Saturday, August 27, 2022

'Zoey 101' Star Alexa Nikolas Leads Protest Against Alleged Unsafe Work Environment At Nickelodeon

Following Jennette McCurdy’s bombshell memoir, former Zoey 101 star Alexa Nikolas said she “didn’t feel safe” at Nickelodeon, calling producer Dan Schneider “the creator of childhood trauma.”

A protest took place outside Nickelodeon’s studio in Burbank on Thursday.(AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images)

On the heels of Jennette McCurdy’s blockbuster memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, in which she alleges that Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 in hush money to stay silent about her experiences working at Nickelodeon as a star of both iCarly and Sam & Cat, another former Nick actor is speaking out against the children’s network.

Alexa Nikolas, who starred as Nicole Bristow on two seasons of the Dan Schneider–created Zoey 101, protested against Nickelodeon outside of the network’s Burbank headquarters on Thursday, August 25. Holding a sign that read, “Nickelodeon Didn’t Protect Me,” she and approximately 20 protesters objected to alleged misconduct at the hands of Nick and some of the network’s higher-ups, including Schneider.

The protestors, mixture of fans of Nikolas’s and alleged survivors of sexual abuse who’d attended previous Eat Predators events, chanted “protect survivors, not predators,” outside the studio and demanded for any person who experienced sexual abuse at Nickelodeon to be released from any NDAs. The most notable sign read “Sickelodeon” in front of in the studio’s foot logo, and it included Schneider’s face translucently in the back. Other signs included questions like “Is Nick a Predator?” and “How Many NDAs?” Most of the signs were brandished with Nickelodeon’s green slime.

Nikolas also called out former Nickelodeon employees including The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi, who has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Nikolas—who heads the organization Eat Predators, which advocates for sexual abuse survivors—organized the Instagram-livestreamed protest. “I wanna make Nick safe for kids, because in my personal experience working on Zoey 101, I didn’t feel safe,” she told TMZ at the protest. “I didn’t feel like Nickelodeon was protecting me or had my best interests in mind. So after hearing so many different stories from different Nick stars, it just feels like enough is enough.”

During the demonstration, Nikolas objected to the fact that Nickelodeon has yet to comment on allegations of misconduct. She also railed against nondisclosure agreements like the one McCurdy was allegedly offered, and Nikolas referred to Schneider as “the creator of childhood trauma.” (McCurdy does not name Schneider in her book, she only refers to an executive she calls “The Creator.”) Schneider, who also created or produced popular shows for the network including All That, The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and Victorious, was the subject of a June 2021 New York Times piece, which recounted his exit from Nickelodeon in 2018.

"Children on Nickelodeon were not safe, at least when I was on it," said Nikolas.

“I didn’t feel protected at Nickelodeon as a child,” Nickolas said. “I didn’t feel safe around Dan Schneider; every time he came on set my body got extremely tense. Later on in season 2, him and a bunch of executives made me cry in a room alone. I don’t think any child should have to experience anything like that, especially when it’s coming from people that are supposed to be looking out for the kids on set.”

Nikolas also called out former Nickelodeon director Fred Savage, who was a director on Zoey 101 and was fired from ABC’s The Wonder Years, a reboot of the '80s show he starred on as a child actor, following an investigation into inappropriate conduct. (Nikolas, however, did not allege any personal wrongdoing from Savage).

According to the Times, Schneider left the network with $7 million left on his contract. At the time, he and Nickelodeon released a joint statement stating he would pursue “other opportunities and projects.” Instead, Schneider largely retreated from the industry. Prior to the announcement, the Times wrote, Nickelodeon parent company Paramount Global (then named Viacom) had investigated Schneider. A probe of dozens of employees reportedly found no evidence of sexual misconduct by Schneider, but that many “viewed him as verbally abusive.”

Schneider declined to comment on the investigation to the Times, but insisted that his departure was self-imposed. “I took a break to take care of a lot of stuff that I’d let go by the wayside for decades,” Schneider said, pointing out his more than 100-pound weight loss. “Whatever I do next, I want it to outdo what I’ve done in the past.”

While several former colleagues told the Times they “felt uncomfortable when he frequently asked an employee from the costume department for shoulder and neck massages, or texted child actors outside of work hours,” Schneider denied any wrongdoing. “I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t have the long-term friendships and continued loyalty from so many reputable people if I’d mistreated my actors of any age, especially minors,” he said.

Schneider addressed the allegations that he was abusive toward staff members and speculation he fetishized the feet of many young actors. He called the allegations "ridiculous," adding "the comedy was totally innocent."

The protest is just the latest from Nikolas and the group she’s organized, which is calling itself Eat Predators. The group had previously focused on the music industry, which Nikolas and her fellow protestors say has been relatively untouched compared to the rest of the entertainment industry since the start of the #MeToo movement.

Nikolas’ professional background is in TV, but last year, she sued her ex-husband Michael Milosh of R&B project Rhye, claiming Milosh had groomed and sexually battered her since she was a teenager. Milosh vehemently denied the claims, saying in a statement last March: “I am being hit with horrific and spiteful lies. I reiterate that these accusations are outrageously false and the manipulated stories provably untrue,” he said, claiming that Nikolas had “fabricated her claims and filed [her] lawsuit as soon as [his] spousal support payments ended.” Nikolas withdrew her suit without prejudice earlier this year, though she says she’s planning on re-filing the suit.

Prior to Thursday’s Nickelodeon protest — the group’s largest to date — Eat Predators had gathered outside the offices of prominent music industry institutions, including Sony Music Entertainment, Red Light Management (which still represents Milosh) and Warner Music Group. At Sony and WMG, the message was the same as what they say they want from the entire music business: Release survivors of sexual abuse from their potential NDAs and fire alleged abusers affiliated with the companies.

McCurdy’s best-selling memoir has received public support from fellow former Nickelodeon stars including Miranda Cosgrove, Josh Peck, Victoria Justice, and Kel Mitchell. As Nikolas said at Thursday’s protest: “I definitely don’t want to hear one more story of a Nick star having a traumatic experience, that’s for sure.”

Nickelodeon has yet to address Nikolas or McCurdy's allegations.

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