The actress who played her, Miranda Cosgrove, is polished, polite and well-spoken, and in the midst of getting a manicure at the posh Cornelia spa on the Upper East Side.
"I love getting my nails done. My mom's best friend is a manicurist. When I was little, she'd do little paintings on my nails, like flowers. She comes to our house. It's the best," says Cosgrove, 19.
Also known for playing Megan Parker on Drake & Josh, she just wrapped her long-running stint as Carly Shay, headlining Nickelodeon's tween hit series iCarly, which made her very, very wealthy and very, very famous and allowed her to talk fashion with first lady and guest star Michelle Obama. But while some of her peers make headlines for splashy engagements or myriad legal scuffles, Cosgrove is quietly doing what she always planned. She's going to college.
"I have an essay due. I'll be doing homework during Thanksgiving break," says the actress, who's spending two days in Manhattan before breaking holiday bread with her Los Angeles-based family.
It's a year of firsts for Cosgrove. Her first semester at the University of Southern California. Her first time back in a regular school, after being tutored on set starting in sixth grade. And her first time living outside her parents' home.
"People come up to me and introduce themselves. My best friends are people who came up to me in class. I guess I'm not the kind of person who goes up and introduces herself, so it's been the best thing ever. Sometimes I forget that I've been on the show, because everyone is just trying to get to class and get their work done," says Cosgrove of her college experience.
She's majoring in film and hopes to once day write and act in her own material, a la Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig. But that's all secondary to Cosgrove's main goal: getting her homework in on time.
"This is my first semester. I'm getting in the groove and getting used to it and trying to figure college out," she says. "I definitely want to act. That's why I want to major in film. The most important thing is to find a good story. It's hard when you're coming from a TV show. I'm hoping to find something that's right. It's hard when you're trying to do something different but not lose the people who know you. I wouldn't want to rush and do something that wasn't right. I'm just focusing on school."
During her Nickelodeon stint, Cosgrove became one of the highest-paid kid stars in the industry. Does she ponder her own net worth?
"I didn't really think about it that much. I was so busy doing the show. I knew I'd live with my parents a long time. I moved out three weeks ago, twenty minutes from school," she says. "For sure, being able to go to college was my goal. When I first started acting, my parents thought I'd get a few commercials and we'd put it in a college fund."
Her one request for her former Nick bosses: the gummi bear chandelier that was featured on the show. Cosgrove says she has dibs on it. And while she could have gone on shooting iCarly until it morphed into Golden Girls redux, she says it was time to say goodbye.
"I grew up making the show. I spent my whole childhood there. We knew it would be sad no matter when we stopped doing it," she says. "We would have done it forever, but we wanted to go out and not do too many episodes. It ended at a good time."
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)