When “Wednesday” premiered in October 2022, it swiftly smashed records on Netflix, becoming the most-watched English-language series in the history of the streamer. When you consider how much the show’s star, Jenna Ortega, played a role in that success with her deadpan, unblinking performance as the title character, it’s hard to believe she very nearly didn’t star in the hit series.
In a March 11 interview with The Times (via Variety), Ortega revealed she actually turned down the role of Wednesday . . . and not just once. “I got the email, passed on it,” she said, continuing on to give some insight into how her career goals factored into her initial decision.
“I had done so much TV in my life. All I’ve ever wanted to do is film . . . You have to prove yourself. It’s only in the last three or four years that I’ve been able to start going up for film,” she explained. “I was scared that by signing on to another television show it could prevent me from doing other jobs I really wanted and cared about.”
In the end, it was the prospect of working with “Wednesday”‘s iconic director and executive producer, Tim Burton, that made her reconsider and return to the negotiation table. “The only reason I went back is because Tim is such a legend and we just happened to get along very well,” Ortega said. “But even then, I said, ‘Ah, no — I think I’m OK,’ a couple times.”
“Wednesday”‘s impact (and nearly instant season two renewal) took Ortega by surprise. “I thought it wasn’t going to be watched. That it will be a nice little gem that someone finds,” she said, admitting that it would have been “preferable” to her if that had been the case. “I used to do a Disney show when I was younger. I was a little bit of a public figure, used to get recognised, or whatever,” she continued. “When I look back, I think I was so out of place. I didn’t understand where I was and you start to see Hollywood for the first time, and it’s a bit intimidating, a bit off-putting. I felt like I was a people’s princess. I didn’t really feel like myself. Then it started to slow down, and I lived a pretty normal life . . . Until ‘Wednesday,’ until now, I think.”
Starring in “Wednesday” has undoubtedly returned Ortega to household name, recognised-on-the-street status, and while that may not be the actor’s preference, it certainly hasn’t derailed her movie-actor ambitions.
Ortega was already locking down film roles prior to “Wednesday,” which landed her a coveted Golden Globe nomination this year for best actress. She’s starred in projects like 2022’s reboot of the Scream franchise, “The Fallout,” “X,” “Yes Day,” and more, but the caliber of films she’s signed onto (and is in talks to join) in recent months has only increased. In February, it was announced that Ortega joined The Weeknd’s currently untitled feature-film debut. Then, on March 9, Variety reported that Ortega is in talks to star in “Beetlejuice 2” (another Burton project) as Wynona Ryder’s character Lydia Deetz’s daughter.
Looks like Ortega will get to juggle her “Wednesday” role and other film pursuits after all.