“Wednesday's child is full of woe,” says an old saying. This is, by coincidence, exactly how Jenna Ortega felt when she played Wednesday Addams on screen.
During a recent Netflix Q&A, the actress said that the demanding schedule of the Tim Burton–directed series, along with the many cello and fencing lessons she had to take to get into character, pushed her to the limit.
Ortega told Variety, “I'd get to set two hours early, work a 12- to 14-hour day, then go home, get on Zoom, and teach whatever lesson I had.“
“Or I could go to my apartment and find my cello teacher there already. It was nonstop, and if we weren't shooting on the sixth day of the week, we could get our lessons in on the weekend.”
She started learning how to fence and play the cello months before going to Romania to film the series. Ortega said that the scene in which her character plays the Rolling Stones' 1966 hit “Paint It Black” on the cello was especially hard because she had to play a piece for two cellos all by herself.
“I did not get any sleep. I pulled out all my hair, “she told me. “There are so many FaceTime calls where I was crying so hard that my dad had to answer them.”
The actress said she was “very determined” to be as ready as possible for the performance because she wanted Burton to be able to use footage that showed her playing a big part. She also said, “That would make a lot more sense if you could see my face.”
Burton had a lot of faith in Ortega, of course. The actress said that the director and executive producer tried to make her feel less worried by telling her, “Oh, don't worry, you'll do just fine. It will look good.”
Still, that didn't make it any easier to play. “I didn't even know what to do with my hands,” Ortega said. “Then I had to make two cellos out of one cello, which was crazy.”
Ortega did more than just the “Paint It Black” performance while the show was being filmed. The actress made her famous Wednesday dance in just two days, again after getting very little sleep.
She was inspired by the rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees and Denis Lavant in the 1999 movie Beau Travail. Even worse, Ortega found out that she had COVID-19 while filming the dance sequence, which made things even worse.
In an interview last October with her Wednesday co-star and former Wednesday Addams, Christina Ricci, Ortega said that playing Wednesday was “the most overwhelming job I've ever had.”
She said at the time, “Every night I would call my parents in a panic because I felt like it was different from any other job I had done before, where I usually had that time to get into character.”
“We didn't have much time to practice. I remember that it was very hard and hard to understand. I tried my best, but that was probably the hardest job I've ever had.”
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