Interviews

iCarly Star Reed Alexander Takes on a New Role at the University of Miami

Former iCarly star Reed Alexander is now an adjunct professor at the University of Miami.
Former iCarly star Reed Alexander is now an adjunct professor at the University of Miami. Photo by Tatiana Katkova
In kindergarten, Reed Alexander was the only kid who preferred having his polo shirt tucked in and completed with a belt. At age 7, he used his mother's home office phone, unbeknownst to her, to call up Los Angeles talent agents for audition opportunities. At 18, he published a book, which President Bill Clinton endorsed. Today, he loves to wear blazers and collect cufflinks, as manifested by the 25 pairs in his closet.

In many ways, Reed Alexander is Nevel Papperman, the poshly formal and comically vengeful antagonist he played as a teen in the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly, which premiered in 2007 and ran for six seasons. What's unexpected is the pivot he made from child actor to Wall Street journalist and University of Miami adjunct professor.

A native of Boca Raton, Alexander, 27, was first bitten by the acting bug in Pine Crest School's drama program at 7.

Instead of asking his parents to research talent agents as his teacher had suggested, Alexander, who was barely old enough to read and write, picked up the phone himself. His parents were young lawyers at the time, and because he'd often overhear his mother talking with clients at home, Alexander knew exactly what to do.

"Even though I was very young, I knew to leave a callback number, say 'I hope to hear from you,' and basic stuff like that," Alexander says.

The next day after school, his mother was stunned to hear a volley of voice messages on their answering machine instructing him to submit a headshot.

"My parents could tell I was going to do this with or without them," he says.

"My parents could tell I was going to do this with or without them."

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A few months later — with a new agent and headshots — Alexander began shipping off VHS audition tapes to California.

His first gig was a home décor commercial. But eventually, Alexander was doing short films, table readings, and television pilots for major studios. In 2006, when he was about 11, he played Will's nephew in the final season of the original run of Will & Grace.

The following spring, he sent in an audition tape for a new kids' television show in development. A few weeks passed and he was heading to a friend's birthday party when he got the news: He'd been picked for the cast of iCarly.

"I remember getting the call," Alexander says. He was so right for the role of Nevel Papperman that he landed it without auditioning in person. "You don't often book jobs from the tape, but I did," he notes.

Two weeks later, he showed up to the Nickelodeon set in Los Angeles dressed as he thought Papperman would, in a blazer.

"It was so Nevel," he says. "Growing up, I was very cerebral. I was an avid reader, I was very interested in culture, and I did dress very formally. In those respects, Nevel and I have things in common."
click to enlarge Alexander and his iCarly costar Miranda Cosgrove - PHOTO COURTESY OF REED ALEXANDER
Alexander and his iCarly costar Miranda Cosgrove
Photo courtesy of Reed Alexander

Origin Story

Papperman isn't like most fictional villains. He's a teen boy who favors sweater vests, has a pet porcupine, and uses vocabulary words like that make him sound like he was born in the wrong century. Perhaps apart from the villain aspect, the character evolved out of Alexander's aura.


"The producers had an idea of what the character would be like," Alexander says. "But once they booked me, I think they started building the character around me. They fused my personality into it."

He thinks of those early days as a sort of calm before the storm. “We thought we had something special and unique,” he says of the sitcom's genesis. “But even then we couldn’t have known what we were about to walk into.”

The sitcom centered around Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove), who becomes an internet sensation when she and her best friends Sam Pucket (Jennette McCurdy) and Freddie Benson (Nathan Kress) start a web show from Carly and her older brother Spencer's (Jerry Trainer) apartment.

Before Instagram even existed, iCarly was exploring the wonders, peculiarities, and pitfalls of teens putting themselves online. Nevel was probably the first person to get canceled — a term no one would've known back then — when a video of him yelling at a little girl in a grocery store for breaking his jar of pickles goes viral. His role as a recurring villain started in season one when he had a crush on Carly and was promptly rejected — with a handful of tapenade to his face — after going in for a smooch. With his own website, Nevelocity.com, he continually finds ways to torment and smear the trio's webcast.

The show wound up being one of the biggest kids' television shows of the 2000s.

At age 15, while still filming iCarly, Alexander got into cooking and appeared on news shows doing demonstrations and tutorials. He began to think hosts like Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford had it made.

"Suddenly, I loved being on TV as me — not as a character but as myself," he explains. "You really get to be in the heart of the action. It's your job to be where the excitement and drama and tension and cool things are happening."

"My parents' one message to me was always that if this ever becomes not fun, we're going to get out."

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As he fell in love with news, he was falling out of love with acting.

"I finally felt it wasn't enjoyable anymore when I was more interested in journalism," he explains.

But it wasn't easy. He'd spent years thinking he'd be acting forever. The fear of leaving it behind can be crippling.

"Even at 17 or 18, my decision to walk away from it made me question, well, who am I if not an actor?" he says. "I think just having the courage to leave situations is something a lot of people don't have."

After iCarly ended in 2012 and Sam & Cat — another Nickelodeon show he starred in right on iCarly's heels — ended in 2013, Alexander pursued journalism. He went to New York University for his undergraduate degree and then Columbia for his master's.

Since then, he has reported at BBC, Huffington Post, and, for the last year and a half, for Business Insider. Even in Hong Kong, where he worked for CNN in 2016, Alexander says people stopped him on the street and asked him to recite a line from iCarly or snap a photo.

It can be rare to see a child star emerge from Hollywood unscathed, let alone successfully pursuing an entirely different career. Alexander appeared in almost every season of iCarly during its six-season run but kept South Florida as his home base most of that time. Despite the constant flying back and forth, the stability kept him grounded.

"That is really a cesspool where your whole life revolves around the industry and this job," he says of Hollywood. "If you're only surrounded by that, and that's all you're exposed to, I can see how it can become very toxic very fast. And because I did have breaks along the way, I think that was huge."

His parents were also formative in making sure that wasn't their only child's only experience. Outside of filming, the three would go on hikes, explore nearby towns, and visit famous restaurants.

"My parents' one message to me was always that if this ever becomes not fun, we're going to get out," he notes. "And that's so different than what you hear from so many other parents whose kids go on to do this, where they end up really depending on the child or almost forcing the child."

Jennette McCurdy, Alexander's costar who played Carly's angsty sidekick Sam in iCarly, said last year on her podcast, Empty Inside, that her time on the show was painful.

"I quit a few years ago because I initially didn't want to do it," she said on the February 25, 2021 episode, titled "Fish Out of Water." "My mom put me in it when I was 6, and by sort of age, I guess, 10 or 11, I was the main financial support for my family."

McCurdy chose not to join Alexander, Cosgrove, Trainer, and Kress in the iCarly reboot, which premiered on Paramount+ last summer.
click to enlarge Reed Alexander reprised his role of Nevel Papperman on the Paramount+ reboot of iCarly in 2021. - PHOTO BY LISA ROSE/PARAMOUNT+
Reed Alexander reprised his role of Nevel Papperman on the Paramount+ reboot of iCarly in 2021.
Photo by Lisa Rose/Paramount+

Career Pivot

When Alexander first became a journalist, he worried that people wouldn't take him seriously because of his previous work as a teen actor. But being recognized as Nevel, he says, hasn't hindered him.


"It's actually turned out to be completely the opposite," Alexander says. "You wouldn't believe how many Wall Street executives have privately told me that their kids watched iCarly, and they watched it with them. So it's actually been a good conversation starter."

During the pandemic, Alexander temporarily moved back to South Florida from New York City, where he'd been living since college while working for Business Insider, and began searching for teaching opportunities to pursue on the side.

Samuel Terilli, the University of Miami's journalism department chair who ultimately hired Alexander as an adjunct, was impressed by nothing other than his news background. He'd never heard of Alexander prior to the interview process.

"He wasn't hired because of that, and I certainly didn't hold that against him," Terilli says of Alexander's time in Hollywood. "I think it's wonderful. Journalists tend to come with a variety of different experiences."

"You wouldn't believe how many Wall Street executives have privately told me that their kids watched iCarly."

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Boriana Treadwell, another UM journalism professor who'd met Alexander when he visited the university in years past, said she recommended him as a new hire.

"Very few people his age — especially ones who became famous at a young age — are able to have such a clear view of who they are and what they want to do with their lives and to pursue those goals with such passion, discipline, and dedication as Reed does," Treadwell says. "He is a great journalist and will be a fantastic teacher, and our students are very lucky to be learning from him not just how to become good journalists, but also how to be good human beings."

Alexander says that while he encourages his students to ask questions about his acting career, he doesn't want it to be a distraction.

"As much as it may be fascinating in the beginning to have a character of a television show you watch become your journalism teacher, I think they'll quickly find I'm in it to win it as far as getting them where I want them to go," Alexander says. "It should be a lesson to people that what you're judged on is the effort you make now. I'm a journalist who happens to have done this other thing."

A few days ago, while walking around the Coral Gables campus, a passerby asked Alexender to speak Nevel's most infamous line. He obliged.

"You will rue this day — rue it!"
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