Why so many former Nickelodeon stars are talking about “traumatic” experiences at the network

Jennette McCurdy is one of several former Nickelodeon stars to come forward with new allegations about the network. (Photo: Philip Cheung for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, Nickelodeon was one of the biggest names in children’s entertainment. However, behind the scenes, the environment was not family friendly. In recent weeks, several former Nickelodeon stars — including Jennette McCurdy and Alexa Nikolas — have spoken out about their experiences at the network, with troubling allegations about working conditions and the behavior of superstar producer Dan Schneider, who The New York Times once called “the Norman Lear of children’s television”. Here’s what you need to know about this unfolding story.

Related Video: Nickelodeon Cuts Ties With Biggest Hit Producer

Who is Dan Schneider?

  • The Tennessee-born producer, 56, began his Hollywood career as an actor in 1980s teen movies and TV shows such as Better dead and Head of the Class. The latter series introduced him to Brian Robbins, who later became a director and is now the current chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon.

  • In 1988, he and Robbins attended Nickelodeon’s second Kids’ Choice Awards and met comedy development executive Albie Hecht. He joined the writing staff of the sketch comedy series All these in the early 90s, writing material for future stars such as Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell.

  • In the following years, Schneider created such hits as The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, Zoey 101 and iCarly. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 2014, flanked by many of the young performers he worked with.

  • To the surprise of many, Schneider and Nickelodeon parted ways in 2018, releasing a joint statement announcing that “other opportunities and projects” would follow. The producer largely disappeared from the public sphere after that.

  • In 2021, The New York Times reported that an investigation launched by Nickelodeon’s then-parent company, ViacomCBS, uncovered allegations of verbal abuse. At the same time, internet critics picked up scenes from his shows that contained questionable content. Talking to the TimesSchneider stood by his tenure and called the content complaints “ridiculous.”

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Producer Dan Schneider (L) and actors from his shows speak onstage during the 27th Annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards held at the USC Galen Center on March 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California .  (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Dan Schneider receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at Nickelodeon’s 27th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards in 2014. (Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage)

What does Jennette McCurdy say?

  • Born in 1992, Jennette McCurdy’s career began with guest appearances on television shows such as Malcolm in the middle and Will & Grace. She got her lead role as Sam Puckett iCarly in 2007, when he was 15 years old. McCurdy later received her own spinoff series, Sam & Catopposite Ariana Grande and left Nickelodeon after the show was canceled in 2014.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 13: Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Jerry Trainor and Dan Schneider at the MTV Summer 2007 TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 13, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Film Magic)

Jennette McCurdy, Dan Schneider, Jerry Trainor, Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress at the MTV Summer 2007 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 13, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California (Photo: Jason Merritt/Film Magic)

  • In her new memoirI’m glad my mom died, McCurdy opens up about her tumultuous experiences as a child star, describing battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and eating disorders. As the book’s title suggests, she also had a combative relationship with her mother, Debra, who died in 2013.

  • In a recent interview with The New York Times, McCurdy says Nickelodeon executives restricted her from pursuing career opportunities outside the network. Her book also claims a “Creator” of it iCarly — who may or may not be Snyder — gave her unwanted massages and forced her to drink alcohol.

  • I’m glad my mom died also claims that the anonymous iCarly “Creator” forced McCurdy to wear a revealing swimsuit for one episode. Snyder reportedly encouraged all of the network’s teenage actresses to wear “whatever was most revealing.”

  • Post Sam & Cat was canceled, McCurdy claims she was offered $300,000 by Nickelodeon never to publicly discuss her experiences. She declined the offer.

Related video: Jennette McCurdy says she became anorexic at age 11 when her mom suggested restricting calories to stop her breasts growing

What does Alexa Nikolas say?

  • Born in 1992, former child star Alexa Nikolas landed her first major role on Nickelodeon as Nicole Bristow in 2005. Zoey 101 opposite Jamie Lynn Spears. She left the show at the end of the second season amid reports of a feud with Spears.

  • In a recent interview with Knowledgeable, Nicholas recalled meeting with Spears and Schneider when she was 13 to discuss their contentious relationship, and the producer started yelling at her. After this meeting, the actress told her mother that she wanted to quit the series, and Nickelodeon eventually released her from her contract.

  • Following the publication of McCurdy’s memoir, Nicholas staged a protest outside Nickelodeon’s headquarters with a sign that read, “Nickelodeon didn’t protect me.” Speaking to TMZ, she described her time at the network as “traumatic.”

  • In an Instagram Live filmed at the scene of her protest, she mentioned Snyder by name. “I didn’t feel safe around Dan Schneider while I was working at Nickelodeon,” she said, also implying that he was “the creator of childhood trauma.”

What are other Nickelodeon stars saying?

  • In addition to McCurdy and Nikolas, former child actress Daniella Monet — who played Trina Vega on the hit series Victorious — came forward to discuss Schneider’s actions. Monet said she felt her costumes in the series were “not age appropriate” and also did a scene where she ate a pickle while applying lip gloss, claiming it was “sexy”.

  • A new track above Knowledgeable details additional allegations from 15 former child stars who worked with Schneider at Nickelodeon. The Amanda Show Actress Raquel Lee described an atmosphere where all the young performers were vying for Schneider’s attention. “Out of desperation, people will do a lot of things,” Lee noted.

  • Meanwhile, writers who worked on series created by Snyder shared their own memories, claiming that the producer seemed particularly hostile to female writers. Others claim that Snyder requested massages from colleagues and also hugged female crew members, making them feel uncomfortable.

  • In a statement delivered to Knowledgeable, Russell Hicks, former president of content and production at Nickelodeon, said that “Every single thing that Dan did on any of his shows was carefully considered and approved.” Snyder himself was not interviewed for the story.

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