For nearly eight years, Jennette McCurdy was best known as Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon’s hit show iCarly and its spinoff Sam and Cat (ft. our girl Ariana Grande). But Jennette left her Nickelodeon fam and her sarcastic, trouble-making character behind to play Wiley, a troubled teen mom in the City and Netflix original Between, a survivalist drama about a town that has been infected with a mysterious disease that kills everyone over the age of 21. FLARE journeyed to the set of Between to chat about McCurdy’s transition from hijinks on the Nick to Netflix dramz—and submit the other Between cast-members to a question lightning round. Catch up on season one episodes of the show over at shomi and season two episodes on Citytv.com/between, then tune in to City Thursday nights for the thrilling finale to a thrill-packed season.
What has the transition from Nickelodeon to a more serious role been like?
The tone of the show is just super-different. Nickelodeon is light, upbeat and all fun and games. And this show is all death, serious matters and ethical decisions, so it’s polarizing in that way. Even as I read the scripts, I think I find some funny in it, because I’m so used to comedy—having something be so dramatic, I’m like “Whoa! Lets be a little lighthearted here.” But I think its great to be able to try out both; it’s been a good exercise.
How has the move from Nickelodeon to Between changed your personal life?
When I started the first season, I’d been with Nickelodeon for 10 years and really hadn’t done much outside of it—I was living on my own here in another country, away from my friends, doing a dramatic role. Everything felt like a departure for me: I was figuring myself out and coming into my own. And when I finished the first season and went back home I had to relearn how to be myself without being in the context of film and television, and to live with myself and be on my own and find my footing. Then coming back into this show for another season, a year after we finished, I felt like my feet had grown and I had to go on a shopping trip and buy new shoes [laughs]. I’m just constantly growing and evolving and learning more about myself.
Between has some pretty dark and intense scenes—how do you prepare?
Last year my preparation was really different from this year. Last year I think it was really cut-and-dry; I would do it just as scripted and I didn’t really take many risks. I just did it how I thought I should do it. This season, I’ve tried to take a lot more of my personal experiences and whatever my emotions are that day and incorporate that into the scene. Because otherwise, it’s just going to be forced, with me trying to feel a certain thing instead of working with what’s actually is going on.
How do you think Between stands out from everything else on TV right now?
The show reminds me of a younger version of Lost, which I really like. You’ve got an ensemble cast, a lot of different themes running through, and a lot of different story lines inside stories. It’s entertaining because you’re watching small scenes and it keeps your attention span dispersed throughout the show as opposed to being so focused on one storyline that if you’re not fully 100 percent invested in you have nowhere else to turn.
In the first season Wiley was that complicated, immature teenager—she had just had a baby, wouldn’t tell anyone who the father was, and really seemed to have zero interest in being a mother. What has changed over the second season?
She’s taken on much more of a maternal role. She’s more willing and accepting, and even honouring her role of being a mother. Before she just didn’t want to accept that leadership. She’s also coming into her own with really important ethical decisions that before she would have just gone along with someone else’s opinion. But now she’s saying “Well, wait: this is what I think, this is my stance on this matter and this is how I think we should proceed.” So I think she’s just becoming more opinionated and figuring herself out.
You’ve definitely played a combo of characters with pretty different personalities—funny, sarcastic, rebellious, serious and self-sufficient, etc. Where does your personality IRL land in the midst of all that?
I’m trying to figure her out, so who knows [laughs]? Sometimes I feel like I’m a cynical optimist, with is something I actually looked up. But then I worry about being, like…I don’t want to be mad. So then I think, well, maybe I’m not cynical and maybe I’m a pure optimist, but that would be lying. I’d say, I’m just figuring her out. I can be sarcastic, I can be snarky, I can be funny, I can be happy, I can be positive. My eight-year-old self would be disappointed in me now and I just hope that my 35-year-old self won’t be disappointed in me now [laughs].
And how does your personality tie in with your personal style?
Growing up, I wanted to be a boy [laughs]. It just seemed easier and more fun. I would wear backwards hats and I was just a little punk. So now I try to mix tomboy elements with girly elements; I like to have things that move very well.
What’s next for you?
Writing and producing—I write every day (or I try to) and my goal is to write a slew of short films and see which one impacts me the most over the course of a couple months, and then make that and see what that project evolves into. But I love starting small and then expanding on that, as opposed to being overly ambitious and then just losing interest and losing passion. I let the passion grow. So hopefully something stems from these different short ideas and then I’ll go from there.
Between Cast Lightning Round
What would you do if the plot of Between actually happened IRL?
Justin Kelly (Chuck)
I would be such a follower—I’m almost the complete opposite [from my character]! I would get a bag of chips, a couple movies, a couple records and just be like “You guys figure out what’s happening, I’m going to hang out, let me know when you need me.” I would just try to do what I can to at least have a good time [laughs].
Samantha Munro (Stacey)
I’m a farm girl—I live an hour-and-a-half outside the city and I have a 100-acre farm—so I have shotguns [laughs]. I would probably be the aggressor in a situation like that. I’d be trying to escape and trying to work out a solution. I don’t think I’d be able to do what my character is doing: to me her priorities are a little bit backwards. So I would be shooting my way out and getting crazy [laughs]. The thing is about this show is it’s creepy: how they get there is very government-centered and that’s very frightening, especially with Donald Trump running for president [laughs].
Steven Grayhm (Liam)
If it’s pretty definite that we’re all infected and the clock is ticking, the only way I would be able to sleep at night is to approach it with practicality: we need to live today to see tomorrow. So let’s grow crops, let’s take care of the young, let’s take care of the sick. I would do that first and once that is set up, I would try to figure out how to get out without getting killed or a way for the media to get a hold of what actually was happening.
Mercedes Morris (Renee)
My reaction would be just like Renee’s: it’s so crazy how we’re so much alike. She’s just like, “We need some supplies” and with me at home, anytime the power goes out or anything I’m just like, “Where’s the water bottles, someone get the flashlights, we gotta prepare for this” [laughs]. So just making sure you have all your supplies and you have all you need to survive.