‘Quiet On Set’ Breaks Silence on Nickelodeon’s Toxic Culture Under Dan Schneider

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In 2018, Nickelodeon cut ties with Dan Schneider, one of their most successful and prolific show creators, in the wake of staff allegations of abusive behavior. Schneider had been responsible for some of the network’s biggest hits, including iCarly, Drake & Josh, Victorious, Kenan & Kel, Henry Danger, and The Amanda Show starring Amanda Bynes. At the time, questions loomed about what exactly Schneider might’ve done to earn such an abrupt exit after being crowned the first (and last) winner of its Lifetime Achievement Award just four years before. Eventually, some details about his alleged toxicity on show sets began to drop in dribs and drabs but Investigation Discovery‘s new docuseries, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, is now delving deeper into what allegedly happened.

The three-part series debuted with its first episode on Sunday, March 17, and featured first-person accounts from cast members, writers, and other staffers who’d worked with Schneider during his time as a Nick producer. Each had a different story to share about what they heard and saw, but they all contended that Schneider’s behavior was disturbing but he was simply too powerful for anyone to speak up about it at the time.

Dan Schneider in 2014 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The Amanda Show was Schneider’s inaugural show creation for the children’s network after he helped write and produce All That — a sketch comedy for kids — and two of his first season writers, both women, revealed in the docuseries that they were personally victimized by his behavior in multiple ways.

For starters, they allege they were forced to share a salary while other male writers were not (in a statement to the network, Schneider denied having control over salaries). Then, they recalled being subjected to moments of targeted humiliation.

“In the beginning, I would see an instant message pop up, Dan would send a message for you to say out loud, ‘Scream hammers.’ And you scream it. And then it would be more degrading, like, ‘I’m an idiot’ or ‘slut.’ And if you didn’t, he would send you the message again, caps, exclamation points, he would scream out, ‘Say it,’ until you did,” recalled Jenny Kilgen, who would later initiate a gender discrimination complaint against Schneider’s company that later settled.

The incident that made Kilgen quit the show and seek legal damages occurred in the writers’ room for Season 2 when she says she was summoned into a room where all of the male writers were gathered with Schneider, and he asked her if she’d been a phone sex worker before. However, the incident she considered to be “the worst” happened to her fellow writer Christy Stratton.

“In the writers room… Christy was talking about high school — which is relevant because we’re writing for a young girl — and Dan just said, ‘You know what would be funny? If you leaned over the table and acted like you were being sodomized and told that story about high school,’” Kilgen recalled, adding that after she declined he pressured her to comply. “So she just leaned over the table and did what he asked her to do.”

Of the incident, Stratton said, “Thinking about it now, it’s like oh boy, I just think about that poor girl and what she had to go through… I would not do that today, but I did it then.” Stratton was later fired after taking time off of work for a personal event and wrote a letter in support of Kilgen’s action against Schneider.

Other testimonials in the premiere episode include those of then-child actors Leon Frierson and Katrina Johnson, who worked with Schneider on All That. Both shared individual experiences of degradation by the writer-producer.

Katrina Johnson on Quiet on Set: The Dark History of Kids TV

“What really made me feel the most uncomfortable were the leotards. I was just a growing boy trying to fit into my body, and it was out there for everyone to look at and judge me. I just felt very exposed,” Frierson remembered. “So one week, we get a script, there’s a new character for me on All That named Nose Boy. Naturally, I’m in a superhero costume which is just tights and underwear. What was different about this, they gave me a prosthetic nose, an enlarged nose, and they put this same nose on the costume. You can’t help but notice that it looks like penis and testicles on my shoulders.”

Meanwhile, Johnson recalled being told she’d gained too much weight that she “can’t be the fat one.” Later, when she went through puberty, she was edged out of the show and ultimately replaced by then-newcomer Bynes, who’d become his leading star.

Bynes didn’t appear in the docuseries, but her experiences with Schneider also loomed large in the special, as editor Karen Finley Thompson recalled seeing the child actress often giving him massages or hugs. As the series continues with its second and third episodes on March 18 and 22 respectively, Quiet on Set will explore even more of Schneider’s history and the allegations against him.

In a statement provided on the docuseries, Nickelodeon said, “Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct. Our highest priorities are the well-being and best interests not just of our employees, casts and crew, but of all children, and we have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience.”

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, Episode 2, Monday, March 18, 9/8c, ID



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