The Transformation Of Jennette McCurdy From Childhood To 28 Years Old

Jennette McCurdy made the childhood of countless Americans who grew up between 2007 and 2012 a little bit brighter and a lot funnier with her portrayal of the spunky Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon's "iCarly." Even though her character was supposed to be a supporting role to Carly Shay, played by Miranda Cosgrove, Sam became much more than that. So much so that it spurred a spinoff, "Sam & Cat," based on her character on "iCarly" and Ariana Grande's Cat Valentine from "Victorious."

"iCarly" was a hit. According to Nickelodeon, its 2010 episode titled "iSaved Your Life" became that year's most-viewed show on cable TV. But as beloved as McCurdy was in the show, she won't be returning to play Sam in iCarly's 2021 revival on Paramount+, as TV Web has noted. Fans are certainly disappointed, but McCurdy has taken steps to explain to them why she opted to close that chapter of her life. In a February 2021 episode of her podcast "Empty Inside," McCurdy told Anna Faris she decided to retire from acting altogether, saying bluntly, "I resent my career."

Regardless of where she goes next, McCurdy has a lot to offer fans. Even though it feels like we've known her forever, McCurdy is only 28 years old. Since shooting to stardom as a child star, McCurdy has transformed quite a bit in front of her eyes. Keep scrolling to check out how much she has changed and blossomed over the years she has been in the spotlight.

Jennette McCurdy grew up in a 'dysfunctional Mormon family'

As the star of "iCarly" and "Sam & Cat," Jennette McCurdy's teenage years were unusual — to say the least. But her childhood wasn't exactly normal, either. As she herself has described it on her Instagram page, she was raised in "a dysfunctional Mormon family," an experience she talked about on her podcast, "Empty Inside." McCurdy's childhood was also marked by her mother's breast cancer, which was diagnosed when McCurdy was 3 years old, according to The Orange County Register. Her mother lived with the illness for 17 years through a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, and several surgeries, per The Orange County Register, but died in 2013, E! News reported.

In the 2007 interview with The Orange County Register, McCurdy said she wanted to be an actor ever since she watched "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" when she was 6. "Mommy, I want to do that!" she told the reporter about that time. She also recalled "hounding" her mother for a year, asking her if she had gotten her an agent. 

However, years later, McCurdy said her mother was actually the one who wanted her to start acting to support the family, she told guest Anna Faris on a 2021 episode of "Empty Inside." "With her death kind of died a lot of her ideas for my life," McCurdy said, explaining what motivated her to do her one-woman show, "I'm Glad My Mom Died."

Jennette McCurdy's acting career took off quickly

It didn't take long for Jennette McCurdy to start finding work. She started out by appearing on commercials, including a TV ad for a dentist and, later, a national ad for Domino's Pizza, and also a small part playing Kathy Lee Gifford's daughter on a MAD TV sketch, according to the Orange County Register. Her first appearance on a TV series came in 2002, when she played Jackie Trent, the little sister of a girl who killed a neighbor on season 2 of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, per CSI Fandom. "I think this kind of started all the 9-year-old girls killing people on TV series," McCurdy told the OCR. 

McCurdy went on to land small roles in a myriad shows, including "Malcolm in the Middle," "Will & Grace," "Law & Order SVU," and "Zoey 101." She also starred in a couple of films, even sharing the screen Harrison Ford on "Hollywood Homicide" in 2003. The following year, she played a young girl with bipolar disorder in the medical drama "Strong Medicine," a role that earned her a Young Artist Award nomination for best performance. 

Casting directors were impressed by her performance from her very first audition, per the OCR. "I took a big huge knife to the teddy bear... it was really cool, because it could have been cheesy — you're shouting, 'Mr. Winkles must die!'" By the time McCurdy was 10 or 11, she was her family's main breadwinner, she said on "Empty Inside." 

Jennette McCurdy developed an eating disorder in light of Hollywood's pressures

Jennette McCurdy's performance on Nickelodeon's "Zoey 101" in 2005 caught the eye of its creator, Dan Schneider, who called her "a natural-born talent," according to the Orange County Register. In 2006, the network reached out to McCurdy to discuss the possibility of starring in a new pilot, per the OCR. The project almost didn't take off the ground, but on December 11, 2006, McCurdy's called her to tell her that she had landed the role of Sam Puckett on "iCarly," adding that 40 episodes had been ordered. 

It was the beginning of the rest of her life. "I love actors who are nothing like their character. Sam is rude. Sam is brazen. She's a scofflaw and a little bit mean. And then you yell 'Cut!' and Jennette is this sweet little girl, who couldn't be nicer. It's pretty cool to see," Schneider told the OCR.

It wasn't all fun and games, though. As a teenager who was living under intense public scrutiny, Jennette became intensely aware that her work depended on how she looked. In a 2019 guest article for HuffPost, McCurdy described developing an eating disorder when she was 11, as her career started to flourish. "As a child actress working in Hollywood, I quickly learned that remaining physically small for my age meant I had a better chance of booking more roles," McCurdy wrote, adding that she had been in recovery for two years.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Jennette McCurdy had a tumultuous time during 'Sam & Cat'

Jennette McCurdy's portrayal of Sam Puckett on "iCarly" captivated young audiences and catapulted her to fame. The character's popularity prompted Dan Schneider, creator of "iCarly," to create "Sam & Cat," a spinoff that integrated Sam and Ariana Grande's Cat Valentine from "Victorious." Premiering in June 2013, the first episode of "Sam & Cat" attracted more than 4.2 million viewers, as The Hollywood Reporter noted. Despite its success, the series was canceled after the first season. 

Theories about the reasons behind the show's cancelation abounded. Some said the decision was ignited by McCurdy's private photos leaking earlier in the year; others, that McCurdy and Grande had a major rift involving their salaries, a theory Grande dispelled in a Twitter statement (via E! News). Still others believed McCurdy and Grande, who were 22 and 21, respectively, were ready to focus on more grownup work, per Deadline

The situation escalated when McCurdy opted to skip the Kids' Choice Awards in March 2014. McCurdy explained her decision on Twitter, indicating that there were, indeed, issues behind the scenes. "I was put in an uncomfortable, compromising, unfair situation... I chose to not go because sticking up for what is right and what is fair is what my mom taught me is ALWAYS the most important thing," she wrote. McCurdy later added (via Page Six): "It has to do with how nickelodeon treated me. That's all. Thanks for the love."

Jennette McCurdy has stated that she is done with acting

After 2017, Jennette McCurdy began to focus more on directing, writing, and producing, working on the short films "8 Bodies," "Wine and Cheese," and "The McCurdys" that year. And in 2021, McCurdy announced that she was done with acting for good. On an episode of her podcast "Empty Inside," McCurdy explained how her career as a child actor had been "hellish." "I hear constantly that, 'You made my childhood,' and I think it's great that they had that experience but that just was not my experience," she said.

McCurdy went on to say that the roles she played throughout her career as an actor were "cheesy" and "embarrassing." "I'm so ashamed of the parts I've done in the past. I resent my career in a lot of ways," McCurdy said, reflecting on her Nickelodeon shows, adding that "It was embarrassing. And I imagine there's a very different experience to be had with acting if you're proud of your roles, and if you feel fulfilled by them." 

Despite how she feels about the work itself, McCurdy gushed over her "iCarly" co-stars. "I had great friends in Miranda and Nathan, and even Jerry, who was a bit older than us but was wonderful in trying to cultivate that kind of... younger environment," she said on an April episode of "Empty Inside." Given how she views her previous acting experience, switching to a more "behind-the-scenes" role in Hollywood sounds like a great choice for McCurdy.