Allegations of workplace misconduct persist against former Nickelodeon powerhouse Dan Schneider. Following accusations of inappropriate behaviour by an executive on a Nickelodeon production in Jennette McCurdy’s best-selling memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died (which does not name Schneider directly), and a protest outside of Nick’s Burbank headquarters led by Zoey 101’s Alexa Nikolas, a new Insider exposé details claims against the children’s TV creator.
In the story, Nickelodeon writers, actors, and crew members raise concerns about sexually suggestive content in Schneider’s various shows. 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 cum 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.”)
Similar discomfort was expressed surrounding scenes involving stars Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande, and Daniella Monet. Monet told Insider that after filming a Victorious scene in which she ate a pickle while putting on lipgloss, she contacted Nickelodeon out of concern for the content. The scene aired anyway, she said. “Do I wish certain things, like, didn’t have to be so sexualised?” she told Insider. “Yeah. A hundred percent.”
Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s former president of content and production, told Insider that a standards-and-practices group reviewed every script of Schneider’s shows and that parents and caregivers were always present during filming. “Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinised and approved,” he wrote in a statement.
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.”
Schneider’s oversight even allegedly extended to his teenage stars’ costumes, with one writer claiming that Schneider lobbied for “whatever was the most revealing.” According to Insider, in McCurdy’s memoir, she recalled allegedly being pressured to wear a bikini while filming iCarly, with the head of wardrobe telling her that a man McCurdy refers to as “The Creator” asked for two pieces. (The Schneider source told Insider that all outfits “were seen and approved by dozens of people, including the parents of the actors, and the state-licensed teachers on set.”)
Several female writers 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.”)
Schneider, who exited Nickelodeon in 2018 following an investigation by parent company ViacomCBS, denied any wrongdoing in a June 2021 New York Times piece. The probe involving dozens of employees reportedly found no evidence of sexual misconduct by Schneider, although many “viewed him as verbally abusive.”
A longtime writer told Insider that it took time to process the “maddening, disgusting, controlling little bubble” Schneider cultivated. “It’s why people stayed for so long and never said anything [publicly]. It was very effective.”
This article was originally published on Vanity Fair.