Former Nickelodeon Child Actor Bryan Hearne Speaks Out About Abuse

“I was referred to as a ‘piece of charcoal,” said Hearne, who appeared on "All That."

Former Nickelodeon child star Bryan Hearne is speaking out against the conglomerate and the way he felt mistreated and abused while working on the comedy sketch show “All That” in 2002. Hearne was cast in the show's seventh and eighth seasons.

“I was referred to as a ‘piece of charcoal’ [by an adult],” Hearne, now 35, recalled. “Remarks like that are harmful. They stay with you.”

Hearne is one of many former Nickelodeon child actors featured in Investigation Discovery’s four-part docuseries“Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” which premiered on March 17. The series uncovers what many actors say they endured while working long hours in an emotionally manipulative and sometimes sexually charged environment.

During his time on “All That,” Hearned played a rapper, Lil’ Fetus, who sold cookies in an apparent reference to drug dealing. “I was already in an uncomfortable position being in a leotard. That's not something that I'm used to at all,” Hearne said.

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"We felt like we couldn't say no,” Hearne added. “It was a really uncomfortable situation, and after a while it felt like we were just part of this torture chamber.”

Hearne claimed that there was never any discussion of demeaning stunts. For example, in one cringey skit, he was covered in peanut butter for dogs to lick off. 

Hearne also said that he was treated differently from his non-Black costars. Hearne’s Black costar, Giovonnie Samuels, was not only a friendly face for Hearne but a way for him to cope with the ills of working as a child actor for Nickelodeon. Samuels joined the “All That” cast for seasons 7-9 and said that as the sole Black actress, she experienced things like not being given a hairstylist to work with or being properly trained to handle certain dangerous stunts.

In the docuseries, Samuels shared, "We’re working 12 to 13 hour days and when you’re on there for seasons, you grow comfortable and you do let your guard down, and again, you’re also a child or a teenager where you’re looking to an adult like this is acceptable behavior and it’s not."

Samuels said she learned to walk a fine line while working at Nickelodeon as a child actor. She said, "You're always asking yourself, 'Do I speak up?' And if I do speak up, will I lose my job? Or do I just let it go?’"

Samuels hopes viewers watch this docuseries and think, “this dream costs and it shouldn't for children as [much] as it does.” She continued, “We need better laws to protect our kids on set. I really hope that with people watching this, that people will do better and not just look at children as a paycheck.”

Nickelodeon put out a statement in response: 

“Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct.

Our highest priorities are the well-being and best interests not just of our employees, casts and crew, but of all children, and we have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience.”

You can now watch the docuseries “Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV " on Investigation Discovery.

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