Jenna Ortega is the face of Netflix’s “Wednesday,” the streamer’s second biggest English-language series of all time, but making the popular Addams Family series required the actor to put her foot down in a way she never has before on a film or television set. Ortega said on a recent episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast that many of the original “Wednesday” scripts made no sense to her from a character perspective, so much so that she went ahead and changed dialogue without consulting the film’s writers.
“When I read the entire series, I realized, ‘Oh, this is for younger audiences,’” Ortega said. “When I first signed onto the show, I didn’t have all the scripts. I thought it was going to be a lot darker. It wasn’t… I didn’t know what the tone was, or what the score would sound like.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had to put my foot down more on a set in a way that I had to on ‘Wednesday,’” she continued. “Everything that Wednesday does, everything I had to play, did not make sense for her character at all. Her being in a love triangle? It made no sense. There was a line about a dress she has to wear for a school dance and she says, ‘Oh my god I love it. Ugh, I can’t believe I said that. I literally hate myself.’ I had to go, ‘No.’ There were times on that set where I even became almost unprofessional in a sense where I just started changing lines. The script supervisor thought I was going with something and then I had to sit down with the writers, and they’d be like, ‘Wait, what happened to the scene?’ And I’d have to go and explain why I couldn’t go do certain things.”
Ortega clearly wanted to make Wednesday more three-dimensional than how the character read on the page. She didn’t want to play a Wednesday who lacked growth and was constantly monotonous, morbid and droll. For Ortega, that approach wasn’t going to work for a teenager.
“I grew very, very protective of her,” Ortega said. “You can’t lead a story and have no emotional arc because then it’s boring and nobody likes you. When you are little and say very morbid, offensive stuff, it’s funny and endearing. But then you become a teenager and it’s nasty and you know it. There’s less of an excuse.”
It’s hardly the first time Ortega has opened up about fighting battles on the “Wednesday” set. In a discussion last year for Interview magazine, Ortega said it was director Tim Burton who “did not want me to have any expression or emotion at all” when she was playing Wednesday. “He wanted a flat surface, which I understand,” she said. “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,’” Ortega added at the time. “I was completely lost and confused. Typically I have no problem using my voice, but when you’re in it — I just remember feeling defeated after the first month.”
Whatever battles Ortega had to fight and whatever lines of dialogue she had to change clearly worked in her favor, as “Wednesday” earned great reviews and ranks behind only “Stranger Things 4” as Netflix’s most-watched English-language series. The show has been renewed for Season 2.