Why Getting Into Character As Wednesday Addams Was Tough For Jenna Ortega

Jenna Ortega has been around the Hollywood block for over a decade now, ranging from Disney Channel sitcoms ("Stuck in the Middle") to Netflix originals ("You"), but 2022 has been the year where she's finally kicking in the door. The hits have only kept coming with "Scream," "The Fallout," and "X," which /Film's Matt Donato calls a "slick and stunning original slasher." Any star would be lucky to have this many hits, let alone in the span of a single year.

The best part about all of this, however, is that Ortega's next big spooky project is only about a month away with "Wednesday," a reinterpretation of "The Addams Family" that focuses on the clan's peculiar daughter at the mysterious Nevermore Academy.

Everything we've seen so far from the Netflix series gives the impression that Ortega is the most natural evolution of Wednesday Addams since Christina Ricci, who also shares a role in the show. She's got the stare, the macabre sense of humor, and an endless fascination with death. Look no further than that one Emmy promo Netflix put out that immediately sold me on her performance.

But while it appears on the surface that she's got this covered, Ortega seems to have had some bumps in the road getting to the point while on the "Wednesday" set.

Ortega had difficulty switching from director to director

While talking with co-star Ricci for Interview Magazine, Ortega spoke about how stressful the experience was in comparison to everything else she had done prior. One aspect that threw her off was the selective nature of who was directing. Of the series' eight episodes, macabre visionary Tim Burton was only responsible for directing four of them. "We were going from Tim to another director, back to Tim, to another director," says Ortega.

Switching back and forth between Burton and the other directors essentially made it more difficult for Ortega to get a grasp on the Wednesday they wanted versus the Wednesday that Ortega saw:

"I remember Tim did not want me to have any expression or emotion at all. He wanted a flat surface, which I understand. It's funny and great except when you're trying to move a plot along, and Wednesday is in every scene. There were a lot of battles like that because I felt like people didn't always trust me when I was creating my path in terms of, 'Okay, this is her arc. This is where she gets emotional.'"

Trying to juggle multiple perspectives behind the camera can be a tall order, especially when the series is a more uniform project rather than the shows Ortega worked on prior.

'I just remember feeling defeated after the first ​​month'

Even though she's essentially grown up in the industry, Ortega is still learning how to navigate these roles. These kinds of projects, especially ones with a pre-established following, can be a real challenge to get right. "I would call my parents every night in a panic because I felt like it was different from any job I had ever done before where I typically have that time to sit into the character," says Ortega.

The "X" star talks about there really wasn't much time for rehearsals after landing in Romania to shoot the series, citing "Wednesday" as "probably the most overwhelming job I've ever had."

Ortega often found herself lost while trying to navigate all of these viewpoints at the table, but through this experience, she was able to figure out her voice and how to use it where it counts (via Interview Magazine):

"I just remember feeling defeated after the first ​​month. So I think something really wonderful that has come out of the show is that I can use my voice in a much stronger way than I ever have. I've been so much better about being honest about my opinions and thoughts, which I'm really grateful for."

But even with all of the commotion behind the scenes, it was Burton who ultimately reassured Ortega that her input was just as valid as everyone else's.

Burton was a supportive presence for Ortega

According to Ortega, while she did have some people on set that could understand where she was coming from, Burton was the person who always made sure that this was the Wednesday she wanted to be. "I remember Tim being really wonderful about things like that and calling me to his trailer in the mornings and saying, "What are you uncomfortable saying? What do you want to say?'" says Ortega.

When actors inhabit a character, especially one they have reverence for, it's easy to see them forming an attachment to how they believe they should act. "Wednesday" had been pitched to Ortega with the idea of humanizing the character, an idea that didn't really work for her. "I felt like sometimes in the attempt to make her a human girl, they were trying to make her any other teenage girl," says Ortega.

If you've seen "Addams Family Values," which /Film's Eric Vespe calls "a darkly wonderful family film,"  then you know what happens when you try to make the Addams child like everyone else, and it's not pretty.

Every episode of "Wednesday" will be available to stream on Netflix on November 23, 2022.