'Zoey 101' star alleges abuse by former agent in call for empathy amid 'Quiet on Set'

Matthew Underwood offered more than just “extreme empathy” for fellow stars affected by the alleged abuse outlined in the documentary series “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV.” The “Zoey 101” actor alleged on social media that he was sexually harassed and assaulted by an agent when he was 19.

The former agent — who was not named — “spent a decent amount of time building trust with me as a friend and mentor,” Underwood said in a lengthy Instagram statement shared over the weekend. The actor, who also alleged he was molested by a friend’s stepfather when he was 12, said the alleged abuse by his former agent broke his trust and “crushed” his self-image.

In a phone call with The Times on Monday, Underwood’s current agent, Lauren Green, said she was proud of the actor and praised his bravery in sharing his story. She also expressed support for “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell, who in the documentary detailed the abuse he experienced from dialogue coach Brian Peck. (Peck served 16 months behind bars after pleading no contest to abuse charges in 2004.)

Underwood said the alleged harassment and assault he faced prompted his decision to leave Los Angeles and end his acting career. He said he reported the unnamed former agent, and Green confirmed that her client’s alleged abuser has died.

For the actor, 33, sharing the alleged abuse he faced as a young star wasn’t about adding to the allegations that took the spotlight in Investigation Discovery’s “Quiet on Set.” Instead, Underwood said his revelation was a response to the mounting pressure to address the docuseries, which shed light on allegations of sexual abuse and discrimination that loomed over producer Dan Schneider’s Nickelodeon empire in the late ‘90s and early aughts.

After “Quiet on Set,” Underwood said he received emails from people “telling me they hope me and my mom die and that we burn in hell” for not publicly voicing support for Nickelodeon peers who told their stories. Other messages allegedly branded the actor “a pedophile defender,” he said.

“I’m sharing this with hope that some of you can recognize that just because a person doesn’t shout from the rooftops that pedophiles are bad or that people can suck — that does Not mean they don’t have their own reasons for staying silent, good reasons, personal reasons,” he wrote.

Underwood said he has “extreme empathy for anyone who has been taken advantage of by people they trusted,” and encouraged followers to reflect on why some people prefer to keep their experiences private.

From 2005 to 2008, Underwood starred in Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101,” one of the hit series producer Schneider created during his tenure. He said he did not have a bad experience while working with both Nickelodeon and Schneider. Underwood also cited Schneider’s video response to the documentary, noting the producer acknowledged “he had been an a— in his past.”

As he voiced hope for “anyone who wants to be better” and clarified, “I don’t f— support pedophiles,” Underwood told his followers that revisiting allegations of abuse can trigger some difficult memories and emotions for people.

“Please stop wishing death upon my family and please reconsider harassing other actors who wish to maintain their privacy — you never know who has already been a victim of the hell you’re wishing upon them,” he concluded his statement.

“We all need to be there for each other,” Green told The Times. “We have to take a step back and be kind.”

Underwood is the latest Nickelodeon alum to address “Quiet on Set,” following Josh Peck, Kenan Thompson and Melissa Joan Hart.

Days after the docuseries premiered in March, Schneider also addressed the numerous allegations surrounding his Nickelodeon legacy. His production company released a 20-minute video response in which the producer admitted that he hired Brian Peck (no relation to Josh Peck) to his sets, underlined the layers of executive approval on his shows and said he wishes he could have taken a different approach to leadership.

“When I watched the [docuseries], I could see the hurt in some people’s eyes and it made me feel awful, and regretful and sorry,” Schneider said.

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