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Nickelodeon’s ‘house of horrors’: Inside the abuse allegations aimed at Dan Schneider’s kids’ shows

Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon

Bryan Hearne never became a big star like Amanda Bynes, Ariana Grande or Drake Bell when he was one of many child actors in the Nickelodeon universe that dominated children’s TV in the late ’90s and early aughts.

Because of his outspoken mother, he ended up being one of the lucky ones.

Hearne, now 35, was let go in 2003 from “All That” — the kids’ sketch series that featured Bynes, Kenan Thompson and others — after two years.

A new docuseries premiering Sunday details the toxic culture behind the scenes on many of former Nickelodeon powerhouse writer/producer Dan Schneider’s shows. Getty Images
A new docuseries premiering Sunday details the toxic culture behind the scenes on many of former Nickelodeon powerhouse writer/producer Dan Schneider’s shows. Getty Images
Dan Schneider was once the uber-powerful showrunner for many of Nickelodeon’s biggest shows before the network parted company with him in 2018. Mark Davis/PictureGroup
Dan Schneider was once the uber-powerful showrunner for many of Nickelodeon’s biggest shows before the network parted company with him in 2018. Mark Davis/PictureGroup

He claims it was least partly because his mom, Tracey Brown, was too mouthy about what she saw as strange and inappropriate behavior on the set, which was run by the then-king of children’s television, Dan Schneider.

“It was a house of horrors,” Brown said on the new and harrowing four-part docu-series, “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” premiering Sunday and Monday on Investigation Discovery.

“Quiet on Set” rips the facade off writer-producer Schneider, now 58, and his enormously profitable but toxic juvenile show-business factory that churned out iconic hits such as “The Amanda Show,” “Zoey 101,” “Drake & Josh,” “Sam and Cat,” and “iCarly” — starring young actors like Jamie Lynn Spears, Jennette McCurdy, Miranda Cosgrove and Victoria Justice.

The series reveals a nightmarish world in which at least three convicted sex offenders — production assistant Jason Handy, animator Ezel Channel and dialogue coach/actor Brian Peck — were on staff with full access to children. (All were convicted after they had been hired for the shows.)

One female writer recalls on screen being told to lean over a desk and pretend she was being sodomized, among many egregious examples of the toxic workplace overseen by Schneider.

“Quiet on Set” illustrates the unsettling sexual undercurrents of the shows, with Peck playing “Pickle Boy,” a goofy “All That” character who interacted with the cast and guest stars like Ray Romano while carrying a tray of what Brown, in the series, calls “pickles that looked like penises.”

Former “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell says in “Quiet on Set” that what happened to him as a teen led him to become self-destructive. WireImage
Former “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell says in “Quiet on Set” that what happened to him as a teen led him to become self-destructive. WireImage

Also pointed out are frequent shots of young girls’ feet (viewers long speculated that Schneider had a foot fetish because of those scenes) and many scenes involving actresses having liquids and slime squirted on their face and bodies, porn-style.

Grande, who co-starred in Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” and its spinoff with McCurdy, “Sam & Cat,” is seen in one scene grasping a phallic-like potato to her face and making quasi-sexual expressions while “trying to get juice from it.”

“All That” actor Leon Frierson speaks in the docuseries about the discomfort he felt playing a superhero character called Captain Big Nose — wearing tights and underwear with a prosthetic nose and matching noses on his shoulders that, he says, looked like “penises and testicles.”

In one scene, Captain Nose lets out a giant sneeze, spewing goo on the face of a young actress.

Amanda Bynes, now 37, was the kid queen of “Nickelodeon,” starring in the “Amanda Show” from 1999 to 2002, before she spiraled downward as an adult. ©Nickelodeon Network/Courtesy Everett Collection
Amanda Bynes, now 37, was the kid queen of “Nickelodeon,” starring in the “Amanda Show” from 1999 to 2002, before she spiraled downward as an adult. ©Nickelodeon Network/Courtesy Everett Collection
Bynes has battled substance abuse, been put in a psychiatric hold and also placed in a conservatorship as a result of her mental health issues in recent years. SplashNews.com
Bynes has battled substance abuse, been put in a psychiatric hold and also placed in a conservatorship as a result of her mental health issues in recent years. SplashNews.com

“The joke in that sketch is effectively a c– shot joke. It’s a c– shot joke for children,” culture writer Schaachi Koul says in the first episode.

“Quiet on Set” includes interviews with former Nickelodeon actors including Hearne, Raquel Lee Bolleau from “The Amanda Show”; Katrina Johnson, Giovonnie Samuels and Kyle Sullivan from “All That”; and Alexis Nikolas from “Zoey 101.”

Two writers and a director also describe alleged bullying behavior on the show sets, much of it by Schneider.

High-profile Nickelodeon vets like Bynes, Jamie Lynn Spears of “Zoey 101” and McCurdy are mentioned and seen in clips, but did not participate in the docu-series..

Schneider was let go after two ViacomCBS investigations, in 2017 and 2018, that found he had committed no sexual misconduct but had been verbally abusive on set.

Dan Schneider and “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell at a party in 2008. WireImage
Dan Schneider and “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell at a party in 2008. WireImage
“Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids’ TV” premieres on ID at 9 p.m. Sunday. courtesy of Quiet On Set
“Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids’ TV” premieres on ID at 9 p.m. Sunday. courtesy of Quiet On Set

In her bestselling 2022 memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” McCurdy refers to someone she calls “The Creator” — calling the person scary and temperamental and claiming he urged her to drink alcohol as a teen starring in “iCarly.”

“The Creator” was widely speculated to be Schneider.

Schneider has long denied any wrongdoing and issued statements to “Quiet of Set” filmmakers Mary Robertson and Emma Schwartz in his defense. (The pair were inspired to make the docu-series after reading a 2020 Business Insider investigation into Schneider and Nickelodeon.)

“Everything that happened on the shows I ran was scrutinized by dozens of involved adults,” Schneider said in the statement. “A standards and practices group read and ultimately approved every script, and programming executives reviewed and approved all episodes.”

Ariana Grande does not speak out in “Quiet on Set” but clips of her as Cat Valentine in “Victorious” that some felt were inappropriate are included in the docuseries.,
Ariana Grande does not speak out in “Quiet on Set” but clips of her as Cat Valentine in “Victorious” that some felt were inappropriate are included in the docuseries.,

One of the series’ most harrowing revelations involves how Peck, now 62, sexually assaulted “Drake and Josh” actor Drake Bell, now 37, when the star was a teen.

“I was just trapped. I had no way out,” Bell says in the series, speaking out for the first time and explaining that the abuse became “extensive” and “pretty brutal.”

“Why don’t you think of the worst stuff that someone could do to somebody as a sexual assault, and then I’ll answer your question,” he says. “I don’t know how else to put it.”

Bell also explains how Peck drove a wedge between him and his father, who had served as his manager and constant companion since the actor was 5 —convincing Bell to fire his dad so Peck could take over many of his duties.

Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress and Miranda Cosgrove of “iCarly” were among Nickelodeon’s biggest stars. ©Nickelodeon Network/Courtesy Everett Collection
Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress and Miranda Cosgrove of “iCarly” were among Nickelodeon’s biggest stars. ©Nickelodeon Network/Courtesy Everett Collection

Like Jason Handy — a production assistant on both the “Amanda Show” and “All That” who sent inappropriate pics to a 9-year-old actress and kept plastic baggies of young girls’ underwear, according to the docu-series — Peck was beloved by the kid stars and their parents on the Nickelodeon sets.

“Everyone trusted Brian,” said Kyle Sullivan, who was a cast member on “The Amanda Show” and “All That.”

The abuse started one day at Peck’s home.

“I was sleeping on the couch where I would usually sleep. I woke up to him — I opened my eyes, I woke up and he was sexually assaulting me,” Bell said. “I froze and was in complete shock and had no idea what to do or how to react, and I have no idea how to get out of this situation,” Bell says.

Jason Handy (from left), Brian Peck and Ezel Channel worked on Nickelodeon shows and were all later convicted on charges involving children and abuse. ID
Jason Handy (from left), Brian Peck and Ezel Channel worked on Nickelodeon shows and were all later convicted on charges involving children and abuse. ID
Brian Peck. a Nickelodeon dialogue coach convicted of sexually assaulting Drake Bell, also played “Pickle Boy” on “All That.” Investigation Discovery
Brian Peck. a Nickelodeon dialogue coach convicted of sexually assaulting Drake Bell, also played “Pickle Boy” on “All That.” Investigation Discovery

The actor was 15 at the time.

Peck was “so apologetic”, Bell said, and promised it would not happen again.

Court documents indicated that Peck, who was pen pals with serial killer John Wayne Gacy and kept some of Gacy’s letters in his nightstand, sexually penetrated Drake with a foreign object, among other assaults.

In 2003, Peck was arrested on 11 charges, including sodomy, a lewd act against a child and oral copulation of a person under 16, and oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance.

Peck was ordered to serve 16 months in state prison and register as a sex offender, but soon sailed right back into Hollywood — nabbing a job on the Disney Channel kid show “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” in 2006 and continuing a career in the entertainment industry.

Jamie Lynn Spears was part of the Nickelodeon stable, starring in “Zoey 101.” ©Disney Channel/Courtesy Everett Collection
Jamie Lynn Spears was part of the Nickelodeon stable, starring in “Zoey 101.” ©Disney Channel/Courtesy Everett Collection

Peck is a longtime friend of controversial film director Bryan Singer, who was once accused of assaulting four minors, and had an uncredited cameo in Singer’s first “X-Men” film.

He’s pals with Charlie Sheen as well, who hired Peck to work on his sitcom “Anger Management” from 2012 to 2014.

Though former child star Bryan Hearne says in “Quiet on Set” that he was devastated at being let go from “All That,” he hasn’t suffered the same fates as one-time teen superstars Bynes and Bell, both now 37.

In 2010, Bynes tweeted that she was retiring from acting and went rapidly downhill not long after.

After increasingly erratic behavior that included a DUI and accusations that her father had abused her, Bynes was placed in a conservatorship that continued until 2020.

A year ago she was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold after flagging down a bystander for help and calling 911 following a psychotic episode in Los Angeles.

As an adult, Bell has also shown concerning behavior, including an arrest for a DUI.

He pleaded guilty to charges including the attempted endangering [of] children and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles in 2021, following allegations made by a teenage fan who met him at a concert in 2017.

Bell was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service, which he was permitted to complete in California.

Actor Bryan Hearne, who was let go from “All That” in 2003, said he was overlooked as one of the few black actors in the Nickelodeon universe. Investigation Discovery
Actor Bryan Hearne, who was let go from “All That” in 2003, said he was overlooked as one of the few black actors in the Nickelodeon universe. Investigation Discovery

He says in “Quiet on Set” that what happened to him as a teen led him to become self-destructive.

Nickelodeon initially reacted to “Quiet on Set” by saying it “cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct,”

Once the extent of Bell’s claims came out, Nickelodeon released another statement, saying “Now that Drake Bell has disclosed his identity as the plaintiff in the 2004 case, we are dismayed and saddened to learn of the trauma he has endured, and we commend and support the strength required to come forward.”

Confusingly, a spokesperson for Schneider disavowed a connection with either “The Amanda Show” or “All That,” saying he didn’t create them or produce them nor did he hire Peck of Handy.

But Schneider is listed in numerous places as the creator “The Amanda Show” and he was widely known as discovering Bynes as a young child at LA’s Laugh Factory and guiding her to stardom.

Bryan Hearne (right) and “All That” co-star Giovonnie Samuels from their days on the show. ABC/ Investigation Discovery
Bryan Hearne (right) and “All That” co-star Giovonnie Samuels from their days on the show. ABC/ Investigation Discovery

Says Hearne in the docu-series: “Children are just a dollar sign when they show up on set.”

Actress Giovannie Samuels, who co-starred with Bell on “All That,” encourages parents to be overly protective of kid stars on sets.

“Parents, be present … don’t get caught up in the glitter [of Hollywood],” she told The Post.

Additional reporting by Asia Grace