There was a lot to be done about casting choices for the titular character of Netflix’s new series ‘Wednesday’. In addition to someone who could pull off creepy, wacky, mysterious, and creepy, the role of raven-haired, pigtail-wearing Wednesday Addams had to go to a young actress who could rise to the occasion to play a character from such a property. iconic .
“It’s always a little daunting when you start a process with such a legacy and legendary roles surrounding it,” casting director John Papsidera said in a chat with CNN.
The show marks a return to the world of The Addams Family, based on the Charles Addams cartoons and first featured on screen in the iconic 1960s black-and-white sitcom and later in the much-loved early 1990s films by Barry Sonnenfeld. In the new series, Wednesday finds himself in a boarding school called Nevermore Academy where all kinds of outcasts and monsters can roam free.
For those expecting a tongue-in-cheek rehash of “The Addams Family” — complete with the double-shot theme song — think again. This “teen-focused dark comedy,” as described by showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar, is not a reboot, but rather a closer examination and celebration of the razor-sharp, macabre older sister of the Addams clan.
In search of their perfect Wednesday, Gough and Millar worked with casting directors Papsidera and Sophie Holland, among others, and stated in an email to CNN that “it has always been our intention to cast a Latina actress” to cast. the role, because they wanted to honor Gomez Addams’ legacy. While the character of the Gomez family patriarch was played by white actor John Astin in the 1960s sitcom “Addams Family,” he was portrayed by Puerto Rican actor Raul Julia in the Sonnenfeld films. In “Wednesday,” Gomez is played by veteran Luis Guzmán, also from Puerto Rico.
The role of Daughter Wednesday ultimately went to teenage it-girl Jenna Ortega (“Scream,” “You,” “X”), an actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. Gough E Millar knew they had found their Wednesday as soon as they met Ortega, they said.
“I had been talking a lot about Jenna going into the (casting process),” Papsidera said of Ortega. “It’s also a subtle world of girls who can be number one on the call sheet and handle the pressure of that, and she’s accomplished in her own right, too. When she starts talking about a young Latina actress, she rises to the top of the pile.
Millar and Gough said the show hired a Mexican creative consultant to “help ensure scripts reflected Jenna’s specific legacy.”
“This generation is all about authenticity. We were very intentional in every aspect of the casting process,” the showrunners added. “We wanted to make sure that the students of Nevermore Academy truly reflected modern American society. It’s not just about the series regulars, but also about the depth of the casting. throughout the series, including background extras”.
Another coup pulled off by the “Wednesday” casting team was snagging actress Christina Ricci, who portrayed the timeless character in The Sonnenfeld films, in the minor role of Marilyn Thornhill. That almost didn’t happen, due to Ricci’s schedule and commitment to his hit Showtime series “Yellowjackets.”
“It was a really good long game with Christina,” Papsidera said. “We’ve always talked about her from the beginning. And it wasn’t until near the end that her schedule opened up, and then we pivoted there and Tim (Burton, director of “Wednesday”) got on the phone with her and everything worked out.
Ricci and Burton, marking his first foray into directing a television series with the new series, they previously worked together on the 1999 film “Sleepy Hollow.”
“I think the idea of working with Tim again has probably been the biggest benefit in our field,” Papsidera said of the veteran actress’ arrival. “I also think she came up with the idea to participate in something that she loves too, which was really special for everyone involved.”
“Wednesday” certainly wastes no time in surreptitiously honoring Ricci’s contributions to the character. Without spoiling too much, the pilot episode features a group of people dressed as pilgrims who meet a unfortunate fate, calling to mind Ricci’s more than memorable Thanksgiving scene in 1993’s “Addams Family Values.”
“There’s a certain serendipity to the whole series like that,” added Holland of catching Ricci. “It’s like things came together sometimes at the last minute, sometimes when we were pulling our hair out thinking, ‘We can’t find this, we can’t find this.’ And then something would get stuck. And the whole series, you’ll see once you look at it all, is that it all works together almost like a Rubik’s cube.
Also “Wednesday”. with Gwendoline Christie, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joy Sunday, among others.
The casting team worked under the direction of Burton, who according to Papsidera had a clear vision for the show and the characters.
“If anything, that’s where we all started and ended our discussions — with what Tim saw and who he felt drawn to like these characters,” Papsidera said.
Venturing into such an established world, the goal was “to try and reinvent what is without throwing away its spirit,” he added.
“There’s some pressure because we’re also fans,” Holland echoed.
Holland said he wants to “accommodate everyone’s needs and wants” and take “due care in what we do” with regards to the franchise.
“You want the essence of what those original characters were, but you want it in a new way. So that’s always the challenge and the reward when you get it,” Papsidera said.
“Wednesday” is now streaming on Netflix.