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The student news site of Hagerty High School

The BluePrint Online

The student news site of Hagerty High School

The BluePrint Online

Under the spotlight: Child actors disclose horror stories

Child+actors+do+a+typically+excellent+job+of+portraying+their+roles+on+screen.+However%2C+behind+closed+doors%2C+the+reality+for+some+was+quite+harrowing.
photo by Ava Strzalko
Child actors do a typically excellent job of portraying their roles on screen. However, behind closed doors, the reality for some was quite harrowing.

Warning: This story contains discussion of abuse, sexual assault and other sensitive topics.

When you watch a television show on Nickelodeon, it was an escape for most of us growing up. A fun, safe world where problems never got too bad and everything turned out happy at the end of 30 minutes. But behind the scenes, the actors who were our age had to endure painful experiences that would stick with them for life.

On March 17, the bombshell documentary series “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” released its first episode on Investigation Discovery. The limited series followed years of allegations against Nickelodeon staff, mainly focusing on producer Dan Schneider, the creator of popular Nickelodeon shows such as “iCarly,” “Drake & Josh” and “Henry Danger.” In the four-part docuseries, former child actors, such as Drake Bell from “Drake & Josh,” talk about their part in the show, detailing a toxic working culture, and, for some, even abuse. 

For some children, a goal in their life was to become a child actor. However, knowing that the experiences of others in that field were quite negative, and in some cases traumatizing, brings very little relief, and a pit in my stomach that won’t go away. 

How, as a society, are we able to let this happen? And how, how could the children — who seemed to have it all, the fame, the income, entertaining millions for the world to see— have any grievances with the task?

In the docuseries, Drake Bell, actor of the hit show “Drake & Josh” that ran from 2004 to 2007, alleges sexual abuse from his dialogue coach, Brian Peck, a traumatic experience that he states took his life down a dark path. According to Bell, Peck would have Bell stay at his house for LA auditions as Peck lived closer, and the two spent so much time together, Bell’s father felt something was off. Joe Bell, Drake Bell’s father, recalls having a bad feeling about Peck being around his son so often.

And sadly, his feeling turned out to be true. A 15-year-old Bell was asleep on a couch when the sexual assault occurred, starting a pattern of abuse that ended with Peck going to jail. He was charged with 11 counts of lewd misconduct and 16 months in jail, where after Peck was still allowed to work under Disney Channel in 2006 for the show “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” When executives learned of his sex offender status, he was fired. Were background checks not a thing for Disney Channel? Had this not been caught earlier, who knows how much more damage Peck could have caused?

Jennette McCurdy, a former child star of shows “iCarly” and its spinoff “Sam & Cat”, released a memoir titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died” in 2022, accounting for her experiences with her abusive mother and uncomfortable experiences on the set of both shows. McCurdy talks about her struggles with developing an eating disorder in order to “maintain her size to stay employed.”

The number of horror stories that have been told doesn’t end there. The docuseries has commentary from multiple actors, but one question remains on my mind: Where is the protection for child actors?

Currently, there are no federal protections for child actors in the industry. State protections exist, such as the Coogan Act (which requires a trust for child actors containing 15% of their earnings) in California, (where Nickelodeon films their shows) and time restraints apply, as young actors are more limited in the time where they can work. However, other than that, no major legislation has been passed ensuring the total protection of child actors. 

Many child actors have come forward about their experiences. Some of the stories are harrowing, some are positive. However, it’s become increasingly evident that new stories related to this topic need to cease. Child actors are humans, and they are entitled to the same decent rights as any other person. Federal protections need to be instituted to protect these young children entering the industry.

It is truly awful what has happened to actors like Drake Bell. The government needs to do its part to make sure it will never happen again.

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About the Contributors
Jolin Alcindor
Jolin Alcindor, Staff Reporter
Jolin Alcindor is a sophmore this year and this is his first year on staff. He is involved with the French Honor Society as a Social Media Manager, the Black Student Union as an event manager, and is further involved with the Debate Team and Theatre.
Ava Strzalko
Ava Strzalko, Staff Reporter
Ava Strzalko is a sophomore at Hagerty High School, and this is her first year on staff. In addition to writing, she enjoys drawing, watching movies, and listening to musicals.
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