Jennette McCurdy on Her “Hard Feelings” Podcast, Authenticity, and Why She Never Reads Reviews

Brian Kimskey

“I’m thinking about shame,” Jennette McCurdy says in the opening of her podcast, Hard Feelings. The actor, who's recently been lauded for her New York Times best-selling book I’m Glad My Mom Died, a memoir about grief, familial relationships, and growing up, starts with a topic she’s talked about plenty in the last year. What follows is 21 minutes that feel like listening to a voice memo your friend sent to you about her day.

The podcast is almost alarmingly intimate, as though McCurdy is speaking directly to you and not her millions of listeners. (Just a week after Hard Feelings debuted on October 24, a Lemonada Media original, it is outperforming juggernauts like The Daily and Crime Junkie on the iTunes podcasts chart.) The episode titles are stark and written without capital letters: shame is first, followed by bad mood (same), and pressure. Many of the clips, McCurdy tells Teen Vogue in a phone interview, were recorded on her iPhone whenever she felt inspired. She wanted the episodes to be “bite-sized” and “like a phone conversation with your best friend at midnight.”

Even the ad breaks feel distinctly on-brand. “Buckle up, kids,” McCurdy says, and the irony seeps through. “You’re about to hear my thoughts on laundry detergent. Are you ready? I do not think you’re ready.”

The podcast is funny and irreverent and personal — and it is McCurdy’s first public project since her memoir was published in August 2022. Teen Vogue catches up with her to talk about whether or not she reads reviews, her creative bubble, and what she hopes is next.

Teen Vogue: How would you explain the concept of the podcast to someone? The format is so different than the kind we’re used to.

Jennette McCurdy: It's bite-sized in length, which was really important to me. I feel like podcasts generally are so long that it's really intimidating and scares me off before I even start it. Honestly, [my episodes] are very in the moment. It wouldn't feel as organic if I were talking about something in retrospect. So the fact that it's very timely and something I'm really experiencing at the moment, I hope helps it to emotionally connect with the listener.

TV: I was listening and cracking up at the way you read ads in this totally deadpan way. Are you doing that on purpose or does it just come out like that?

JM: Authenticity, which I feel like is such an overused word … these days that it's almost gone trite, so I'm scared of using it. But I mean it sincerely: Authenticity is like my North Star. It's so important to me that whatever I'm talking about, whether it be the subject matter in the episode or a story I'm telling or an ad, it has to be coming from an authentic place.

I think there are a lot of vocal switches that happen in really any form of podcasting or even news. Why did news anchors have to all have that same [voice]? [Imitating a news anchor's voice:] “And then she died.” I don’t like it.

TV: When I read your book, I was like, Okay, so this is her life’s work. She’s a writer. But I wonder, after the book came out, was there ever a part of you that wanted to go back into your little bubble and just disappear a bit? Were you ever like, “Okay, that’s it. I’m good for now”?

JM: Thank you so much. That means so much to me.

I've actually been thinking about that a lot recently. I've been working on a novel, and I've very much been retreating to that same bubble to write the novel. I think it's such an important lifestyle in order for me to write.

Then I only popped out of the bubble to promote the podcast. I can't speak for other creatives, but for me, it's really conducive to creativity to just clear out all external feedback, all external stimulus, and just be able to focus on the idea and — as corny as it sounds — to listen to it.

TV: Are you reading reviews of the podcast?

JM: No, I saw a couple on the first day, and then I was like, I think this is too good or too bad for my self-esteem, so I need to not do this.

TV: What do you mean, “too good or too bad”?

JM: Well, it's just people who are either very positive or very negative tend to be the type of people who are drawn to reviewing anything online. Have you ever written a review for something online?

TV: No, never.

JM: Never in a million years would I write a review for anything online. To me, I'm thinking, Okay, if somebody's writing a review, they either love it or hate it. I'm not sure if I need that in my life or if that helps the creative at all. I don't think that it does.

TV: What are you hoping is next for you?

JM: I do a year review at the end of the year, and then I think, What do I want? What do I want my upcoming year to look like? You beat me by a couple of weeks — in eight weeks, I'd really be thinking about this. I hope to continue working on projects that are really fulfilling to me and that I'm deeply emotionally connected to. I think that's number one for me.

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue