Nick and Aaron Carter' Team Talk Part 2, Fandom Loyalty

The second night of Investigation Discovery’s Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter docuseries wasted no time before diving into Aaron Carter’s mental health struggles and deeper into the allegations of sexual assault against Backstreet Boys frontman Nick Carter.

The final two episodes of the four-part docuseries featured interviews with Aaron Carter’s ex-girlfriend, Lina Valentina, and his ex-fiancée, Melanie Martin, whom he had a child with before he died in November 2022. Nick Carter’s ex-girlfriend, Kaya Jones, was also interviewed about her public support for Melissa Schuman, a former member of the pop girl group Dream, who was the first person to accuse Nick Carter of sexual assault publicly.

The third episode opened with a recording of a phone conversation between Aaron Carter and Schuman. In it, the “I Want Candy” singer tells Schuman he had been seeing everything that had been happening to her since she came forward, and he felt compelled to reach out but also a responsibility to protect his brother.

It wasn’t long before he began to publicly speak out against his older brother in support of the women who accused the Backstreet Boys member of sexual assault. What has followed is years of cyberbullying for alleged victims Schuman, Ashley Repp and Shay Ruth, as well as the late Aaron Carter, whose relationship with his brother was forever changed after he sided with the women before trying to take it back years later.

Fandom loyalty and toxicity were some of the things Fallen Idols‘ executive producer Michael Hirschorn and showrunner Elissa Halperin wanted to explore in the docuseries, specifically about how social media elevates things to a new level.

“We were very much struck by the degree to which, even eight years into #MeToo, so many women are fiercely refusing to believe that anything about their idols could be less than perfect. Add into that what I’d call the ‘team sports’ aspect of social media, and it becomes very difficult to get viewers to see the shades of grey in any controversy,” Hirschorn tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Especially with Aaron, we want viewers to take internet trolling seriously. It’s not as simple as just getting off social media. Trolling extends into real life in profound and unsettling ways.”

Below, Hirschorn, Halperin and ID president Jason Sarlanis open up further about their ethical conversations surrounding including Aaron Carter in Fallen Idols when he’s no longer alive, the decision to feature interviews with Backstreet Boys superfans and more.


Having made this docuseries, how do you now feel about Nick Carter?

MICHAEL HIRSCHORN One of the things that we brought to this and still feel now is a lot of empathy for him. And I think one of the things that was really important in making this documentary was that we approach everybody in it with a level of respect and empathy, and to give each of them an opportunity to make sure that their voice is heard.

Melissa Schuman, one of Nick Carter’s accusers, in Fallen Idols.

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.

How did you go about reaching out to Melissa, Shay and Ashley to come forward about what they went through?

HIRSCHORN Well, that was done initially by Natasha [Bowler, a British producer who had been working on a project about the #MeToo movement in music and introduced the Fallen Idols team to the three survivors in the docuseries]. She initially filmed with them before we did a deal with her in Las Vegas in ’22. She had a high level of trust with them. So, when she brought the project to us, it was really on us to rebuild and re-earn the trust they had handed off to her. There were a lot of conversations with Melissa and her father, [Jerome Schuman] — who is somebody that she relies on and trusts — with Ashley and with Shay, and those are tricky, sensitive conversations. Then, when Elissa came on, we did it all over again.

From my point of view, it was crucial to be empathetic and fair, but also scrupulously honest with them and make sure they understood that we’re an objective third party in that we want to give them a platform and a forum to say what they want to say, and we’re very comfortable that we conveyed the essence of what they wanted to say accurately. But then it was incumbent on us to make sure that if the Nick Carter camp — and we were in close contact with Nick Carter camp, even though Nick himself declined to be interviewed — had an opportunity to respond, that we were representing and weighing those responses in a thoughtful way. And that was really tricky. And the especially tricky part, which I’m sure that’ll come up in a bit, is the Aaron piece, and how to really fairly tell that story.

Outside of the accusers, how doid you decide who to interview and feature in the docuseries?

ELISSA HALPERIN When I’m approaching material like this, I want to take a 360-degree look. I want anyone who has a stake on all sides of the story and an important perspective to have the opportunity to speak, and I think we made real efforts to do that and to really have a cross-section of perspectives.

Melanie Martin, Aaron Carter’s ex-fiancée, in Fallen Idols.

Warner Bros. Discovery

What was the thought process — and you touched on this already a little bit — behind including Backstreet Boys superfans who said they didn’t believe Melissa or any of Nick’s other accusers?

HALPERIN One of the reasons why we decided to reach out to Backstreet Boys superfans is because I think they’re part of the story. Nick and the Backstreet Boys have had an extremely dedicated fan base for 30 years and their unwavering dedication is a part of this story. And we felt that it was important to represent.

HIRSCHORN The Backstreet Boys Army really is an army. If you think of some of the KPOP supergroup fandoms, Backstreet Boys’ fandom is pretty large, pretty fierce and pretty passionate. And what sort of fun about it is that these are people that began being superfans in their teens and now are still superfans in their 30s and even 40s.

JASON SARLANIS When you watch the documentary, you see that elements of this BSB Army become a very significant part of the story itself and how the relationship between the two brothers evolved.

You mentioned that Nick declined to be interviewed, and it was noted in the docuseries. Have you had any other communications with the Carter family, besides their cousin, John Spaulding, who was featured in Fallen Idols?

HIRSCHORN We had ongoing and continue to have communications with the Nick Carter camp. Journalistically, if there were allegations that were made, the things that were contended by some of the women or other people we spoke to, we asked for responses from the Carter camp. At every point, we have also included legal documents as part of a resource for people who want to dig more deeply into the project and want to learn more, because there’s a significant paper trail of charges and counter-charges.

What makes this project really unique — I can’t think of another one that’s exactly like it — is that it’s being made in the middle of a series of highly contentious court cases that involve initial charges, counter-charges, charges to the counter-charges and counter-charges to the counter-counter-charges. And that’s pretty remarkable. And it both creates a robust paper trail that’s really interesting to go through, but makes it very tricky terrain to navigate. So, as somebody who in a previous life was a magazine and newspaper editor and investigative reporter — Elissa has some of that background as well — we really brought a lot of that experience in history to this.

John Spaulding, a cousin of the Carter family, speaks about his relationships with Aaron Carter and Nick Carter.

Warner Bros. Discovery

Here’s my question about Aaron. What were the ethical conversations around exploring accusations around Aaron and diving into his mental health and addiction issues when he isn’t around anymore to respond to them?

HALPERIN Aaron is someone who has gone through a lot, and I think people really care about him and what happened to him, and there is a desire always when a celebrity, especially a former child star, kind of winds up in this tragic circumstance, to sort of understand what happened and reflect on that. That was something we wanted to look at — the complexities of all the things he was going through. The idea that 25 years ago, these two young men were these idols on top of the world, and here we are, 25 years later. I think to understand how that happened, and the cycles of abuse within that family where three siblings are actually no longer with us, felt important to examine.

SARLANIS Aaron was very open about his struggles with substance abuse and mental health in his own public way. When you think about the impact this young man had on millions of fans who adored him, if his story can act as a bit of a cautionary tale to any of them who are struggling in their own ways with substance abuse, mental health issues with unhealthy family dynamics, then, I think, telling his story is worth it.

How big of a part do you think the Carter family dynamics played in everything that’s panned out for these boys and their siblings and cousins?

HALPERIN I think we can say from Nick and Aaron’s cousin directly, John Spaulding — who we interviewed — the family dynamics played a huge role in what wound up happening.

HIRSCHORN There’s this very powerful scene, where Aaron puts the knife to his head.

HALPERIN When he was starring in Seussical, there was an anecdote that was told to us by his former manager that was just really striking to all of us in the way that his family responded to such a serious, what we perceived to be, a cry for help.

SARLANIS I think for two young men that lived their lives so much in the public spotlight, there are still elements about their family background that have never come to light until this documentary that, I think, will be eye-opening for the audience and for the fan base.

Nick Carter and Aaron Carter.

Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

We’ve seen this with other musicians, where fans cannot see their idols as anything but perfect. What do you make of that after working on this doc?

HIRSCHORN We were very much struck by the degree to which, even eight years into #MeToo, so many women are fiercely refusing to believe that anything about their idols could be less than perfect. Add into that what I’d call the “team sports” aspect of social media, and it becomes very difficult to get viewers to see the shades of grey in any controversy.

HALPERIN I don’t want to speak for all fans, but there’s definitely a big component of that at play here, and it was a reminder of how personal our connections are to celebrities and music, particularly the ones we fell in love with as kids.

Fandom loyalty and toxicity are explored, with some taking to social media with death threats because someone they idolize was, in their mind, was attacked. How did you hope to address that in the docuseries?

HIRSCHORN Very much so. Especially with Aaron, we want viewers to take internet trolling seriously. It’s not as simple as just getting off social media. Trolling extends into real life in profound and unsettling ways.

There has been a recent wave of exposé docs into famous figures. Often, they spark ramifications, whether professional or legal. What impact do you hope this doc will have for Nick and Aaron Carter when it comes to, respectively, accountability and legacy?

HIRSCHORN It’s not our place to push for a particular outcome. It’s our place to tell a true story fairly and with empathy.

Last week, 50 Cent sold an investigative Diddy documentary to Netflix following a bidding war. Where will you point your lens next?

HIRSCHORN I’m particularly interested in exploring the early days of reality TV, a time I was actively a part of as the head of programming at VH1. It was the Wild West back then, both fascinating and, at times, a bit cringe.

All four episodes of Fallen Idols are streaming on Max.

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