Nickelodeon star Danny Tamberelli on how his growing up both on set and off has shaped his parenting

Danny Tamberelli and his wife and daughters
Courtesy of the Tamberelli family
  • Danny Tamberelli starred in "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" and "All That," among others.

  • More recently, he co-authored two romance novels with his wife, Kate.

  • He says his parents were always there, and set a great example of how he wants to raise his kids.

Recently Danny Tamberelli was dropping his 4-year-old son Alfie off at preschool when one of the teachers pulled him aside. She'd heard he was the voice of Arnold on "The Magic School Bus" series, which Alfie's preschool class would soon be watching.

"We'll see what happens with that," Tamberelli told Business Insider, noting that so far Alfie has had little interest in watching shows that feature his dad, although he'll occasionally watch "The Mighty Ducks," the 1992 film that Tamberelli starred in.

Although Alfie would rather watch PBS Kids or YouTube, his life has already been impacted by his dad's career in small ways. Tamberelli, 42, says he's occasionally stopped for photos while out with Alfie or his 1-year-old daughter, Penelope. Last year, Alfie came to 90s Con and was thoroughly confused about why people stood in line to take a picture with his dad.

"He was like, 'I don't even like taking pictures with you,'" said Tamberelli. Yet Tamberelli's mom had taught him to always engage with fans, asking them about themselves and forming a genuine connection.

Danny Tamberelli as a kid
Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli

"I want to teach my children about fame through communication," Tamberelli said. "I care when someone cares. There's a level of empathy that goes along with it."

He wants his kids to know "how to take something you're doing and bring people in."

Tamberelli's mom was always on set with him

Most recently, Tamberelli has done that by indulging in the nostalgia that his fellow 90s kids love so much. "The Road Trip Rewind," available May 21, is a romance Tamberelli cowrote with his wife, Kate. The duo dedicated every naptime for years to writing the book and its predecessor, "The First Date Prophecy," which draws on their love story.

Danny Tamberelli and his wife Kate posing with a Jetta
Courtesy of Peter Detweiler

On the tough days, they wondered, "Are we wasting a year of nap times, which any parent knows is precious?" Kate said.

The books are set in the late 90s, the same time as "Quiet on Set," a documentary series that details abuses tied to children's television shows in the 1990s and 2000s. Tamberelli declined to comment on the film but said his mother was always a protective force on set. When he was filming "The Mighty Ducks," one of the producers even commented on how fierce she was.

"She was there to make sure everything was running smoothly," Tamberelli said. "I would voice any issues to her; she would voice them to production."

His mom was the "kind of parent that could be there all the time but also gave me a lot of space to find myself and be creative," he said.

"I'll hope I can be like that," he added. "Just being present and aware of your child's life is really important, coming from an industry where sometimes that doesn't always happen."

Tamberelli worked at a bagel shop when he wasn't on TV

Despite working on "All That" through his teens, Tamberelli's dad made him get a more normal job — working at a bagel shop, where he stayed throughout high school and college. Sometimes, "All That" would be on the TV while he was working.

"At the time, I was feeling a little weird about doing that, but in hindsight, it did ground me," he said.

His dad wanted him to understand the value of a dollar, and also have job skills that he might need if his Hollywood career didn't pan out. As an actor who has auditioned for "tens of thousands" of roles and only secured a fraction of them, Tamberelli understood the value of that.

"I didn't have to worry about other things child actors do when they put all their eggs in one basket," he said. "That can be traumatic and problematic" if it doesn't work out. "I'm very fortunate and lucky, that's not the case."

Growing up, acting shaped Tamberelli's personality. The snarky character of Little Pete from "got into my brain," he said, while the show molded his tastes in music and cinematography.

Transitioning from that character to the sketch comedy on "All That" was a bit jarring.

"Being a teenager, I was confused," Tamberelli said. "That would have happened to anyone, but mine was a little more public."

The pandemic project

The books that the Tamberellis have co-authored draw on Danny's experience as a child star.

Working through all those nap times brought the couple even closer, said Kate, a literary agent who has previously written young adult fiction on her own.

Danny Tamberelli and his wife
Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli

"It's a bizarre experience to share your headspace and meld your brains together," she said. I couldn't have done it with anyone but Danny."

Oftentimes, Kate would help Danny rewrite the romance scenes.

"It was funny to see the way Danny describes kissing," she said. "It's like getting a window into his head."

While Kate was dedicated, making sure that Danny even wrote on holidays, the resulting books have been well worth it, he said.

"I couldn't imagine a more fun creative project to have done together," he said. "It's a pandemic project that made good — two times over."

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