Industry Insiders Divided on Quiet on Set: Vanity Fair

16 April 2024 2066
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Written by Savannah Walsh

The recent documentary series Quiet on Set, about abuse and racism behind the scenes at Nickelodeon, has received both positive and negative attention. Filmmaker Mary Robertson explains that while they expected some backlash due to the popularity of the docuseries, they are amazed at the substantial positive impact it had on the viewers. However, the series, a joint project by Robertson and Emma Schwartz and presented on Investigation Discovery, has been criticized for possibly repeating the same kind of exploitation that it reveals.

The criticism comes from people indirectly related to the documentary as well as past child stars of the network. They have raised their voices against Quiet on Set and the scrutiny of the documentary is accelerating.

Ex-Nickelodeon game show host Marc Summers was one of those who cast doubt upon the project. His dissatisfaction arises from feeling "ambushed" into participating in the documentary. In his account on the Elvis Duran Show in April, Summers expressed his surprise at the content of the project, feeling that the creators carried out a "bait and switch". In response to Summers' claims, Robertson and Schwartz, in a joint message to NBC News courtesy of Investigation Discovery, stated they maintain transparency about their projects with every participant.

Raquel Lee Bolleau, an alumna of The Amanda Show, aired her displeasure with the series on her TikTok on April 11. She was dissatisfied with not being included in an event related to the documentary and accused the creators of misleading her about what the documentary was really about. In her video, she states that the documentary affected her negatively and reminded her of her challenging experiences in the entertainment industry since childhood.

Chelsea Fagan, a financial reporter, also expressed her grievance with the series via TikTok. She claims a clip of her 2022 interview with an unnamed former child star was used in the series without either party's consent. She argues it was unethical, and she and the actor have sought legal routes to get the clip removed. Fagan ends by expressing her dismay at her indirect involvement with the series.

Christy Carlson Romano, a Disney Channel alumna and star of Even Stevens and Kim Possible, also stated she had declined to participate in a similar documentary project for Investigation Discovery, although she is unsure if that project became Quiet on Set. Her fellow Disney actor Alyson Stoner influenced her decision, advising her to be mindful of trauma porn. Quoted in an upcoming episode of Mayim Bialik’s podcast by Entertainment Weekly, Romano raises concerns about media manipulation in documentary filmmaking and the potential misinformation they can propagate. Owing to these grounds, she chooses not to be part of such a narrative.

Romano, who has not seen Quiet on Set, goes on to express her discomfort with the fact that the documentarians do not understand the realm of child stardom from a firsthand perspective. “These are people who don’t belong to our community,” she says. “These are outsiders. And maybe they, maybe if they knew where to put money towards [fixing] a problem, they would, but again, a lot of this has been perceived in a way that’s — it’s outside baseball. It’s not inside baseball, it’s outside baseball. These are trauma tourists.”

Vanity Fair has reached out to Investigation Discovery, Robertson, and Schwartz regarding the claims made by Bolleau, Fagan, and Romano.