Most younger Millennials and Zoomers probably recognize Jennette McCurdy, who is best known for her role as Sam Puckett in the Nickelodeon show iCarly—but most couldn’t say they really knew much about her until she released her heartbreaking new memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died. The actress, who has typically protected her privacy, finally opened up about the realities of Hollywood and child stardom—as well as the horrors that come along with it.
The man who Jennette referred to as “The Creator” (who readers believe is Dan Schneider, the show’s creator) required her to take pictures in bikinis early on in her iCarly career.
Jennette, who was only a teen at the time, was required by the wardrobe assistant to try on several bikinis while they took pictures to show to The Creator. Though Jennette begged to be able to wear a one-piece or board shorts, it didn’t matter, and she claimed she was forced by the team and her mother to show more skin than she was comfortable with.
“I don’t want to look sexual,” Jennette wrote about her feelings at the time. “I want to look like a child.”
The fact of the matter is, no one cared how she felt about it; her consent was considered unnecessary, especially since her mother was complicit in the situation. And not only was she made to feel uncomfortable, but the reason they took pictures of her in the bikinis was to send them to the men at the top of the production chain for approval—a detail that feels pretty grimy no matter how you look at it.
The Creator also tried to get her drunk while she was underage, then gave her a back massage.
Jennette wrote that while having lunch with The Creator, he offered her a drink of his whiskey-spiked coffee, and when she resisted, he continued to pressure her until she gave in (even claiming that the Victorious kids got drunk all the time together and that the iCarly kids were boring by comparison). But it only gets worse: Afterward, he allegedly draped his jacket over her and began giving her a massage, despite her obvious discomfort with the situation.
Even besides the obvious adult-and-child age gap between the two, the power dynamics of this situation was always going to be against Jennette—if she wanted to keep her job, she had to keep the creator of the show happy, which meant she was more likely to give into pressure or reluctant to voice her discomfort. It’s also highly unlikely that she’s the only child star who has been stuck in situations like these with their superiors, who clearly know what they’re doing and are choosing to take advantage of their younger employees.
In fact, The Creator constantly used his power against her by making her—and her costars—fear him.
The Creator was known for his foul moods and mercurial temperament. Jennette claimed he would fire actors, even those who were only 6 or 7, for forgetting their lines or missing their mark, and would verbally abuse those working in production. In fact, it got so bad that after a certain point, Nickelodeon no longer allowed The Creator to be on set with the rest of the cast and crew.
On the other hand, she also claimed that The Creator could also be incredibly gracious and generous and had the ability to make anyone feel like the most special person in the room—a dynamic that anyone who has dealt with an abuser will probably recognize. Jennette wrote that she was so eager for his approval—and to avoid upsetting him—that she and many others were willing to bend to his will just to please him.
The Creator wasn’t the only questionable adult on set—one of Jennette’s iCarly crew members began pursuing her romantically despite being almost twice her age.
When Jennette was 18, her 32-year-old coworker left his girlfriend of five years to pursue a relationship with her. He also coerced Jennette, who was sexually inexperienced and saving herself for marriage, to give him a blowjob by telling her he didn’t want to be with her if he wasn’t going to get anything sexual out of their relationship.
While Jennette didn’t specifically comment on the power dynamics of their relationship beyond this initial encounter, there’s still certainly something damnable about a grown adult man choosing to date a girl who’s still in her teen years. It makes you wonder how often production and crew members take advantage of their younger coworkers, especially since acting is one of the few jobs that require younger and older people to work together closely.
When Sam & Cat got canceled, the studio allowed Jennette to take the fall for the show’s failure—but the truth was much darker.
When Sam & Cat was ultimately canceled, the media ran with the narrative that it was because Jennette was unhappy that she wasn’t getting paid as much as her co-star Ariana Grande. However, Jennette revealed that this wasn’t true at all and claimed the reason she’d been told the show was being axed had to do with sexual harassment allegations against one of the producers.
Unfortunately, especially due to the Me Too Movement, we’ve all seen the way Hollywood tends to sweep sexual misconduct under the rug, so it’s unsurprising that the network allowed Jennette to become the scapegoat. However, it also makes you wonder how common sexual misconduct was amongst the shows in these children’s networks, especially when so many of the shows shared production and crew members.
Nickelodeon tried to prevent Jennette from talking about her experiences with the network by offering her hush money.
When Jennette learned of Sam & Cat’s cancellation, her agents also informed her that she would be receiving a $300,000 bonus for her work on the show—so long as she agreed to never talk publicly about her experiences at Nickelodeon, especially concerning The Creator. Jennette, however, refused the money, mostly because it made her uncomfortable.
If Jennette was offered this money, it’s likely that other cast and crew members were probably given similar offers or were pressured to keep their mouths shut. It makes you wonder what other terrible things others working at these children’s networks endured, only to have their naivety or lack of power used against them to silence them for good.