Casting the title character of Netfilx’s new series “Wednesday” was an important decision. It also required someone who could play creepy, kooky and mysterious. The role of Wednesday Addams, a raven-haired, pigtail braided Wednesday Addams, needed to be given to a young actress who could handle the challenge of playing such an iconic character.
John Papsidera, casting director, said that it is always daunting to start a process with such storied roles and legacy.
This show is a return to Addams Family, which was first shown on screen in the 1960s black-and white sitcom. Later, it was featured in the beloved early 90s films of Barry Sonnenfeld. Wednesday is at Nevermore Academy, a boarding school where every kind of freak and outcast can be free.
You might be expecting a tongue in cheek rehash “The Addams Family”, complete with the double-snap theme tune. The “teen-centric dark comedy,” according to showrunners Al Gough & Miles Millar is not a remake, but rather an examination and celebration the more macabre and sharp as-a-razor older sibling of the Addams family.
Gough and Millar searched for the perfect Wednesday. They worked with Sophie Holland and Papsidera, casting directors, to find it. Millar also stated in an email to CNN, “It was always our intention to cast a Latina actor for this role” because they wanted to respect Gomez Addams’s heritage. The role of Gomez, the family patriarch, was played by John Astin, a White actor. However Raul Julia, a Puerto Rican actor was the one to portray him in the Sonnenfeld movies. Luis Guzman (also from Puerto Rico) plays Gomez in “Wednesday.”
Jenna Ortega, a teen actress of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, was eventually given the role of daughter Wednesday. Gough and Millar said that they knew Ortega was their Wednesday the moment they met her.
“I had talked a lot about Jenna in going into (the casting) process,” Papsidera stated of Ortega. It’s a small world of girls who can handle the pressure and be number one on the list. But it’s also a very thin world. Talking about a young Latina actress is a great way to get to the top.
Millar and Gough claimed that the show used a Mexican creative consultant in order to “ensure that the scripts reflected Jenna’s particular heritage.”
“Authenticity is the key to this generation. The showrunners said that they were meticulous in all aspects of the casting process. “We wanted the Nevermore Academy students to reflect modern American society. It’s more than just about regular cast members. It is also about casting depth across the series, including background actors.
The casting team also scored another coup on Wednesday when they were able to secure actress Christina Ricci. Ricci was a time-saver who played the character in Sonnenfeld’s movies in the smaller role as Marilyn Thornhill. Ricci’s commitment to her Showtime series, “Yellowjackets,” and her busy schedule almost prevented it from happening.
“It was a wonderful long game with Christina,” Papsidera stated. “We had been talking about her since the beginning. It wasn’t until the very last minute that her schedule became available. We then pivoted and Tim (director of Wednesday) called her. Everything worked out.
Burton and Ricci, who are making their first television series director’s debut with the new series, previously collaborated on “Sleepy Hollow” in 1999.
“I believe the idea of working again with Tim was probably the greatest bonus in our camp,” Papsidera stated of landing the veteran actress. “I think she was also inspired to participate in something she loves, which made it special for everyone involved.”
“Wednesday,” a sneaky tribute to Ricci’s contributions, is no waste of time. The pilot episode, which I won’t spoil, features a group dressed up as pilgrims and meet with an unlucky fate. It reminds me of Ricci’s memorable scene in 1993’s Addams Family Values.
Holland said that there was a certain serendipity in the series. It was almost like everything just happened at the last moment, when we were wondering if we could find it. And then, something would happen. The whole series works almost as a Rubik’s cube.
Gwendoline Christie and Catherine Zeta Jones star in “Wednesday”, as well as Joy Sunday and Joy Zeta Jones.
Burton was the casting director. Papsidera stated that he had a clear vision of the characters and the cast.
“If anything, that was where we all kinda started and ended our conversations – with Tim’s visions and the characters he felt he was drawn too,” Papsidera stated.
He stated that he ventured into such a well-established world to try and “reinvent what it is without destroying its spirit.”
Holland echoed Holland’s sentiments, “There’s a certain pressure because also…we love fans.”
Holland stated that she wants to “fulfill everyone’s needs and want” and “properly care for what we do” in relation to the franchise.
“You want to capture the essence of those characters, but in a different way. That’s why it’s always a challenge and the reward once you achieve it,” Papsidera stated.
Netflix now streams “Wednesday”