When Mike Caron first arrived in Hollywood, his plan was to become a famous actor. But through a series of chance meetings and friendships built along the way, he’s now one of Nickelodeon’s best-known live-action directors instead, and was recently tapped to helm and executive produce the first episode of the upcoming Fairly OddParents live-action reboot.
The Fairly OddParents (working title) is based on the original 2D-animated series that ran for 10 seasons from 2001 to 2017. Created by Butch Hartman and produced by Fred Seibert, it revolved around Timmy Turner’s fairy godparents, who granted his every wish…which usually backfired. A 13-episode first season of the live-action reboot will premiere on Paramount+ later this year, starring a young girl who has to navigate life with her new fairy godparents.
EP and showrunner Christopher Nowak approached Caron to direct the first episode. They first worked together on Victorious in 2010, and then again on Sam and Cat (2013) and Henry Danger (2014)—in fact, they’ve collaborated so many times that fans have dubbed them #Mowak online.
Together with executive producer Samantha Martin, Nowak and Caron developed a visual look for the new show that leans into the absurdity of the original animated series. To achieve that same wackiness in a live-action environment, Caron focused on the town of Dimmsdale, where the story takes place.
“We take this town [where] a lot of things happen [that] are a little out of place,” says Caron. “Dimmsdale is not magic, but just a little bit off from reality.”
To achieve a more surreal look, Caron tried a variety of camera angles that directors often shy away from—such as wider frames and whip pans. And the reboot will still feature plenty of 2D-animated elements, including the god fairies and their creations, courtesy of Boxel Animation.
But Caron wasn’t used to working with animated characters, so when they first began shooting, he assumed the animators could just add in the fairies afterwards. He soon realized that adjustments had to be made while filming, such as adding stand-ins and cardboard cutouts that the actors could interact with during rehearsals and while setting up the framing. Members of the Boxel team were also on set to help with the transition. While he’d never directed a hybrid series before, jumping into new situations cold is familiar territory for Caron.
He got his break in Hollywood when he landed a gig on Young and the Restless as a recurring guest star from 1995 to 1996. But later on, Caron’s acting career was fizzling when an EP on the mystical soap Passions invited him to be a stage manager. Despite having no background in stage management, he jumped on the opportunity and learned on the fly, ultimately getting more work on daytime soaps, before finally landing on the production of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh as an associate director.
Caron went on to work on some of the kidsnet’s most popular live-action shows, including Zoey 101, iCarly, Victorious, Sam & Cat, Henry Danger and, most recently, Danger Force.
“How could I ever have known that by acting on that soap opera, it would have been the connection that ultimately put me where I am today?” says Caron. “Whatever job you get in Hollywood, you have to do the best job you can and be very aware of who you’re doing it with—you just never know who will be the lynch pin that will take you to the next level.”
Caron is currently directing season two of Danger Force and focusing on building his social media presence. He’s been posting behind-the-scenes clips on Instagram for years, and the pandemic recently encouraged him to explore TikTok, where he now has six million followers and for his BTS snapshots.
Next up, Caron is working on a big new project that he thinks Henry Danger fans will love—though he can’t divulge any specific details. He’s also hoping that The Fairly OddParents gets picked up for more episodes and he can direct more of it.