Choosing a star for “Wednesday” who reflects “Family” principles while adding her own unique touch
The role of raven-haired, pigtail-braided Wednesday Addams needs to go to a young girl who could rise to the occasion of playing a character from such a classic work in addition to someone who could pull off eerie, quirky, mysterious, and spooky.
In an interview with CNN, casting director John Papsidera noted, “It’s always a little bit intimidating when you start a process with such tradition and storied roles around it.” The show is a return to the Addams Family universe, which was originally seen on television in the renowned 1960s black-and-white sitcom and later in the adored early 1990s cartoon series based on Charles Addams’ works Barry Sonnenfeld’s films. In the new season, Wednesday attends the Nevermore Academy, a boarding school where all kinds of freaks and outcasts are allowed to roam freely.
The casting decision for the lead role in the new Netflix series “Wednesday” has a lot on the line.
If you’re anticipating a mockery of “The Addams Family” with the double-snap theme song, think again.
Instead of a remake, this “teen-centric dark comedy,” as described by the show’s creators Al Gough and Miles Millar, is a closer look at and celebration of the notably macabre and razor-sharp older sister of the Addams family.
It was Gough and Millar’s goal to respect Gomez Addams’ ancestry, so they worked with casting directors such as Papsidera and Sophie Holland to locate their ideal Wednesday. In an email to CNN, Gough and Millar stated that it “was always our aim to cast a Latina woman” for the part. Gomez, the family patriarch, was played by White actor John Astin in the 1960s sitcom “Addams Family,” but Puerto Rican actor Raul Julia played him in the Sonnenfeld films. Veteran performer and fellow Puerto Rican Luis Guzmán plays Gomez in “Wednesday.”
In the end, teen it-girl Jenna Ortega (“Scream,” “You,” “X”), an actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, was cast in the role of Wednesday’s daughter. The moment Gough and Millar met Ortega, they claimed, they knew they had found their Wednesday.
In preparation for the casting process, “I had talked about Jenna a lot,” Papsidera recalled of Ortega. “There aren’t many girls who can take the strain of being the first on the call sheet while also being successful in their own right. When the subject is brought up, a young Latina actress always wins.
To “help ensure that the scripts reflected Jenna’s specific heritage,” according to Millar and Gough, the show hired a Mexican creative consultant.
“Authenticity is really important to this generation. We were quite deliberate in every aspect of the casting process, the showrunners continued. We wanted to make sure that the kids at Nevermore Academy were a true reflection of modern American society. It concerns the breadth of casting across the entire series, including background extras, rather than just the series regulars.
Christina Ricci, who made an indelible impression as Marilyn Thornhill in Sonnenfeld’s flicks, was also a success for the “Wednesday” casting team. Due to Ricci’s busy schedule and dedication to her popular Showtime series “Yellowjackets,” it almost didn’t happen.
It was a nice, lengthy game, Christina, stated Papsidera. When we modified our plans, her schedule didn’t open up until almost the very last minute, and director Tim Burton called her to make arrangements.
Ricci and Burton previously collaborated on the 1999 movie “Sleepy Hollow,” which marks Burton’s first effort into directing a television series.
The prospect of working with Tim once more, according to Papsidera, “was perhaps the biggest bonus in our camp.” “I believe she also received the concept to participate in something she enjoys, that it was unique for all parties involved.
There’s little doubt that “Wednesday” doesn’t waste any time subtly recognizing Ricci’s contributions to the part. Without giving too much away, the pilot episode depicts a group of pilgrims who meet a tragic fate, which makes Ricci’s Thanksgiving scene from “Addams Family Values” from 1993 come to mind.
Holland continued, “There’s a certain serendipity to the whole series in that regard. It seems as though things have occasionally come together at the last minute, other times when we were tearing our hair out, thinking, “We can’t find this, we can’t find this. And once you watch the entire series, you’ll notice that it all sort of fits together like a Rubik’s cube.
Gwendoline Christie, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Joy Sunday are among the notable actors who appear in “Wednesday.”
According to Papsidera, Burton handled the casting process and had a clear vision for the show and its characters.
The chat “kind of started and culminated with what Tim observed and who he felt he was drawn.
It was intended to “attempt to reimagine what it is without throwing away the spirit of it” when entering such a well-established environment, he continued.
There is some pressure because we are also fans, Holland agreed, adding.
You’re searching for the essence of those people Papsidera stated, “So that’s always the challenge and the joy when you get it.
Right now, “Wednesday” is available on Netflix.
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