The Wednesday actress discusses the important life lesson the iconic character has taught her and why women are more powerful than they give themselves credit for.
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Finding your passion and spark can oftentimes take time. But sometimes, if you're lucky, the spark lights up at a very young age and doesn't go away.

At the very mature age of six, actress Jenna Ortega knew that acting was what she wanted to do in life. While she may have not possessed the vocabulary then, Ortega notes that the spontaneity of acting thrills her. The uncertainty that comes with playing a new character feels comfortable to her—like home.

"For ten years now, my job is still something that I'm excited to go to every day. It's still something that I want to experiment with. I want to do all different kinds of projects," she tells People Chica.

Ortega, who will be making history as the first Latina to breathe life into the iconic character of Wednesday Addams in Netflix's Wednesday, has cemented herself as a bit of a scream queen appearing in projects like You, Scream and American Carnage.

Jenna Ortega
Credit: Kelia Anne/Netflix

"You know, I've never played someone so iconic before. What I appreciated about this one is that it hasn't been done before and she's never been seen in that way," the Jane the Virgin actress says. "But for me, it was exciting because I can't think of any known Latin characters that are considered somewhat iconic that reached the same level and fanbase that Wednesday does."

Ortega's end goal? To help everyone feel seen—whether they are Latino or not.

"But I still want people to be able to see a Latina character on screen, and not just Latinas or Latinos, I want everybody to be able to relate to that person. Because the less division or the less, 'Oh, she stands out because of this [or] that,' the more widely accepted it'll become [and] the less I think people will feel isolated in the fact that they're not the same as everyone else, you know," Ortega explains.

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Ortega dives into what it was like for her to take the lead role on Wednesday (premiering on November 23) as well as why women are more powerful than they give themselves credit for.

Pursuing an acting career in Hollywood is something that oftentimes comes with a lot of rejection, making it a journey that is not for the faint of heart. When did you realize that this type of creative path was the kind of work that would help you feel your most fulfilled?

I first knew that I wanted to be an actor when I was six years old, so I'm currently living a six year old's decisions, which is a weird thing to think about now. But I'm also not uncomfortable [with] that because I've been doing this for ten years.

For ten years now, my job is still something that I'm excited to go to every day. It's still something that I want to experiment with. I want to do all different kinds of projects, just do whatever it is that caters to me. But I do want [...] the characters that I play to be different and draw [me into] different environments.

And I think that anyone who has [the] urge to be creative kind of needs that because it's very easy to get bored and static. But when I was 16, I used to try to do theater classes and things like that growing up and I think because of the spontaneity of the job, I'm still very satisfied and still very happy. And I'm very, very grateful to [be] very privileged to have a job that I can feel that way.

You've gone from You to Scream and now Wednesday and have established yourself as an actress that has a love for all the things that are spooky, kooky and a little fear-inducing. What draws you to these types of roles?

I'm a fan of horror and thriller and those are always some of my favorite films to watch and things to do. I also feel like what's getting people to the theaters nowadays is superheroes and horror films. So it's kind of a lot of what's out there right now.

But yeah, for me, it was really—I had always wanted to do a slasher. I had always wanted to be involved with kind of a serial killer [type project] in some way. I thought that might be an interesting challenge as an actor, you know, considering it's not something I have experienced firsthand. But I like dark stuff. I do.

It's fun to me to be crying and screaming and running for my life—and injury here and injury there. I don't want to say that it's an entirely conventional film set either, which it's just so much fun. They're always so much fun.

Jenna Ortega
Credit: Kelia Anne/Netflix

Wednesday is the first time a Latina will be breathing life into the iconic character of Wednesday Addams. What has that experience been like for you? What were the emotions you felt when you found out that you landed the role?

Pretty surprised, I guess you could say. We kind of got into it almost immediately, so I didn't have a lot of time to process and dig [into] the fact that this was happening and this was going to be my life. You know, I've never played someone so iconic before. What I appreciated about this one is that it hasn't been done before and she's never been seen in that way. So, not only was it new for me, it was new for everybody else.

But for me, it was exciting because I can't think of any known Latin characters that are considered somewhat iconic that reached the same level and fanbase that Wednesday does. So for someone who is constantly emphasizing the importance of representation and having people, you know, having the film screen and TV screen reflect what we see in real life is incredibly important to me.

That not only do young Latinas look on a screen and see themselves, but not just as the side character, not just as the friend, but as that iconic character. I think that that's really important and I feel really lucky to be able to do that with this job.

People are likely to feel emotional upon seeing you dressed as Wednesday. In the first episode, Wednesday's journey seems to lead her down the path of the unsuspecting heroine and sees the beginnings of her evolution as a character and as a woman. How do you hope her story will resonate with fans when they see the show?

I feel that everyone kind of wants to see themselves as an outsider and considering we've never seen her as a teenager before, but now she's a teenager, she's coming into her own. And the thing is, when you are a teen, you've got all these hormones going through your body and you do become confused at times.

Maybe there are moments where you don't trust yourself as much as you typically do, which is not in character for Wednesday at all. I think with the series they really just wanted to create some sort of relatability. But I think that with a story like this, it's one of those coming of age stories that we all appreciate so much [and] can relate to because it's confusing and it gets messy.

But Wednesday is entertaining and she's never going to take the same route as everybody else. So if anything, I would hope that people—I do want say to not get any ideas. Don't do piranhas in pools to get back at people who bully your brother. I think that there is something to be said about still finding a way to trust your gut.

Jenna Ortega
Credit: Kelia Anne/Netflix

Each role an actor takes on usually teaches them something new about themselves. What's something that Wednesday taught you about yourself that you didn't know prior to taking on the project?

She taught me a lot of things. It's weird, maybe because I spent—I always had a dark kind of dry sense of humor. But I feel that after stepping into her shoes for the past year because, you know, we're still recording episodes and we're still working on it I feel like my humor has become almost too uncomfortable for some people at times, just because that's the world that I was immersing myself in.

And so I think it's—I really, really enjoy that. And I shouldn't shy away from it as much because it's what makes me happy. But then also I learned that I really love the cello and I would love to consider pursuing cello playing and fencing even.

I think because she understands that the things that—especially [things] people my age worry about or freakout or stressed out about, whether it's social interaction, how awkward they can be, or events at school and things like that. It's never that serious.

I think that that's something that I appreciated about Wednesday, especially because it appears as though it's very serious [for] her and it never is. But I just love how she always flips things around and turns things on their head. And I think that she kind of encourages me to be a bit more honest and spontaneous in that way as well.

In the first episode, folks will also get to see your cello-playing skills in action—which are fantastic.

That was probably one of the most stressful moments of my life because [director] Tim [Burton] was like, "Oh, we'll just do it on the day. We'll just do it on the day." I hadn't touched the cello until like two, three weeks before then, so I was freaking out. I didn't sleep that entire week. Anyone who knows me or was close to me during that period of time knows that I was pulling my hair out.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams
Credit: Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

You're establishing a career that is placing you at the forefront of Latino representation in Hollywood. How do you hope to continue honoring your culture and your heritage as your journey progresses?

Well, I would like to keep playing characters that resonate with people on a wide scale. I feel with things like this coming out, and more people that become aware of your name and things like that, I find myself kind of pulling [or] reaching for a bit more privacy or trying to hide away a little bit more.

But I never want that to be me turning or hiding away from my culture. If anything, I want to continue to play characters that embrace their heritage as well. And I honestly think a big thing of it is it's just the way I present myself off-screen. Fortunately, I'm still very close to my family. I still make tamales with my tía at Christmas.

I participate in my culture the way that I always have, and I don't plan on altering that or changing that depending on jobs that I'm doing. If people are able to look at that, relate to that, that's beautiful [and] wonderful. If people aren't, that's okay.

But I still want people to be able to see a Latina character on screen, and not just Latinas or Latinos, I want everybody to be able to relate to that person. Because the less division or the less, "Oh, she stands out because of this [or] that," the more widely accepted it'll become [and] the less I think people will feel isolated in the fact that they're not the same as everyone else, you know. That would be the goal, I think.

Moosa Mostafa as Eugene Otinger, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Naomi j Ogawa as Yoko Tanaka, Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay
Credit: Netflix

You're a woman that believes in using her platform to lift others up. Lending your support to organizations like Planned Parenthood and UNAIDS, as well as causes that support LGBTQIA2+ rights, gun control and immigration rights. Why do you feel it's so important to use your platform to promote work that is being done in these areas?

I think I've always been a very passionate person, and I was brought up—my parents wouldn't let me become an actor [...] unless I use my platform for good. And if I didn't, then I had to stop and I was going to be taken out of it.

Giving back to the community or being aware of social issues was always something that was [part of] the household that I grew up in and it was something that we kind of talked about and discussed constantly. So I think that once I started gaining a bit more of a platform, and very monumental things in America began happening, or at least I started becoming aware about it was important for me [to do so].

Because obviously I have some feelings and things I want to get off my chest and I never want to sway people a certain way or tell people that this is the way that they should be feeling because that's not true. You know, it's a free country. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to shy away from trying to kind of tell my stance on things.

And if anything, it's a bit scary nowadays, especially with cancel culture and everyone being on the Internet all the time. A conversation around political issues or social issues is so combative and so everyone's defending and getting argumentative.

So I think it's important for me to talk about social issues and bring them up, but also encourage conversation rather than shut down other ideas that people may have. Because discussion is so important, and this is a country that we have to share together and we're not going to do any good by kind of attacking each other or not letting the other person speak.

Wednesday - Moosa Mostafa as Eugene Otinger, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 103 of Wednesday.
Credit: Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

But it's just really important to me because I also would like to encourage everyone to use their platform, no matter how big or small, because it matters. Because what you say on Twitter could spark conversation or it could become something. Or if it makes you feel better knowing that you're putting information out there that you believe in or you read up on and educated yourself on, and it could help somebody else a bit more [who is] confused about their situation.

It's so beneficial and so important, and it's the only thing, it's the only way we're going to enforce positive or progressive change in this country.

For many years, society has wanted women to feel that they couldn't support one another without losing out on opportunities. Today's generation of women, you included, are looking to change that philosophy. Why do you feel it's so crucial for women to support women in order to further our growth within our country and society?

I think it's important for women to support women because naturally, yes, we are at a bit of a disadvantage and we always have been. But I think what's really important to remember is [if] you look back to the 60s, 70s—whatever the time—the time when women stood together and raised their voice and spoke about things that they believed in is the time that things got done.

And I think as we continue to face these battles, in all areas of our lives, whether it be socially, in the workplace, it's really important that we just continue pushing for what we deserve. And I think at times, you know, especially at a time like this with Roe v. Wade, I think it's very easy for women to feel discouraged or at a loss or, you know, just disappointed, which it's okay to feel that way.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Hunter Doohan as Tyler Galpin
Credit: Netflix

But it's also a good reminder that now is the time to start pushing more than ever because we are a united front, we are a lot more powerful than anyone has ever given us credit. And also, we have made a lot of progress in this country. You know, it's immensely different than it was 100 years ago. And knowing that women fought so hard to get us where we are today, it would be incredibly selfish or I guess kind of unfair, to not continue the efforts that they made, especially when it's for our own benefit and it's for our own safety.

But then also there's no need to discourage other people. That's the thing—at the end of the day, women or not women—what you want to do with your life and what you want to do, it's okay. I can't judge you for your personal decisions. But I do want to create the safest environment possible for you to discover yourself and kind of go on your own endeavor and become as successful as possible.

Because if you work for it, that's what you deserve. That's what you get. And I think it's really important that it's just that whole thing of be kind to one another.