Both Ariana Grande and Jennette McCurdy got their big breaks playing supporting characters on Nickelodeon TV shows — Victorious and iCarly, respectively. But when the two came together as co-stars of a third show — Sam & Cat — on the kids’ network, McCurdy claims she was treated much less fairly than her castmate, who would go on to become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
Days away from the Tuesday (Aug. 9) release of McCurdy’s memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died, The New York Times interviewed the 30-year-old actress and published a snippet from the book. In the passage, she alleges that Nickelodeon encouraged Grande to pursue career ventures outside of the show, but prevented her from doing the same.
“What finally undid me was when Ariana came whistle-toning in with excitement because she had spent the previous evening playing charades at Tom Hanks’ house,” McCurdy wrote in the memoir, according to NYTis excerpted “That was the moment I broke.”
Sam & Cat only aired for one 35-episode season before being canceled in 2014. By that point, Grande had already released her debut album Yours trulyfrom which two singles (“The Way” feat. Mac Miller and “Baby I”) charted in the Billboard Hot 100’s top 40.
“I want to thank Nickelodeon for making a childhood dream of mine come true,” the “Positions” singer tweeted later Sam & Cat’s cancellation was announced. “For being a family to me, for being so accommodating and supportive of my multitasking with my music career, and for of course introducing me to many of my fans however many years ago.”
Right before the show ended, it was speculated that Grande and McCurdy were at odds supposedly due to the former’s salary being higher than the latter’s. The two-time Grammy winner took to Twitter in 2014 to clear the air. “The rumors circulating about our contracts and our salary not being equal are absolutely ridiculous and false,” she wrote at the time, although the tweet has since been deleted. “I don’t know who’s putting these idiotic quotes out there but I thought I’d straighten it out and try to end this nonsense.”
Even though Grande seemed to deny any conflict with McCurdy in her tweets, McCurdy appeared to take some shots at her former costar later that year via her web series What’s Next for Sarah? The show featured a character named Gloriana, who wears a high ponytail similar to Grande’s signature style, claims to be vegan (like Grande) while carrying a leather bag, and brags about how perfect her life and music career are.
Years later, McCurdy opened up on her Empty Inside podcast about what she felt it was like working with Grande during the pop star’s sudden rise to international fame. “She would have to miss work because she was pulled in all directions,” the Swindle actress said. “She’s performing at the Grammys and I’m, like, acting on this show with a box because they decided for that week her character had to be trapped in a box so she can go perform at the Grammys.”
Since her Nickelodeon days, McCurdy has walked away from acting and notably declined to take part in the 2021 Paramount+ reboot of iCarly. In I’m Glad My Mom Diedshe details how her career, life and even physical appearance were controlled by her mother Debra, who passed away from cancer in 2013.
According to the NYT, McCurdy also writes about what she feels are the indignities of working for Nickelodeon, whom she alleges offered her $300,000 not to talk about what working for the network was like — which she says she declined. She also alleges how a supervising figure she calls “The Creator” encouraged her to drink alcohol, although she was only a teenager on the show.
Nickelodeon declined to comment for the NYT stories; Billboard has also reached out for comment.
“My whole childhood and adolescence were very exploited,” she told them Times. “It still gives my nervous system a reaction to say it. There were cases where people had the best intentions and maybe didn’t know what they were doing. And also cases where they did — they knew exactly what they were doing.”