Robin Young, WBUR radio host, sat down with former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy on Wednesday to discuss her bestselling memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” at WBUR’s CitySpace. During the event, McCurdy talked about mistreatment, eating disorders and navigating recovery.
McCurdy’s book describes the abuse she experienced from her mother at home and on the set of the show “iCarly” and her portrayal of one of the main characters, Sam.
In a 2021 investigation, Dan Schneider, the producer and creator of “iCarly” was allegedly found to have created a “hyper-sexualized,” “uncomfortable,” and “bizarre environment” on the set of the show, according to the Los Angeles Times.
McCurdy said she didn’t realize she was in a “toxic,” “chaotic, dysfunctional” environment on set because she was used to a similar situation at home with her mother.
“A lot of the behavior I was seeing seemed normal or seemed familiar to me,” McCurdy said. “I wasn’t really able to identify it as being wildly dysfunctional until much later.”
At an early age, McCurdy’s job was to keep her mother’s emotions regulated, she said.
“I felt like, ‘Oh, nobody else in my family can read mom the same way,’” McCurdy said. “I can see when she squints a certain way at dad and that means two hours from now… she’s going to chase him with a knife.”
From deciding her career to restricting her calorie intake, McCurdy’s mother had control over everything, she said.
“She wanted me to be an actress because her parents would never let her be one,” McCurdy said. “I really hated it…I would pee like 15 times before I’d go in for an audition. I’d cross my name out and reassign it, and I would just dread going in.”
McCurdy said when she got cast for the lead role of Sam in iCarly, she “felt thrilled” only because of her mother’s desires. By getting this role McCurdy was forced to take on the responsibility of being the sole financial provider for her family.
“My joy was so connected to her,” McCurdy said. “I thought, ‘Mom’s gonna be happy.’”
While McCurdy was going through puberty her mother introduced “calorie restriction” as a way to keep her body from changing.
“I would weigh myself five times a day,” McCurdy said. “It was like OCD and eating disorder comorbidity.”
McCurdy tries not to “romanticize the dark side” of her fame.
“I think until somebody is psychologically developed they should not be allowed to go anywhere near Hollywood,” McCurdy said. “You don’t have the tools, you don’t know you don’t have the tools, you don’t know how to set boundaries.”
Sonia Merbouche, an event attendee, read the book twice and “thought it was amazing.” She agreed with McCurdy.
“I feel like more people need to talk about the experiences that they have in Hollywood,” Merbouche said. “Child actors don’t deserve to have this just for our own entertainment.”
McCurdy’s mother died from a recurrence of cancer in 2013. She said her family gathered to share news in hope it would help her wake up from her coma.
“Mine was ‘Mom, I’m finally your goal weight for me,’” McCurdy said. “That was literally what I thought would wake mom up from a coma.”
In her book, McCurdy writes how the death of her mother did not “liberate” her, Young said. But now, McCurdy said her younger self “would have just screamed with joy” if she could see her now.
“If I could have shown myself where I am now,” McCurdy said. “I would not have believed it when I was little…I would have been so thrilled…I think I would have had really something to believe in.”
Northeastern graduate student and event attendee Cassie Ferri was “excited to get more insight” on McCurdy’s book.
“Her book really spoke to me in a lot of ways,” Ferri said. “I really deeply connected with it.”
Kelechi Ugocha, event attendee, said the event was “a lot to take in.”
“Especially with the sort of topics that she had discussed both in person and also in the book…it’s not overwhelming in a bad way… but at the same time, you can empathize, sympathize with what she went through,” Ugocha said.
McCurdy, now 30, said she is now in a healthy relationship and her memoir has been on the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list for 12 weeks. Her future involves directing and writing a film and novel deal.
“Quite literally, I’m glad that she died,” McCurdy said. “I’m thriving.”