Title card for 'Quiet on Set,' a new docuseries from ID

‘Quiet on Set’ Participants Wouldn’t Have Cooperated If They Knew Investigation Discovery Was Involved

Two of the former child stars featured in the docuseries Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV have revealed that they had no idea Investigation Discovery was behind the series—and, had they known, they wouldn’t have participated at all.

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Since its premiere in March, Quiet on Set has become the most-watched title on Max, according to Nielsen data. Created by Emma Schwartz and Mary Robertson, the docuseries exposes the toxic work environment and culture of abuse and harassment at Nickelodeon during the late ’90s and early ’00s, and features interviews with former child stars including Drake Bell, Alexa Nikolas, and Raquel Lee Bolleau. In the weeks since it first aired, Quiet on Set has renewed conversations about the ethics of employing child actors, but the docuseries itself has also attracted a fair amount of criticism: Marc Summers, the former host of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare franchise, says he was “ambushed” by producers and had no idea what the docuseries was about—which definitely explains why his interview in particular seemed so disconnected from the rest of the series.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Lee Bolleau and Nikolas corroborate concerns about the making of Quiet on Set by revealing they had no idea that they were making a documentary for Investigation Discovery—a network known for true crime content that often takes a sensationalistic, exploitative approach. “I’m not too familiar with ID, but for the interview I sat down for, it was not an appropriate network for the show,” said Lee Bolleau, a former star of The Amanda Show. “I had no clue it was on [ID] until one or two weeks before it aired.” Nikolas, who starred in Zoey 101, said she wasn’t aware of the network at all, but, “When I looked it up, my first thought was our stories and the conversation that deserves to be had around them are way bigger than ID and deserve a more credible platform. A more serious one.”

Both Lee Bolleau and Nikolas say the producers used a “silo-ing” process that isolated each of the participants and kept them in the dark. The project was filmed around the time that HBO Max became Max and began including content from sister networks CNN and Discovery. “I see people [online] asking, ‘How could you be a part of something that you didn’t know what it was?'” Lee Bolleau explained, “But when people have an agenda, they’re going to be very, very meticulous and strategic on how they get that agenda to where they want it to be.” Nikolas said she felt that “the sensationalism was revved up” because of the affiliation with Investigation Discovery, and had Quiet on Set been made by and for a more prestigious network, it would’ve been handled differently.

When Quiet on Set aired, it instantly became a must-see and a huge topic in online discourse—so much so that Investigation Discovery announced a follow-up “special” featuring additional interviews with participants. It was clear that ID was capitalizing on the popularity of the series by fast-tracking a bonus episode with no new information to share. Speaking with IndieWire, fellow Quiet on Set participant Leon Frierson said, “[Episode 5] does seem to be rushed and it does seem to skip the due diligence that they did in the first four to make others feel comfortable.”

These concerns were recently echoed by Christy Carlson Romano, a former child actor who starred in Even Stevens and who now uses her platform to advocate for the welfare of kids on sets. Carlson Romano said she turned down an offer to appear in a similar documentary project for ID, and described the producers of such docs as “trauma tourists” who are more interested in creating a successful product than pushing for change.

(featured image: Investigation Discovery)


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Author
Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.