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HomeOC Officials Issue Warning As Second Rabid Bat Is Spotted In Orange CountyFrom Nickelodeon to Nolan, Josh Peck Speaks on His Journey Navigating Fame

From Nickelodeon to Nolan, Josh Peck Speaks on His Journey Navigating Fame

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Actor and comedian Josh Peck came to UC Irvine for the ASUCI Speakers Commission’s first ZotTalks event of the year, in the Pacific Ballroom on Feb. 15. 

Peck is recognizable for his role in Christopher Nolan’s movie “Oppenheimer” or for his childhood fame playing Josh Nichols in the Nickelodeon show “Drake and Josh.” Being recognized internationally and with a shoutout from President Obama, Peck’s role as Josh Nichols followed him past childhood. 

During the event, Peck recounted his time running through downtown Detroit with cameras filming from helicopters, explosions going off on both sides on the set of the action movie “Red Dawn,” where Peck played Mack Eckhert, the brother of Chris Hemsworth’s role. Peck explained that all he could think of during the shoot was, “I’m Josh from ‘Drake and Josh.’” 

He reassured students saying that hasn’t seen “Red Dawn” either. Peck then went on to describe the lasting effects of acting early into his career.  

“We all go through our awkward teenage years and we burn our yearbooks and swear our families to secrecy and then we move on. But my awkward teenage years are in reruns,” Peck said. “For 10 years after that, I wanted to erase my origin story.” 

Peck turned to overeating to numb his feelings and drank heavily following his weight loss. He went on to explain that he has been sober since he was 21, but emphasized that for every child actor success story, there are more that went down the wrong path.

“I realized that [Josh Nichols] meant a lot to a lot of people. And he made a lot of people happy. That kid was a lot stronger than I have to be now,” Peck said. “It was in loving that kid and respecting him that I was able to let go of those things I was using.”

Growing up with a working single mom, Peck said he would watch TV all day. Eventually starring in the hit Nickelodeon show, “Drake and Josh,” he couldn’t believe he was acting in the kinds of shows he grew up watching. 

“My best friends were the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Billy Madison. Me going to work as an actor was like someone going to work for the hospital that cured their disease,” Peck said. “TV saved me. It was an escape. It was my ally.” 

At nine years old, Peck was performing stand-up comedy at nightclubs. During the day, he auditioned for Nickelodeon every other day, at their headquarters in New York, the address burned in his memory, “1515 Broadway, overlooking Times Square.” 

“I told them, ‘I’m funny, chubby, and ambitious, you need me,’” Peck said.

Peck, who is Canadian, didn’t have a passport when he booked a job filming Nickelodeon’s movie, “Snow Day” in Canada. He didn’t have any idea that the man in the suit he was making jokes with was the president of Nickelodeon, who, after filming, would offer him a job filming in California.  

“I was super sensitive, so kids would make fun of me and I hated it,” Peck said. “For me, comedy was this great gift to be able to control the conversation. This way I could make the joke before you could.” 

When Josh Peck published his book “Happy People Are Annoying,” in 2022, he asked himself, “What could be more millennial than thinking you’re ready for a memoir at 35?” 

“Most memoirs are written by people in their 60s and 70s, but what I wanted to write was something at 35 to say, ‘I’ve been blessed to have a good amount of success and I’ve faced challenges. Here are views from the halfway point.’ This is where I’m at, this is what I’ve done and this is still what I want to do,” Peck said.  

Emilie Takahashi is a Campus News Intern for winter 2024. She can be reached at takahae1@uci.edu.