Jenna Ortega was locked in a cellar with a dead body in X – The Mark of Death🇧🇷 She shot and killed a serial killer in Panic🇧🇷 And destroyed a satanic cult member with a boat propeller in The Nanny: Queen of Death🇧🇷
She also slept with the lights on well into her teens.
“I was a scared cat,” said Ortega, who plays the title character in Netflix’s new murder mystery series, Wandinhabased on the pessimistic character of Addams Familywhich is available on the platform.
And yet here she is, the star of a series that, for all its icy humor, features at least one dismemberment and disembowelment in the pilot episode alone. 🇧🇷Tim Burton directed the first four episodes.) But for Ortega, the interest is in the deeper layers of the character.
“My Wandinha has a hidden confidence,” Ortega said on a bright Sunday afternoon this month, her long dark brown hair swaying in the breeze of a video call as she strolled through downtown Salt Lake City, holding her cell phone. “She’s on a mission and won’t let anyone get in her way.”
Unlike the films of Addams Family of the early 1990s, when Christina Ricci played a 10-year-old Wandinha Addams, the new eight-episode series, set in the present day, features Ortega as a 16-year-old version of the character, who is sent to a boarding school for pariahs after an incident expels her from her public school. (It has to do with piranhas and a pool full of bullies; Wednesday has no regrets.)
Even in a school populated by vampires and werewolves – her parents, Morticia and Gomez (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman), met there when they were students – Wandinha is a freak among freaks, a frequent subject of gossip because of her and her family’s supposedly bloody past. But Wandinha is also the latest in a long line of teen roles for Ortega, a former Disney star who was, in some ways, eager to move on.
“I was very hesitant about doing this,” she said. “I’ve been through this with teen shows.” And there was also the pressure of taking on her first role in a well-known franchise.
At 20, Ortega has been performing in front of the camera for half his life and has the self-assurance to match. She is the fourth of six children born in the Mexican neighborhood of La Quinta, California, in the Coachella Valley, where she caught the acting bug as a child.
“I saw Dakota Fanning in Flames of vengeance and I said to my parents, ‘Guys, I’m going to be the Puerto Rican Dakota Fanning,'” she said, passing trees as she walked through town in a green turtleneck and headphones wrapped around her neck. Mexicans; his mother’s roots are Mexican and Puerto Rican.)
She spent the next three years “begging non-stop” to be an actress until her mother, an emergency room nurse, bought a book of monologues and posted a video of her on Facebook when she was 9. A casting director saw it, and a year later, Ortega landed his first TV role, in the comedy Robwith Rob Schneider🇧🇷
Then came a cascade of papers, among them that of young Jane in jane the virginaged 10, and, aged 12, a lead role as Harley Diaz on the Disney Channel series the middle sister (2016-18). A month later, she dropped out of her eighth grade classes to pursue her Disney dream.
the middle sister it lasted for three seasons, after which Ortega was eager to land more mature roles. But her Disney experience, she found, came with limitations.
“Disney kids have a huge stigma,” she said. “People automatically think that’s all you can do, that’s all you’re good for.”
But things soon got better: In 2018, she was cast opposite Penn Badgley in the second season of the psychological thriller. Youthen landed her first of several horror roles in The Nanny: Killer Queen in 2020.
His breakout role came in Life After, released in January, which focuses on the aftermath of a high school shooting. It was Megan Park’s directorial debut and Ortega’s first time starring in a film.
“Her ability to know when to go all out and when to hold back – to have that understanding of herself as an artist at such a young age – is really rare,” Park said in a recent phone conversation.
When the creators and showrunners of WandinhaAl Gough and Miles Millar (smallville), began to develop their main character, they didn’t want to follow the typical arc of teenage female leads, which usually go from shyness to confidence. The two have two teenage daughters each – they know very well how things are.
🇧🇷Wandinha “She starts off strong and stays that way,” Millar said.
After writing the first four episodes, they had only one director in mind: Burton, who had turned down the film. The Addams Family in 1991, because of a scheduling conflict.
“We didn’t think he’d even read it,” Gough said of Burton, who hadn’t directed a television series since the 1980s. “We thought we’d have a better chance of winning the lottery.”
To their surprise, Burton called them four days after receiving the script for the first episode.
“The script brought back memories of my high school days,” said Burton, who also served as executive producer, in a recent video interview from Los Angeles. “The characters were the reason I wanted to do the show. I didn’t have a burning desire to do television.”
But realizing their collective vision would require the perfect Wandinha. They auditioned hundreds of actresses, but Ortega brought the character the empathy they were looking for.
“She’s a silent film actress,” said Burton. “She conveys emotion with her eyes.”
Zeta-Jones said she was impressed by Ortega’s assertiveness in protecting her vision of Wednesday.
“She wasn’t intimidated by Tim,” she said. “He’s a great director, but she kept asking him, ‘I’ll do it this way, but can we also try it this way?’ – and that’s how it was.”
But Ortega said it was impossible to completely ignore the pressure of taking on a role immortalized by Ricci, who plays a newly created character on the show, the school’s most “normal” teacher.
“With such an iconic character, you want to do her justice,” said Ortega.
This article originally appeared in the New York Times. / TRANSLATION BY RENATO PRELORENTZOU
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