It is now hard to imagine Netflix’s Wednesday being portrayed by anyone other than Jenna Ortega; it is as if she were made for the role. So, the world of film and television was surprised when Ortega revealed in a recent interview that she initially turned down the part. Zoe Waite delves into why.
Before Wednesday, Jenna Ortega had an established background in television. She was best known for her role in Disney’s Stuck In the Middle, where she played Harley Diaz, the middle child of seven siblings. Ironically, Harley states in one episode that if she and her siblings were days of the week, she would be Wednesday!
Since Ortega began acting at such a young age, understandably, she is at a point where she wants to break away from television and into the film industry. She discussed her reservations regarding signing to another TV show in an interview with The Times, explaining that signing a TV show may mean she misses opportunities to work on other projects. Ortega even revealed she didn’t think many people would watch Wednesday, but she could not have been more wrong. The show skyrocketed to success, and was the third most popular English language Netflix series release of 2022.
Ortega became protective of her character, saying she put her foot down on the set
Ortega explained that she finally agreed to take on the role after discussing the part with director and cinematic icon Tim Burton, known for his creepy storylines and gothic imagery. After signing the role of one of the world’s favourite on-screen characters, she was determined to make this variation of Wednesday’s character her own, changing the lines and working closely with Tim Burton to curate the character down to the smallest details, such as her blinking (or lack therefore of).
Speaking on the Armchair Podcast, Ortega described her changing the lines as ‘almost unprofessional’, explaining she would change the dialogue without consolidating with the writers as her version of Wednesday would not say certain things in the script. As filming continued, Ortega became protective of her character, saying she put her foot down on the set on Wednesday, in a way she hadn’t before, to ensure the character was authentic.
Jenna Ortega’s desire to break into film and her reservations regarding being part of another TV show could be a result of several factors. Film is seen as more prestigious than television. The big budgets and wider reaching audience and recognition attract actors and actresses alike. Starring in a blockbuster film, attending red carpets, and having a global fan base means you have ‘made it’ in the industry, compared to the more nationally famed and less recognised TV shows. Although, with the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and shows with global success, (think Netflix’s Stranger Things and YOU), starring in series has shot several actors, such as Finn Wolfhard, to fame.
Her portrayal has not only shone a new light on a beloved character but has also proven her acting credibility
Additionally, when it comes to spin-offs, there is always a risk of being overshadowed by the original. Commonly, sequels tend to fall short of the mark set by their predecessors, which is particularly true for The Addams Family franchise, which has been explored numerous times, with varying degrees of success. Paramount Pictures set the bar particularly high with the release of the 1991 film and its sequel in 1993.
These movies garnered massive popularity, and cemented the sarcastic nature of Wednesday Addams in the hearts of millions across the world, making Christina Ricci’s portrayal of the character a fan favourite. As a result, when Jenna Ortega was cast to play Wednesday in the Netflix series, there were understandably high expectations. Nevertheless, Ortega rose to the occasion and delivered a standout performance. It is no surprise then that the series has been a huge success, raking in over 341 million hours of watch time in its first week on the platform.
Due to its success, Wednesday has been renewed for a second season, where Ortega will once again grace our screens. Her role as Wednesday in the Netflix series has been a breakthrough moment for her career despite her initially rejecting the role. Her determination and passion for the character show in her performance. Ortega’s success in Wednesday has proven that streaming services like Netflix can bring actors fame and success equivalent to that of mainstream film. Her portrayal has not only shone a new light on a beloved character, but has also proven her acting credibility as a young star.
Featured image courtesy of Nicolas J Leclercq via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
In article video courtesy of Netflix via Youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.
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