Thursday, September 01, 2022

Dan Schneider Wrote Sexualized 'Victorious' Scenes, New Report Says

Last month, iCarly star Jennette McCurdy’s bombshell memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, detailed alleged abuse she experienced while working at Nickelodeon.

Now, several former child actors and Nickelodeon staffers are speaking out against Dan Schneider, creator of Zoey 101, Victorious, iCarly and Drake & Josh, among others, who reshaped the network and kids’ television at large.

According to a report from Insider, Schneider was known to push the boundaries of children’s TV, often “thumbing his nose” at Nickelodeon’s standards department and ramping up the series’ sexual innuendos, including scenes in which goo was squirted on young actors’ faces. When it came to picking costumes, Schneider “signed off on all outfits” and “campaign[ed] for the skimpier options,” the report states.

In her recent memoir McCurdy said that she was pressured to wear a bikini on iCarly, recounting a wardrobe fitting for the teen comedy, writing, "I asked if I could please just try on one-pieces with board shorts, the way that I feel most comfortable in a bathing suit. Being covered up."

But, McCurdy says, that was not enough to appease an intimidating man known only as "The Creator." She continued, "Our wardrobe designer said that The Creator explicitly asked for bikinis, and so she had to at least have me try on one or two of them so he had the option."

Extra scenes from Victorious for its online portal The Slap involving Ariana Grande have also raised eyebrows after viewers pointed out the questionable nature of the online clips, some of which feature Grande putting her toe in her mouth and pouring water on herself while hanging upside down on her bed.

Other instances included goo pop shot on Zoey 101 that mimicked a sex act and involved a young Jamie Lynn Spears, a teenage Victoria Justice having food rubbed on her bare stomach in Victorious online extras.

One writer told Insider that they “largely avoided set when the web shows were being shot because they were largely very cringe.”

Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s former president of content development and production, told Insider that standards and practices read all the scripts for Schneider’s shows, programming executives watched every episode, and parents and guardians were always present on set. “Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved,” Hicks wrote in a statement to the outlet.

A source also said that Schneider “never fired a 6-year-old on set”, and that he would “include some jokes intended for the parents”.

When it came to costuming, Schneider reportedly had to sign off on all outfits, with the executive producer often "repeatedly campaign[ing]" for skimpier options.

Daniella Monet, who played Trina Vega on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, told Insider that some of the actors’ outfits on the show were “not age appropriate,” and that she “wouldn’t even wear some of that today as an adult.”

Costumers who spoke with Insider also expressed concern about Schneider’s behavior. Kerry Mellin and an unnamed writer recalled that Schneider once fought with the network over the length of Victoria Justice’s skirt. He apparently compromised with the network by making it “3 inches longer.”

Monet also recalled a time when she contacted Nickelodeon about a Victorious scene in which she ate a pickle while applying lip gloss. Monet expressed concern to the network that it was too sexual to air, but Nickelodeon aired it anyway.

Monet noted that most of Victorious was “very PC, funny, silly, friendly, chill,” but once in a while, there would be questionable scenes. “Do I wish certain things, like, didn’t have to be so sexualized?” she said. “Yeah. A hundred percent.”

Some Insider sources also expressed misgivings about the closeness Schneider shared with many of the young actors, allegedly inviting some to sit on his lap and texting them outside of the workplace. (A Schneider source told Insider: “Dan always had a rule for himself when texting anyone under age 18. That rule was text like their parents and the whole world are reading, too.”) The producer is also accused of requesting massages from adult female employees, including a writer and costumer. The source close to him said that Schneider “regrets ever asking anyone [for a massage] and agrees it was not appropriate, even though it only happened in public settings.”

Reps for Schneider and Nickelodeon have yet to comment on the accusations.

Monet also mentioned the male-dominance of Schneider’s writers’ rooms, a claim which has been backed up by several female writers who also spoke to Insider about the lack of gender parity amongst Schneider’s sets. As the outlet points out, none of his shows credited more than two female writers over the course of their runs. Zoey 101 and Drake & Josh listed zero. Former All That writer Kayla Alpert said that on her first day writing for the show, Schneider stated that “women were not funny and dared her to name a single funny woman,” Insider reports. (The person close to Schneider said that this was “untrue.”)

In a statement provided to E! News from Schneider's team, Russell Hicks said that Schneider "cared about the kids on his shows even when sometimes their own families unfortunately did not. He was the shoulder they cried on when something happened to them. He understood what they were going through. Dan was like the great high school counselor you could always turn to for help and guidance. And he was their biggest champion."

The statement continued, "Nickelodeon's reputation as the best in kids' television required that nothing went on without the company knowing. There is a standards and practices group that reads every script and programming executives looking at every episode. Add to that everyday on every set, were the parents and caregivers and their friends watching every single frame of footage and listening to every joke. They had a billion dollar brand to protect. Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved by executives at Nickelodeon."

When contacted directly for comment, Hicks told E! News, "I think Jeanette's book is really a beautiful tribute to getting the help she needed to get through the trauma she experienced with balancing her family and high pressured work life. Hopefully it'll help others get the help that they need."

The Insider report described Schneider as fostering an extremely competitive set, particularly among young actors. And though it pointed out that many of the 15 former actors they spoke with maintained good relationships with the showrunner, a few spoke about being brought to tears on set. All That’s Angelique Bates claimed that Schneider once yelled at her after a sketch and was so aggressive, she ran away crying. (A “person close to Schneider” said that he “never screamed at anyone.”) Alexa Nikolas recalled a similar “traumatizing” incident when, at 13, she was brought into a meeting to discuss her discord with Spears. Nikolas claimed that Schneider yelled at her in front of executives, bringing her to tears. Soon after, she was released from her contract. “I was so happy to get out of there,” she said. “It was the best day of my f*cking life.”

Nikolas, who starred in the first two seasons of Zoey 101, has been outspoken about her experience at the network for years. Last week, Nikolas protested outside of Nickelodeon’s Burbank offices with her organization, Eat Predators, which aims to expose abuse in Hollywood, and most notably the music industry.

Nikolas told Variety: “It shouldn’t be a woman having to trail blaze, it should be on the industry itself. … Because a predator’s gonna come and go — there’s always going to be a predator. But if they don’t have a safe haven, then they can’t really perpetuate that abuse.”

Nikolas, who called the on-set environment on Zoey 101 “traumatising,” recalled a scene in which a syringe of goo was squirted onto Jamie Lynn Spears. During the take that made it into the final episode, the substance dripped down her face. According to Nikolas, Schneider began laughing before a male teenage castmate remarked, “It’s like a c*m shot.” (A source close to Schneider told Insider that “the ‘goo’ was green, just like Nickelodeon’s famous slime,” adding, “This episode aired and was seen by millions of people and (to our knowledge) not one viewer ever had a concern.”)

Schneider, A former child actor joined Nickelodeon in 1993 as a writer on the hit series All That, a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy that starred Kenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes. Bynes went on to star in Schneider’s first series, The Amanda Show, which cemented his brand of slapstick comedy that kids loved.

He followed it with the hits Zoey 101, Drake & JoshiCarly and Victorious and turned Nickelodeon into “a $10 billion-plus powerhouse,” Insider's report said. Rising as the cable network’s breadwinner, Nickelodeon allegedly gave him immense power that enticed actors, child actors and their families to win him over because it could lead to better career prospects for his favorite cast or crew members, even their own series, the report said.

Schneider’s cast and crew described him as an obsessively hands-on creator, executive producer and writer and that he maintained a constant presence on the set.

The Insider reported that McCurdy and her Sam & Cat co-star Ariana Grande made complaints about a producer on their show, which launched a 2013 investigation into inappropriate behavior on the set of the iCarly and Victorious spin-off. The investigation concluded that Schneider had contributed to the “toxicity,” but McCurdy wrote in her book that at the time, “the Creator” was “no longer allowed to be on set with any actors.”

The show was canceled in 2014 after one season, but Schneider remained at Nickelodeon and created two more shows: Henry Danger and Game Shakers. Nickelodeon’s parent company, Paramount Global (then named ViacomCBS), launched another investigation in late 2017 and early 2018 into Schneider’s “alleged sexual behavior,” the report said. Although it found no evidence of sexual misconduct, it concluded that Schneider could be verbally abusive.

Schneider, who left Nickelodeon in 2018 as a result of an investigation by parent company Paramount Global, denied the claims against him in a piece for The New York Times back in June 2021, where he said that he never acted inappropriately toward co-workers. The piece was met with some backlash. He’s also retreated from social media since the publication of McCurdy’s memoir this month.

Liz Feldman–the Dead To Me showrunner who wrote for All That as a teen–declined to comment to Insider but tweeted after Schneider’s exit in 2018, “I worked for Schneider 25 yrs ago. I can confirm inappropriate behavior was happening even then. #metoo.”

Original source: Variety; Additional sources: PopBuzz, Parade, Los Angeles Times, MovieWeb, Glamour, The Cut, Vanity Fair, The A.V. Club

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