On June 5th, 2015, the Spring/Summer issue of a Canadian magagine called Next Big Thing Magazine was released featuring Jennette McCurdy on the cover. Along with being on the cover, Jennette McCurdy was interviewed about her new show Between and discussed about her transition from her previous role on the shows iCarly/Sam & Cat.
My initial reaction when I got a call that I would be speaking with Jennette for a cover story for the upcoming issue, was she must have done tons and tons of several interviews, what do I ask her? How do I shift completely away from what has already been asked and try to create a new phase? As I’m being connected with Jennette, suddenly there’s this calm, and eloquent lady who says ‘Hello’, and there I had it – remove the veil and allow Jennette show what it is to have a thick skin and live completely normal even though she’s not your regular young adult. My talk with her elaborates on everything from her family, to her career, and plans for her future. It was only when we began discussing her plans of becoming a writer and becoming an executive producer then a calm and collected demeanor began to shift into excitement. Here is someone who has acted almost her entire life; someone who has had a career before she could even drive a car and has been working longer than most 22 year old.
As a child Jennette decided she wanted to act while watching the movie, ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’. Jennette turned to her mother and said she was going to be an actress so she could marry Anakin Skywalker. Her mom said she was too shy, but Jennette insisted. Fearing that their young daughter would turn into a child actor horror story we read about in the news; it was only after 8 months of pleading, that her parents came around to the idea and helped her land an agent. From small appearances in movies, to having her own TV show, Jennette’s career already has the longevity that most actors twice her age could only dream of. She explains, “My mother was a really strong inspiration for me. She passed away but I quote her practically daily and think of what she would want me to do in a situation.” Her mother also instilled in her the right attitude to handle the rejection many actors face on a daily basis. “If I’m not right for a part there’s no whining, no dwelling. As long as you’ve done your lines well and executed the character well, that’s all you can do.”
By the age of 13 she had already gotten over nerves in the audition room. Her obvious talent has managed to win over directors and producers everywhere. She has appeared on such shows as Zoey 101 and Victorious, but it was her role as Sam Puckett on iCarly that put her on the map. She later starred in the spinoff series Sam & Cat, which she co-starred alongside Ariana Grande. Although Jennette was living a life that most teenage girls would dream of, she confesses that she longed for a traditional childhood at times, clinging to the idea of being young for much longer than most. She explains, “In retrospect I think my childhood wasn’t quite like a childhood. I had adult responsibilities at an early age. So I yearned for a childhood longer in life. I was 16 and still wearing clothes from the Children’s Place, yet holding down a very responsible job; it was a weird contradiction.”
Acting had always been the main focus in her career until more recent years. Jennette began her transition to work behind the camera by creating her own web series What’s Next for Sarah? The web series’ focused on an actress who is fired from her TV show and ultimately decides to try living a normal life. She was credited as the writer and executive producer. Writing from an early age and finishing her first play at age ten, she slowly began to see writing less of a hobby and more of a career. “I write autobiographically. At the time I was really passionate about conveying a certain message and that’s what What’s Next for Sarah is about.” Although she balances a crazy work schedule, she still finds the time to write for about 2 hours a day. She keeps journals, and creates spec scripts for television shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and is working on some pilots of her own. “Right now I’m trying to write kid’s shows. I have four different concepts that I’ve been kicking around” According to her, she would love to not only write but have creative control over an entire TV show. “The dream is to be a show runner.”
Her most recent acting gig is a TV show titled ‘Between’, which showcases Jennette’s chops as a dramatic actress. The show is a sci-fi thriller that was filmed in Toronto and is also Netflix’s first Canadian series. ‘In the town of Pretty Lake, a mysterious, deadly virus has killed everyone over the age of 21. Being quarantined by the government, the young adults and children have been left to fend for themselves. Jennette plays the lead character Wiley, the minister’s daughter, who is also a loner and an expecting mother. Wiley is on a journey of self-discovery while also dealing with the town’s crisis’. An interesting and complex character, it is the type of woman we haven’t seen Jennette play. Not a role she intentionally took upon her to play a dramatic role as the actress insists, she doesn’t really concern herself with typecasting. “I think there are much bigger things to worry about,” she tells me bluntly. This is however, a different side of Jennette that her fans have probably never seen in time past. The role pulled her out of her comfort zone but she was excited to take on the challenge. She says, “Going from Nickelodeon to a new facet, I wanted to be working with or on something I was passionate about. I believe in Netflix as a brand. It seemed as a natural fit.” So I asked what was her favourite part about filming in Canada? “The ketchup chips, I love them so much. One of the producers sent me a huge cardboard box to my doorstop and it was just filled with bags of ketchup chips,” she says laughing.
While Jennette definitely likes to mix it up, there is a common trait that exists in all her characters, she loves playing women who are misunderstood. “I like strength masked with sensitivity. I’ve played a lot of characters that seem really hardened upon first glance, but what ultimately attracts me to the character is that they have moments where they’re just so sensitive and their hardened exterior is a disguise. I guess that sort of mimics my own life,” she explains. Getting to see the softer side of Jennette is something her fans get to experience all the time when they read her published work. She was asked by both The Wall Street Journal and Seventeen Magazine to be a contributing writer. Her essays usually fall under the advice category, where she offers insight into her life and relates it to what might be going on with other young women.
In 2013, her mother passed away after a long battle with cancer, Jennette wrote a piece on how to deal with a family member who may have passed on or is struggling with an illness. She wanted people who were going through the same thing as her to feel like they could connect with someone. There are some celebrities who choose to stay private; on the contrary. Jennette is personally choosing to share her life in everything she writes. To be able to express oneself so openly can only be achieved by being comfortable in one’s own skin. Confidence comes knowing who you are and what you want. Jennette definitely fits the bill in that sense, yet she admits that she can still be affected negatively in regards to what people say about her. “It’s definitely an ongoing struggle. There are some days when I’m better than others.” A social media fan (she has over 6 million followers on Twitter), she has learned to shrug off ‘Internet trolls’ like ‘Water off a ducks back,’ as she puts it.
An inspiration to young women, she is someone who overcame personal grief, is able to remain humble and grounded despite being in the public eye, and has an impressive work ethic. Despite all of this, Jennette has been very clear in stating that she does not see herself as a role model to young girls. Instead, she thinks women should focus less on celebrities, and more on people who inspire them in their everyday life. “I really, really hope that kids are looking up to other people in their lives, as appose to someone who is just saying lines.” What she means is that people shouldn’t see her as someone more deserving of the title “role model” than a mother, a friend, a teacher or even a sibling. As she puts it: “I don’t think there is anything noble and holy to what I do.” Hollywood often puts pressure on young girls, especially those who get their start on kid friendly shows like Jennette did. The idea of being a role model includes anything that can set a good impression to the pre-teens who watch their show, which can be hard to live up to. “I know there are some things that I do or say that will disagree with some people and turn some heads,” she says, explaining why it’s easier to disassociate with the idea of being a role model.
It’s no surprise that she’s so successful, when it comes to her career, she understands that not everyone has had the same experience in show business that she has. “I’m most grateful that I’ve had diverse projects I’ve been able to work on and have had a good time and made really good friends.” It seems nothing is out of reach for this young star.
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Below are scanned versions of the issue: