Diary Of A Wimpy Kid actor Charlie Wright says playing Rodrick got him death threats

Charlie Wright in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Charlie Wright in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Spreading silly memes is all fun and games until you remember that—more often than not—there’s a real person being made into the butt of the joke over and over and over again. That whole “[name] won’t see your posts, but your friends will” stipulation doesn’t really apply when [name] is a brand new, teenage actor, and people are sending death threats directly to his inbox.

That’s exactly what happened to Charlie Wright, a then-18-year-old actor who received an unbelievable amount of hate for playing Rodrick Heffley in one Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movie. Yes, really. In a nine minute long TikTok video, the now-25-year-old actor detailed his experience becoming the subject of the persistent #NotMyRodrick meme, which he says sent him into a three-year depression and “kind of ruined my acting career.”

While Wright is incredibly graceful and forgiving in his video, his sense of humor doesn’t blunt how harrowing his whole experience was. In 2016, Wright auditioned to replace Devon Bostick in a reboot of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid franchise, titled The Long Haul. (Bostick had played Rodrick in the franchise’s first three films before aging out of the role.) The trouble began the minute Wright’s casting was announced. “Let’s just say that when the world found out that I was playing Rodrick, they weren’t very happy,” he explained. “I was kind of a worldwide meme… not to brag or anything.”

Unfortunately for Wright (and the country), his casting announcement happened to coincide with Donald Trump’s inauguration—a time when the hashtag #NotMyPresident was omnipresent on social media. Whether people were actually all that up in arms about Diary Of A Wimpy Kid or just wanted to lighten the mood a bit, #NotMyRodrick was born... and people ran with it. According toKnow Your Meme, Wright was compared to Edna Mode and Trump himself, with a “Not My Rodrick” petition gathering a truly unhinged 20,000 signatures. In his video, Wright says he was also compared to Lil Tay and “Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka.” (“Now knowing what Johnny Depp did, that hurts more.”)

“Now, I’ll be honest, some of the memes were funny... [but] the random death threats were a little disturbing,” he continued, showing that he still gets people in his DMs on Instagram and TikTok wishing him harm.

Still, he’s somehow found it within his heart to move on from the whole thing. “Do I have any hatred or anger towards people who participated in the #NotMyRodrick thing? No, I don’t,” he said. “I did go through a depressive episode for almost three years afterwards and it kind of ruined my acting career, but I’m still alive. I’m still here.”

Regardless, his experience is yet another essential data point in the ongoing conversation around the ethics of child stardom—especially in the age of social media—kicked off by the explosive docuseries Quiet On Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TVand other such testimony. Wright continued:

The hardest part about dealing with the hate was that I felt like I hadn’t really done anything to deserve it. Granted, the movie wasn’t great and maybe some people hated my performance, but I acted my little ass off in that movie, okay? And to have people saying that they wished I was dead just for doing my job and being in a movie was kind of crazy. You know, being a teenager at the time, and no one was really there to guide me through it or like help me, really. I just had to suck it up and deal with it. I had to kind of figure it out on my own and, you know, it took my three years to finally let go and move on.

Thankfully, he really does seem to be on the other side of it now. “If you felt bad about making fun of me, it’s okay,” he concluded. “I forgive you.”