OPINION | ‘Quiet on Set’ revealed the abusive reality of childhood acting

For some actors, gaining recognition and respect on a global scale may take a lifetime, but for others, success finds them at an early age. The nation is stirring after the chilling documentary, “Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” aired on countless platforms exposing the secrets of Hollywood that tie in favored child actors. Cora Mark | Sun News Daily

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Content warning: Topics discussed in this article contain sexual and emotional assault.

“Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” documented the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of production sets from hit childhood shows like “The Amanda Show” to “Drake and Josh” and many more.

After watching “Quiet on Set,” every thought I had about childhood television changed.

While I was growing up enjoying my childhood, these childhood stars were paying an unbearable and horrific price that has affected the Hollywood scene forever. In an adult-driven industry, I am appalled to see how children are treated on and off set.

I hate that shows geared toward children couldn’t be as wholesome and fun as the show was intended to be for everyone else. Because abusers try to get wherever they can to do whatever they can to get to children, the kid’s television and acting industry is unfortunately the perfect place to do it.

Former child actors, costume designers, staff writers and more alleged abuse and toxic behaviors. Racism, workplace bullying and sexual innuendo are all mentioned in the documentary. This is a documentary not for the faint of heart.

Episode after episode in this four-part series brought so much information that hadn’t been released before.

Drake Bell, formally known for his role in “Drake and Josh,” has come out to have been sexually assaulted by Brian Peck. Peck, at the time, was a dialogue coach for shows like “All That” and “The Amanda Show.” In previous years, it was unknown who Peck abused, but we now know from the documentary it was Bell.

Bell describes the abuse as, “Think of the worst thing someone could do to someone as a sexual assault, and that’ll answer your question.” Peck was convicted of two counts and sentenced to serve 16 months in prison. He’s registered as a sex offender.

Right out of prison, Peck then worked for Disney Channel’s “Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” Finding out this information did not sit well with me. The fact that Disney hired a registered sex offender for a child set should have been illegal.

It wasn’t just childhood stars getting the abuse, even though the documentary mainly focuses on them. Everyone behind the scenes was affected by sleazy managers and executives from Nickelodeon including Dan Schneider.

Schneider, one of the main abusers mentioned, was at one point the backbone of Nickelodeon. Schneider and his company, Schneider’s Bakery, are responsible for hit TV shows like, “iCarly,” “Victorious” and “Henry Danger.” But his sexual jokes on and off screen, constant massages on set and toxic behavior allowed for predators and illegal activity to happen on set.

Even though Schneider has come out with statements trying to prove the documentary is misleading, there is so much more information to prove how horrible of a person he is. Schneider should be blamed for every event that occurred on his television shows. He, along with the executives of Nickelodeon, should see repercussions from the events that happened under their leadership.

At the end of the day, Schneider allowed and knew about the abuse that was happening. His multiple investigations and eventual leave from Nickelodeon in 2018 should speak to the kind of man he is. The fact that unfair wages, sexual acts and overall abuse happened for over 20 years on this network should be punishable in multiple ways.

Parents, writers and cameramen were all manipulated to not know what was happening on set. There were multiple times mentioned in the documentary when showrunners and producers had no idea how extreme the abuse was on set, even years later.

This documentary needs to be the push to change child acting. This hasn’t just happened in Nickelodeon. It has happened all throughout this industry. Drew Barrymore and Shirley Temple are both examples of young stars who were abused in the film industry. Alyson Stoner, Drake Bell, Bryan Hearne and Giovonnie Samuels are not the only ones who have spoken up about their experience in this industry in recent years.

They are brave and pioneering individuals who know they have a strong enough voice to promote change. If the #MeToo movement changed the film industry for women, we need to do the same for children.  

Kids are not entitled to work. There are child labor laws for a reason, and the acting industry is the perfect loophole. Children deserve to be shielded from any harm, and it’s the industry’s responsibility to ensure that the loopholes that allow for abuse are closed. The wholesome and fun nature of children’s programming must be untainted.

As we continue to push for progress and accountability, let’s remember that children are not commodities but individuals deserving of protection and respect.

Sexual assault hotline: 1-800-656-4673