Dan Schneider Addresses Nickelodeon Exit, Denies Acting Inappropriately: My Comedy 'Was Innocent'
Dan Schneider has given his first major interview since his abrupt exit from Nickelodeon in 2018.
The TV producer — who created a number of Nickelodeon hits, from The Amanda Show to Drake & Josh and iCarly — addressed the controversy that surrounded his departure from the kids network in an interview with The New York Times published this week.
"I took a break to take care of a lot of stuff that I'd let go by the wayside for decades," said Schneider, who told the newspaper he has lost 100 lbs. "Whatever I do next, I want it to outdo what I've done in the past."
In March 2018, Nickelodeon cut ties with Schneider, 55, amid reports alleging he engaged in abusive behavior towards staff members on set, as well as speculation about tweets he posted showing the feet of some of the young actresses he worked with, Deadline reported at the time.
Some social media users additionally compiled scenes from his shows, many featuring the stars' bare feet, claiming the clips as evidence of an inappropriate foot fetish on Schneider's part.
Schneider described such allegations as "ridiculous" and said kids find feet "goofy and funny."
"The comedy was totally innocent," he said.
Before the longtime children's TV hitmaker Dan Schneider abruptly left Nickelodeon in 2018, an investigation by ViacomCBS found that he could be verbally abusive to people he worked with. Now he’s eyeing a return to television.https://t.co/QLS1OJEQLm
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 1, 2021
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Prior to the announcement of his Nickelodeon departure, ViacomCBS investigated Schneider and interviewed dozens of employees, the Times reports, citing sources with knowledge of the review who spoke on the condition of anonymity. According to the Times, the review found no evidence of sexual misconduct, but found that many people Schneider worked with viewed him as verbally abusive.
A rep for ViacomCBS had no comment when reached by PEOPLE. Schneider declined to comment on the investigation to the Times, but said he never acted inappropriately with people with whom he worked.
"I couldn't, and I wouldn't have the long-term friendships and continued loyalty from so many reputable people if I'd mistreated my actors of any age, especially minors," he said, adding that if people saw him as "difficult," it was because he has "high standards" for his work.
Arthur Gradstein, who worked as a writer and producer with Schneider on four shows, told the Times that he could be difficult to work with.
"I will always be grateful to Dan for taking a chance on me as a rash young writer fresh out of college, and for all I learned over the next six years," he said. "Much of my experience with him was a blast: He could be generous and validating, and it was exciting to be around his talent and passion for creating entertainment."
"But he was also unreasonably demanding, controlling, belittling and vindictive," Gradstein added, "with a wilful disregard for boundaries or workplace appropriateness."
Schneider told the Times he's changed since he left Nickelodeon. "Over the years, I've grown and matured as a producer and leader," he said. "I'm sure I'm better and more gentle at communicating today."
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Araya Diaz/Getty Images for Nickelodeon Dan Schneider on the set of Sam & Cat
Sources additionally alleged to the Times that the producer interacted with young fans online and texted the child actors on his shows outside of work hours. The report claimed that Victoria Justice, who starred in Victorious, had a headshot of a young Schneider alongside other photos of young men in her locker on set.
"I never interacted with actors in any way, texting or otherwise, that should make anyone uncomfortable," Schneider said, adding that he only interacted with fans online "in very public ways" that were transparent to his colleagues, and that the locker decoration was probably placed there by someone in the art department.
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Addressing the recent iCarly revival, which he is not a part of, Schneider said he wishes everyone involved "the best."
Going forward, he said he has plans to return to TV, having written and sold an "ambitious and very different" pilot aimed at "more of an adult audience."
"I don't want to be an old man some day," he said, "and look it up and see some episode of one of the shows I did and go, 'ugh,' and be disappointed in myself."