes similarly unsettling allegations against Schneider by former Nickelodeon stars. Alexa Nikolas, who has in recent weeks begun leading protests against the network, described a scene in which her Zoey 101 co-star Jamie Lynn Spears was repeatedly squirted with “goo” that was “the consistency of an egg white.” Nikolas said Schneider found issues with every take, requiring another cast member to spray Spears’ face multiple times. Schneider was reportedly unsatisfied until the teenage actress was hit on the forehead, with the slimy substance dripping down her nose and mouth.
“It’s like a cum shot,” Nikolas recalled hearing a male colleague remark.
“We’re talking about a minor,” she vented to Insider. “I think Jamie was 13, and they’re squirting stuff on her face to make it look a certain way.”
Another former teen star, Daniella Monet, remembered filming a scene for Victorious that required her to eat a pickle while applying lip gloss. After filming, she reached out to the network and voiced concerns that it was too sexual for television.
Monet recalled that “most” of the show was “very PC, funny, silly, friendly, chill.” However, “once in a while,” there would be scene that would make her just as uneasy.
A number of other on-set sources said Schneider created a hostile work environment and remembered feeling uncomfortable that he gave young female actors lingering hugs “as a joke;” wrote deeply questionable scenes like those mentioned above; and often “signed off” on exceedingly revealing outfits. The sources said that few people felt empowered to stand up to Schneider, calling him a “scary presence.”
“It’s an imbalance of power,” one source said. “Jennette [McCurdy] felt it, the designer felt it, I felt it, all of us feel it.”
“He’s not a good guy,” Nikolas said of Schneider, noting that countless former colleagues like McCurdy were harmed. “And Nickelodeon was just letting it happen.
An internal investigation by ViacomCBS in 2018 didn’t turn up reports of sexual misconduct, though it did determine Schneider was prone to becoming “verbally abusive” with colleagues. Deadline also reported in 2018 that it was known among staffers that Schneider had a “temper.” Three years later, the New York Times interviewed former colleagues who revealed they felt they had to “walk on eggshells” in his presence, and were “uncomfortable” witnessing him text child actors at all hours.
Schneider has denied general accusations of misconduct, and continued to do so when Jezebel reached out to him on Wednesday. In response, we received a statement (also published elsewhere) attributed to Russell Hicks, the former president of content and production at Nickelodeon, describing Schneider as “the biggest champion” of teen actors and saying, “Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved by executives at Nickelodeon.”
In the wake of McCurdy’s memoir, Nikolas’ protests outside of Nickelodeon’s Burbank studios have garnered more attention. And while the now-best-selling author has never spoken about Schneider as explicitly as those like Nikolas, she doesn’t really have to. Given the number of people who allegedly enabled such behavior, The Creator could very be any executive actively benefitting from the inherent powerlessness of child and teen actors.