- Leire Ventas
- BBC News World
Jennette McCurdy, known for playing Sam Puckett in the Nickelodeon children’s series Icarlyremembers the fit of laughter he had on the day of his mother’s funeral.
It was September 2013, and Debra McCurdy, the actress’ mother, had just died of cancer first diagnosed when the artist was 2 years old.
McCurdy, now 30, sat with his brothers, Marcus, Dustin and Scottie, watching as porters tried to carry the coffin into the room where the body would be laid to rest.
“How much do you want to bet that they’ll end up falling, that our mother’s body will roll over and get up and start yelling at us?” one of his brothers said, causing everyone to burst out laughing.
She recalled the episode in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, one of many she did to promote her memoir, which was released on August 9 in the United States by Simon & Schuster and is already a best seller.
Her comments to the magazine are as provocative as the book’s title — I’m Glad My Mom Died (“I’m Glad My Mom Is Dead”), and its cover, in which the former child prodigy poses with a funeral urn.
But the phrases as painful as they are hilarious are not restricted to the cover. Inside, McCurdy peppers dramatic episodes of his childhood and adolescence with humor, from his rocky relationship with a mother who “physically and emotionally abused her,” to his struggle with alcohol and mental illness, to “improper treatment.” which he allegedly received from a Nickelodeon writer.
He has already addressed these subjects, in some way, in a show that carried the same title and which he presented in theaters in New York and Los Angeles in 2021, and in his podcast. Empty Inside (“Empty Inside”).
After the flashes, the awards, the headlines and the magazine covers, the first decades of the actress, who was also a singer – now retired from acting and focused on her facet of screenwriter and writer – were not easy.
“There was this part of my life that was so corny, so brilliant and perfect, so fake,” he told The Washington Post. “And then there was the painful part, real and raw, the part that went completely unnoticed.”
McCurdy grew up in a relatively simple Mormon family in Orange County, Southern California.
Her father, Mark, worked two jobs and wasn’t exactly, as she describes it, “someone who is very attached to her emotions.” After Debra’s death, he discovered that he was not her biological father.
Her mother, who homeschooled her along with her three older brothers, projected her frustrated aspirations to become an actress onto McCurdy and placed her in the show business at 6 years old.
“Do you want to be Mommy’s little actress?” Debra asked one day, according to her book.
Debra dictated what her daughter should and should not like and made all the decisions for her until she was a teenager, according to her memoir and statements made in press interviews.
She showered with her daughter until she was 16, washed her hair, shaved her legs and had routine vaginal and breast exams to “make sure she didn’t have lumps” that could be cancer.
“She made an effort to keep our relationship private. Now, I look at it as something that has conditioned me (life), but I was like, ‘Oh, Mom and I have such a special relationship,'” McCurdy told The Washington Post.
“It was like when you have a best friend and you share all these secrets. You feel like it’s a form of intimacy. That’s what my mother did to me. It wasn’t friendship. It was abuse.”
After years of acting in commercials and various TV shows such as Malcolm in the Middle (2003-2005), Zoey 101 and Law & Order: SVU (both 2005), her big break came when she was cast as Sam Puckett in Icarly.
He played his role for six seasons (2007-2012), which earned him, among other awards, four Kids Choice Awards, (in which the channel itself awards the most voted by the public.)
In the years in which the series was filmed, the abuse she suffered from her mother would be added, according to her account, by another: that of a man she prefers not to identify and simply refers to as “the creator”.
“I decided to call him that because I think it’s fun and because it suits the character,” he explained to Vanity Fair.
In her memoirs, she recounts how he offered her alcohol when she was a minor and gave her a back rub that she felt was inappropriate.
In her memoirs, she claims that an agent told her that Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 for not making public her experience during the show and with “the creator” in particular — “cash in exchange of silence”, as she describes it. But she claims that she refused to accept it.
Nickelodeon was approached for comment, but there was no response.
In those behind-the-scenes years, the now-former actress suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety about her celebrity status, and rampant anorexia, reinforced by her mother’s “caloric restriction” diet.
In his book, McCurdy also talks about the strained relationship he had in those years with singer Ariana Grande, with whom he worked on Sam & Cat. In the new series, McCurdy would continue his role as Sam from iCarly, and Ariana Grande would play Cat, a character he played in another series, victorious.
It lasted one season, in 2013, and was “humiliating,” McCurdy describes, because while Grande was allowed to pursue her pop star career, she was forced to turn down film roles.
She also became interested in music, releasing her first single, titled So Close (“So Close”) in 2009, followed by the EPs Not That Far Away (“Not Too Far”) and Jennette McCurdyin 2010 and 2012 respectively, and a self-titled album in 2012.
In 2017, she gave up acting and decided to focus on her career as a screenwriter and director. Today, with the publication of her memoirs, she says she feels at peace.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, when asked what she would say to herself as a younger person or what she would like to hear in those times, she said:
“I would have said to myself, ‘You’re going to be fine, girl. You’ll be able to fulfill your dream of writing and directing. Keep working hard and you’ll get there.’ My life is better now than ever.”
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