Quiet on Set: A reflection of Drake Bell’s story

“I often look back at that time and wonder how in the world did I survive?” – Drake Bell, Quiet on Set documentary.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. In honor of that, I wanted to do a blog post about the new documentary “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” that highlights the extensive abuse child stars faced while working with Nickelodeon Studios in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. This documentary has taken social media by storm, prompting other Nick child stars to speak out against the abuse they faced in the industry. Claims from these actors range from emotional abuse, to physical violence, and to sexual assault.

In particular, Drake Bell (star of “Drake & Josh”) came forward with his story of sexual assault perpetrated by Bryan Peck – a dialogue coach hired to work with Nickelodeon actors. In 2003, Peck, 43 at the time, was arrested on 11 charges — including sodomy, lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 by a person 10 years older, and oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance.

How did it get to this point?

Shown in the documentary, Bell’s father was originally his manager and became uncomfortable about how much time Peck was spending time with his son. These feelings escalated so much that he went to production and told them. “I don’t see anything abnormal, but it just doesn’t — I don’t have a good feeling,’”

Bell’s father said he later backed away from being his son’s manager after feeling “ostracized,” and eventually, was pushed out of his son’s life. Because Drake Bell and his mother lived in Orange County, it seemed easier to stay at Peck’s home in L.A. when he had an audition.

Bryan Peck (Image from Us Magazine)

According to the documentary, spending time at Peck’s home wasn’t irregular for the kids of Nick. “All the parents loved him too. Everyone trusted Brian,” said Kyle Sullivan, who appeared on “The Amanda Show and “All That.”

“Your instinct is to give someone the benefit of the doubt if you’ve known them for that long, even in the face of this really bad sign,” said Sullivan. “This man, who is like trusted as basically a supervisor of kids, is not safe.”

Drake Bell also gave Peck the benefit of the doubt. He spent many nights at Peck’s – and then the first instance of rape happened.

Drake Bell (Image from KidsMusic)

“I was sleeping on the couch where I would usually sleep. I woke up to him — I opened my eyes, I woke up and he was sexually assaulting me. I froze and was in complete shock and had no idea what to do or how to react, and I have no idea how to get out of this situation,” Bell said. 15 at the time, he didn’t know what to do and it “became this secret” because he knew that if he stopped going to Peck’s, people would ask questions. Peck was “so apologetic,” saying it would never happen again.

“He figured out how to convince my mom and everyone around to, anytime I would have an audition or anytime I needed to work on dialogue or anything, I somehow ended up back at Brian’s house and it just got worse and worse and worse and worse. I was just trapped. I had no way out,” said Bell. “The abuse was extensive, and it got pretty brutal. I don’t know how to elaborate on that on

camera, really. Why don’t you think of the worst stuff that someone could do to somebody as a sexual assault, and then I’ll answer your question. I don’t know how else to put it.”

Bell didn’t immediately go to the police but says in the documentary that his girlfriend’s mother knew something was off after Peck called repeatedly one night when he was at their house. Peck’s attempts to contact Bell were so desperate that Peck ended up calling Bell’s girlfriend’s landline phone.

In August of 2003, Peck was finally arrested. At the time, no one at Nick knew who the victim was, and it remained that way until just a month ago (March of 2024). A few weeks after Peck’s arrest, Bell started filming “Drake & Josh” and loved his new role, but still “didn’t know how to process” the happiness and excitement of filming with the trauma he had experienced. “I think that led to a lot of self-destruction and a lot of self-loathing. I would try and just escape with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, really just anything to escape.”

Peck’s sentencing wasn’t until more than a year later in October 2004.

“I was hoping that the outcome would be that he goes to jail, he is there for a while and that he would never be able to work with kids again, which would in turn pretty much mean that you’re not gonna work in Hollywood, because very few productions don’t have a least one kid on the set,” said Bell. “That’s not what happened at all.”

The documentary details the letter of support Peck received – full of famous figures. The letters, partially read by a narrator, repeatedly expressed that Peck “must have been tempted or pushed beyond belief” in order to commit these crimes against a child.

A child.

In case this isn’t clear – children cannot “tempt” you into assaulting them. They are children.

Image from Deadline Article

“I looked at all of them and I just said, ‘How dare you?’ I said, ‘You will forever have the memory of sitting in this courtroom and defending this person. And I will forever have the memory of the person you’re defending violating me and doing unspeakable acts and crimes and that’s what I will remember.’” Bell said to the courtroom.

There were 41 letters written to the judge by friends, family and colleagues defending Peck’s character. Along with victim blaming a child, most shared how shocked they were by the allegations and most asked to give Peck probation.

In the end, Peck pleaded no contest to two charges of child sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender. After his release, Peck landed a job on Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.”

Bell’s adult life came with his share of legal troubles following. In 2021, Bell was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service. “I took responsibility for that, I did what was asked of me,” he said in the doc.

Many empirical studies have investigated a link between sexual victimization as a child and later sex offending or other delinquent behaviors. Although, sexually abusing others is a rare outcome of sexual victimization. In a study done in 2016 of more than 38,000 males, only 4% of them who were abused ended up becoming abusers themselves.

When reflecting on Drake Bell and who he is today it is important to remember that two things can be true at once: What happened to the child version of Bell was terrible, sad, and awful. With that, Bell grooming and exchanging inappropriate messages with minors is also terrible and he should still be held accountable for that.

At the end of the day, Drake Bell deserves justice for what Peck did to him, and it was brave of him to share his story on such a public platform.

I don’t want to conclude this by saying that child acting is all bad and should be avoided by caring parents. That’s not the case – in a healthy, uncorrupt environment, children can really thrive and start amazing careers in acting. I do want to conclude by giving warning signs of sexual abuse in children – knowing these things could dramatically change a child’s life.

Signs of child sexual abuse:

  • Sudden changes in behavior (becoming abnormally depressed, anxious, or angry).
  • Fear of being alone with a certain person.
  • Sudden, unexplained fears of certain places or kinds of people (such as all people with a particular feature or characteristic).
  • Fear of being touched.
  • Changes in quality of schoolwork or grades.
  • Discussions of secrets or withholding information about friends/family members.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Delinquency.
  • Self-mutilation or careless behaviors resulting in self-harm (in younger children, this can even look like soiling themselves so that they are “gross and untouchable”).
  • Excessive play or abnormal curiosity with their own private body parts.
  • Persistent sex play with friends, toys, or pets.
  • Difficulty of sleeping or fear of going to bed.
  • Frequent drawings that have sexual content.
  • Unusual, persistent, or developmentally inappropriate questioning about human sexuality

The signs of child sexual abuse can vary depending on the child’s developmental stage and the circumstances of the abuse, such as how frequent the abuse is, who is inflicting the abuse and what kind of abuse is happening.

When a child is sexually abused, they might not tell anyone about the abuse, for a variety of reasons. While there are sometimes signs and symptoms that may indicate sexual abuse has occurred, it is important to note that the presence of some of the signs does not confirm that sexual abuse has occurred. Some children might show many of the signs and others might show few or none at all.

“Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” is available on the ID Channel, episodes will also stream on Max.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber