The Addams Family was originally created by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938 with many of the original cartoon strips being published in The New Yorker. Since their invention, the Addams characters have appeared in many different forms such as television shows and movies, the latest of which is Netflix’s Wednesday.
This is the first time the character of Wednesday Addams has been the protagonist of the story and actor Jenna Ortega has received rave reviews for her performance. Many of the scenes in Wednesday show Ortega using a wide range of skills including playing a cello. This caused viewers to wonder if she is able to do these things in real life. Before we dive into that, let’s examine Ortega’s glowing reviews, her resume beyond Wednesday, and some top moments from the show.
Critics cannot say enough good things about Ortega as Wednesday, and collectively agree she elevates the show itself.
Forbes’ Paul Tassi stated: “Wednesday is an okay show that is turned into a good one by a pretty astonishing performance from its lead, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams herself.”
“Jenna Ortega is a breath of fresh air in the role,” stated Decider’s Brittany Vincent. “Ortega pulls off her role with an astounding amount of grace and creativity. It’s Ortega’s star power alone that helps drive this series from the very beginning into something that could have been mediocre into a totally watchable and exciting twist on a familiar franchise.”
Cristina Escobar of RogerEbert.com agreed, stating: “Jenna Ortega’s performance as Wednesday elevates the series above pure nostalgia.”
Even before Wednesday, Ortega had an impressive resume. She was a child actor whose first major role was as Harley Diaz on the Disney Channel series Stuck in the Middle. Other notable television credits include Young Jane on The CW’s Jane the Virgin, and Ellie, the neighbor of Joe Goldberg, on Netflix’s You. She has also appeared in the films Yes Day, The Fallout, and Scream.
Ortega used her artistic instincts to make strong choices for the character of Wednesday. She and director Tim Burton decided early on in the filming process that Wednesday would not blink to add to her intensity. Netflix’s Twitter account revealed: “After trying one take where she didn’t blink, Tim Burton was so enamored with the result he told Jenna Ortega not to blink anymore when playing Wednesday. So she didn’t.”
This was not easy to pull off and she would often have to re-do takes. “[Wednesday] doesn’t blink. [Tim Burton] likes it when I tilt my chin down and look through my eyebrows, kind of like a Kubrick stare, and then I relax all the muscles in my face,” Ortega stated on The Today Show. “[It was] Romanian winter, there was all this wind in my face. I learned to blink on other people’s lines.”
The Rave’N dance
In the series, Wednesday attends Nevermore Academy and goes to the school dance. There she cuts a rug in one of the series most iconic scenes which TikTokers have faithfully reenacted on the social media platform. Ortega was the creative force behind this dance choreographing it herself. “I actually felt really insecure about this. I choreographed that myself and I think it’s very obvious that I’m not a dancer or a choreographer,” she stated in a promo video for the show. In a Tweet she stated that her inspiration for the dance was based on “Siouxsie Sioux, Bob Fosse’s Rich Man’s Frug, Lisa Loring, Lene Lovich, Denis Lavant, and archival footage of goths dancing in clubs in the ’80s.”
Although ethically questionable actions may have occurred, Ortega’s performance in this dance number becomes even more impressive when one learns that she had Covid when filming. In-between takes she was given medication to keep going. When her official test results came back, shooting was shut down for the day so they had a limited amount of time to get the perfect takes.
Playing the cello
Ortega does really play the cello in Wednesday in two episodes which are pivotal for her character’s development. Orgeta plays the songs “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones, and the third movement of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
This was a skill Ortega learned specifically for the role. She took lessons twice a week for two months before filming began. “I learned to play the cello for Wednesday” she stated in an interview with WIRED. “I probably couldn’t play too well now. Just because I’ve been away from home so much working and it is something that I want to continue to pursue. I have immense respect for anybody who plays the cello. I think it’s such a delightful instrument.”
Ortega has a true passion for music and is so thankful that Wednesday gave her an outlet to pursue it. “I love music. I think there’s so much to be found in music and you learn a lot, not only about your own personal taste and how far you’re willing to extend yourself but then also about different cultures and what is celebrated in other places in the world. And I think that that’s a really beautiful thing.”