10 Nickelodeon Stars Who Had Other Surprisingly Dark Roles

Nickelodeon is known for producing bubble-gummy, relatable content for kids who need to navigate the trials and tribulations of middle school alongside their favorite fictional characters. In the process, the network has churned out some super famous stars in the process. These stars may have got their start on lighthearted television series with bright color schemes and laugh tracks, but just as these 10 Disney Channel stars committed to surprisingly other dark roles, a handful of Nickelodeon actors stunned the world when they took on shockingly serious acting jobs.

1
Jennette McCurdy
Jennette McCurdy, iCarly, Between
Nickleodeon/Netflix

When we think Jennette McCurdy, Nickelodeon projects like iCarly, Sam & Cat, Swindle, Fred: The Movie, and Penguins of Madagascar come to mind. But with the awkward disbanding of her show Sam & Cat, in which she and Ariana Grande played the titular characters respectively, Jennette seized the opportunity to distance herself from the teen-isphere. In the TV series Between, Jennette plays Wiley, a young adult who lives in a small town assaulted by a strange disease that kills everyone above the age of 22. Wiley and the other characters have to learn to navigate the strange apocalyptic-like world they live in, while successfully evading the disease themselves. Sounds a bit more high intensity than her Sam & Cat character unveiling a secret underground toddler climbing ring.

2
Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande, Victorious, Scream Queens
Nickleodeon/FOX

Since capturing the hearts of millions as Victorious’ and then Sam and Cat’s very scatter-brained character Cat Valentine, Ariana Grande has turned in her bright red wig for massive amounts of fake blood and Chanel earrings straight from the Scream Queens set. Sure, Ari plays a sassy sorority sister in the hit series, but lest we not forget the very college campus on which she has pledged, a faceless and ruthless murderer is on the loose. That can make for some pretty stressful times!

3
Nathan Kress
Nathan Kress, iCarly, Breaking Brooklyn
Nickleodeon/Instagram

You guys, our beloved Freddie is long gone, a touchy event proven by his portrayal of a homeless teenager with a passion for dancing in the movie Breaking Brooklyn. We’re guessing he didn’t have a Pear Phone on set...

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4
Emma Roberts
Emma Roberts, Unfabulous, Adult World
Nickelodeon/IFC Films

For some, Emma Roberts will forever be remembered as the stick-thin prepubescent middle schooler who wrote songs in her diary about longing for boobs, her goldfish, and pining over her unrequited love, Jake Behari. But while it is fun to remember Addie Singer in all her innocent glory, let us briefly interrupt that image with the more updated one: In 2013’s Adult World, Emma starred as Amy, an angsty college graduate who took a part-time job in a sex shop to financially supplement her dreams of being an acclaimed poet. From passing notes in class to Jake Behari to blowing up sex dolls and attempting suicide, it’s clear Emma’s acting career has matured with her. Let's not even get started on he sex-loving character from American Horror Story: Coven.

5
Miranda Cosgrove
Miranda Cosgrove, iCarly, The Intruders
Nickelodeon/Sony Pictures

#NeverDidWeEver imagine that the actress so many of us love and adore for her roles in Nick shows like Drake and Josh, iCarly, Victorious, Unfabulous, Just Jordan, The Naked Brothers Band, and the animated movie Despicable Me would one day go and do a psychological thriller in which she played a disturbed young adult in the movie The Intruders. But she did. And we’re still baffled every time we watch the terrifying trailer.

6
Josh Peck
Josh Peck, Drake and Josh, Red Dawn
Nickelodeon/Open Road Films via Everett Collection

Most of us remember Josh Peck as one critically important and hilarious half of the Drake & Josh duo, but since his Nickelodeon days, the actor -- also known for his vaguely funny Vines -- has settled into a few more adult roles. Like who can forget his film Red Dawn, in which he and his fellow teenagers had the terrifying task of of saving their town from war with North Korea?

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7
Victoria Justice
Victoria Justice, Victorious, Eye Candy
Nickelodeon/MTV

After years of starring in Nickelodeon shows like Zoey 101 and Victorious, Victoria Justice was quick to shed her good girl image once Victorious was cancelled seemingly without rhyme, reason, or a proper ending. She graduated to an MTV series called Eye Candy in which she portrayed Lindy Sampson, a victim of cyberstalking who suspects her stalker (and potential murderer) to be one of her many online suitors.

8
Matt Bennett
Matt Bennett, Victorious, Shameless
Nickelodeon/Showtime

Matt Bennett, we don’t care how many Ariana Grande music videos you star in as the love interest (or how many episodes of a super raunchy TV show you appear in), you will always be Robbie Shapiro to us. Matt said goodbye to the Nickelodeon character millions of kids have come to love to imitate when he guest starred in an episode of a Shameless, a TV show best described by IMDB as a series about “an alcoholic man {who} lives in a perpetual stupor while his six children with whom he lives cope as best they can.”

9
Elizabeth Gillies
Elizabeth Gillies, Victorious, My Father Must Die
Nickelodeon/Lifetime

So Liz Gillies’ Victorious character, Jade, was never exactly a ray of sunshine, but when the budding actress graduated from preteen-level fart jokes and barely-serious break-up scenes to a Lifetime Original Movie titled Killing Daddy, the world let out a collective gasp. No longer the rebellious Jade with a green streak in her hair, Liz’s character Callie spends the entire movie plotting to destroy her family and ultimately murder her father. Jade, how could you?

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10
James Maslow
James Maslow, Big Time Rush, Seeds of Yesterday
Nickelodeon/Lifetime

James Maslow, what are you doing? Get back in formation with your Nickelodeon-funded boy band Big Time Rush (who as you remember had a TV series of the same name) and continue practicing your choreography! Oh wait, that ship has sailed! We briefly forgot, as it’s forever ingrained in our minds that James is one-fourth of a group that captured the hearts of preteens everywhere. (The were like, Nickelodeon’s personal One Direction!) In 2015, James flipped that cookie-cutter boy band image on its head when he starred as Bart Foxworth in the Lifetime Original Movie Seeds of Yesterday, a 25-year-old who received psychiatric treatment in his teens, deals with deceit, secrets, and incest within his family upon inheriting an estate. Talk about complicated!

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