SNUGGIES, SAM PUCKETT, AND CAKE WITH|
NO FROSTING: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
WITH JENNETTE McCURDY (PART 1 of 2)
Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
August 4, 2010
Since its debut in 2007, iCarly has become a ratings powerhouse for Nickelodeon, winning over fans of all ages with its sharp writing and a signature sense of humor that appeals to both kids and adults. Created by writer/producer Dan Schneider (Drake and Josh, Zoey 101, and, most recently, Victorious), the series embraces youthful creativity in the internet age, following a trio of teens who run their own website at iCarly.com, featuring comedy bits, wacky stunts, Random Dancing, and whatever else crosses their ingenious, and sometimes twisted, minds.
While Miranda Cosgrove's Carly Shay is the central figure in the sitcom ensemble, it's not an overstatement to say that much of the show's success has been due to her best friend and web co-host Sam Puckett, played by Jennette McCurdy. A brash, ill-tempered delinquent who occasionally has a heart of gold, Sam provides much of the comedy in any given episode and comes loaded with lovable eccentricities: she's right-handed but punches harder with her left, she knows the difference between a shank and a shiv, and she can pick a lock like nobody's business. Her insatiable appetite is also the conduit for much of iCarly's food-related humor, and often defines the character in amusing ways--for example, her favorite color is brown, simply because it's the color of gravy.
When not in the skin of her iCarly alter ego, Jennette McCurdy is more soft-spoken, cordial, and polite, and when we first met her, she unassumingly introduced herself.
In the first half of our exclusive interview with Jennette, the young actress delves into the character of Sam--a role she has been playing since she was 14--and recalls how she originally landed the part. And since Jennette recently hit a milestone by celebrating her 18th birthday, we kick things off with a bit of congratulations...
RadioFree.com: Happy belated birthday! (Your 18th birthday happened sort of recently, right?)
Stay tuned for two more exclusive interviews with Jennette! First up is a preview of her new Nick film Fred: The Movie, followed by Part 2 of our one-on-one, in which we find out about Jennette's music career and philanthropic interests, and, in an homage to iCarly, try out a comedy bit with her that we call "Jank or Not Jank."
JENNETTE: Thank you! Yeah, June 26.
Big question: birthday cake or birthday pie?
We had an episode where we had to do nothing but eat pie, which was hard for me and [co-star Jerry Trainor] because both of us hate pie. [laughs] So it was brutal. I do like pumpkin pie, but any sort of fruit-filled pie or cream-based pie...Ugh, just even thinking about it makes me nauseous. So I'm definitely all for cake. Preferably with no frosting.
[jokes] Now that you're 18, have you been throwing it in the faces of your younger co-stars? Like how you can sign up for jury duty, file a lawsuit, and do other similarly awesome things?
Oh yeah! [laughs] No...I think, definitely, they're both a little bit upset that I'm the oldest and I turned 18 before any of them. So I kind of laugh with them here and there about [it]. But the only big difference that any of us can notice is that I can work a lot longer--their hours are capped at 10 1/2, I can work unlimited. So I'm always like [says in a haughty voice], "Bye, children! See you tomorrow, with your childish work hours!"
Even though you worked with Dan Schneider previously on Zoey 101, did you still have to audition for the role of Sam?
I had done this guest spot on Zoey 101, and Dan was incredibly nice and just so great, and he talked to me for a while, and kind of talked about maybe something he had on the horizon--he was telling my mom about it, that he wanted me to be a part of. And I just assumed it was kind of producer talk and nothing was going to come of it. Then two years later, when I was 14, I got this call that I had a network test for the Dan Schneider pilot thing. So I was going, "Oh, well, maybe this is what he was talking about!" But I didn't want to get my hopes too high. So I went to the network test, and I was the only one trying out for Sam there at that time. And then later on, Dan told me that he wrote the part with me in mind. So that's pretty much the coolest thing ever! [laughs]
So does that mean that somewhere in his mind, Dan thinks you're aggressive and lazy and...
[laughs] ...and brazen and brutal and mean? I certainly hope not. You know, I played a similar character on Zoey 101, so I think he sort of got the idea for a character like that based on Zoey 101. But it was interesting, because from my audition for Zoey, I'd have the character, literally, so different--I mean, my interpretation was so polar opposite. And then the casting director gave me some direction, so I did it again, and that was the character that, obviously, we ended up having, and it was a character that's very similar to Sam.
Typically, the brash, tomboy character has short hair, which you, clearly, do not have. When you were creating Sam, how did you guys come up with her general look?
I think the basic option look-wise when I came in was like, "Hey, do you want to do straight or curly hair?" And I used to have a little blonde Afro, so my hair kind of naturally goes the wavy way. And I felt like it'd be cool to have this kind of edgier character that's not stereotypically harsh-looking. I thought it'd be kind of interesting to have somebody whose appearance--you know, with the crazy, blonde curls--might kind of contradict the character. But then the wardrobe really came into play, and our wardrobe stylist really worked with me to figure out things that we felt fit Sam. So she's got some cool leather vests. And a big Sam characteristic is crazy tennis shoes with the tongues hangin' out, and I just never tie the shoelaces, because I feel like that's part of Sam, too.
For a while, Sam had the propensity to refer to herself as "mama"...
When it comes to character quirks and eccentricities like that, how much input do you have with Dan and the writers?
The writers definitely write everything, and we definitely have to stay on book for our entire episodes. But sometimes, we do webcast scenes or things like that, and Dan will let us kind of ad lib here and there, which is always fun--testing out different things that our character might say. But when the mama thing came to be, that was one particular point of interest for me. [laughs] And I've actually probably referred to myself as mama four or five times since...
All of Sam's aggressive and rude tendencies seem particularly funny because they're coming from a kid. But at what age do you think those qualities become...less charming?
I genuinely think Sam can always be charming, because I think one thing that our writers do very well is each year, they've written our characters a little bit differently. Because they do realize that from 14 to 18, you're quite different, you know? So they kind of made our characters mature, and our storylines have gotten to be a little bit more mature and everything. So I think that helps so much to have writers that understand that age is something that's natural and it's going to happen, and they don't try to force us to be these 13-year-olds anymore.
What is Sam's age supposed to be around the end of the third season?
We don't know, but I would say she's like 16.
Okay...So we're not going to be seeing college storylines any time soon?
No...I mean, I don't think iCarly: College Years would be a big hit. That's just me, though.
[shrugs] It didn't really work for Saved by the Bell...
No, no... [laughs]
In what ways would you say you're similar to Sam, and in what ways are you complete opposites?
You know, I think where I get most of my similarities...I have three older brothers. So growing up with three older brothers your entire life, you have a certain edge to you, you know what I mean? And a certain tomboy quality, I guess? But I definitely don't beat people up. I've never been arrested. Never been to juvie. Proud to say that.
[laughs] I'm not as insulting as Sam is. Sometimes I am a little sarcastic humor-wise, but I definitely don't insult people all the time. And I try not to be too offensive. [laughs]
How do you think you would get along with Sam if you were both stuck on a desert island for a year?
I wish I had a friend like Sam! I feel like it'd be so awesome. I mean, we were talking about similarities, and the way that I'm different is that she's just so uninhibited all the time. And I try to embrace that quality of her a little bit more, because I can be a little timid and awkward at times, which is totally different. But I feel like if I had a friend like Sam, I would just be able to... [laughs] ...let it all out and just have a good time! I feel like Sam's the kind of friend that can make anybody have a good day, you know?
Sam eats a lot on the show. How's the food for you on set: nasty prop food, or pretty good?
[laughs] No, our prop department...They work really hard to get great food. They make sure it's really quality and really yummy. But there are times when I have had to eat food that I hate, like for example the pie. Or on the first episode, I had to eat so much ham I threw up, and then had to go eat more. That was horrible! I had to eat Cheez Whiz...Didn't like that. But I mean, I love ribs. I love meatballs. So it's mostly good!
Carly and Sam have impersonated each other on the show, but if there were an alternate reality episode where they really switched places, do you think you could play Miranda playing Carly, given how familiar you are with one another?
Yes! I think it'd be a fun challenge. I love acting challenges.
So from an acting standpoint, what would be your way of really capturing how Miranda plays Carly?
A big thing for me is mannerisms. I always focus on people's mannerisms, so that's one of the first things I notice about a person. So I would definitely continue to study up on Miranda's mannerisms and what she does for Carly, and focus on that. And also, a voice. You know, what you do with your voice [can be so different for] a character. So for Sam, I kind of lower my voice a little bit. It's not my regular speaking voice, because I feel like Sam's got more of an edge to her than I do. And then Carly's, of course, is a higher voice, so I would use a more feminine, girly voice for Carly. [laughs]
Sort of like what you did with Sam's twin sister Melanie...
Yes! Sort of more along the vein of Melanie. But, definitely, Melanie was more flamboyant with her gestures than Carly. Carly's a little more, kind of, close to the body.
Will we be seeing more of Melanie?
I don't know. I think it'd be fun. I'd love to play Melanie again.