The Addams Family has been lurking around for over 80 years, twisting perceptions of what “normal” families look like with their whimsically macabre humor. Now Netflix’s horror-comedy Wednesday features the titular Addams as the ultimate moody teen, sharpening her psychic, mystery-solving skills as the black sheep at a school for supernatural outcasts. Teeming with nods to past iterations and icons of gothic greatness, this show is all about the gory details. So snap twice for these fiendish facts that make Wednesday the eerie series to watch.
The Addams Family originally appeared in a series of single-panel comics published in The New Yorker, beginning in 1938. Cartoonist Charles Addams wanted to poke fun at society’s idea of what a “normal”, middle-class American family ought to look like by depicting the tight-knit creepy clan bonding in satirically sinister ways. Readers got—and loved—the joke, even though something major was missing.
It wasn’t until 1964’s live-action, sitcom adaptation, The Addams Family, that Charles Addams actually gave his characters the names and personalities we all know today. In his own words, crafty schemers “Gomez and Pugsley are enthusiastic”. Witchy Morticia is “muted, witty, and deadly”, and woeful “Wednesday is her mother’s daughter”. It’s a description that left Wednesday a lot of room to grow—in more ways than one.
Audiences have never seen Wednesday Addams as a teenager before.
In the comics and original series, she’s a sweet six-year-old, and in the 90s reboot films, and recent animated features, she’s a hilariously morbid pre-teen. Show creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough were curious to see how a smart, fearless 16-year-old Addams would navigate the contemporary world, and so asked themselves, WWWD—what would Wednesday do? Well, for starters.
Can’t a girl toss a few piranhas in her high school’s pool without facing expulsion? Nope. Wednesday’s parents transfer her to their alma mater, Nevermore Academy, a cursed boarding school for gifted outcasts situated in the “normie” town of Jericho. Oh, and there’s a killer monster on the loose. So, you know, tensions are high.
It’s the perfect setting to explore the show’s main theme of how society treats outsiders, and who better to give the culture clash its dark-fantasy twist than Hollywood’s most successful “outcast”, director Tim Burton?
Tim Burton has been dying to get his hands on an Addams project for years.
He had to turn down directing 1991’s The Addams Family to work on Batman Returns, and plans to produce a stop-motion animated film also fell through. When Millar and Gough sent him Wednesday’s pilot script, he jumped at the chance to become executive producer and direct four of Season 1’s eight episodes.
His connection to the work is surprisingly personal.
Tim Burton shares Wednesday’s worldview and relates to the feeling of being an outsider amongst outsiders. “It’s quite cathartic to keep working on those themes because that’s how I feel”, the director said. Another reason he feels so close to her? “When I was a child, I used to play in a cemetery near my house and loved horror movies”. Uh-huh.
Maybe that explains why he and Wednesday star Jenna Ortega understand each other so well.
People have been comparing actress Jenna Ortega to Wednesday Addams since she was six years old. “I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I’m a weirdo in the sense I used to perform autopsies on...little lizards that I found dead in my back yard”. She might have omitted that skill on her resume, but her gruesome interview for the role was convincing enough.
Jenna was in the middle of filming a scene for the horror movie X when she took a Zoom call from Tim to discuss her potential casting. “I had stage blood and glycerin sweat in my hair and a massive cut on my face”, the actress recalls. They both laughed, and it no doubt helped clinch the deal.
Soon Jenna, and all the cast and crew, were headed for an ideal filming location. Hint: It’s close to Transylvania.
Though Wednesday is set in Vermont, most filming took place in Busteni, Romania. The Bucharest Botanical Garden became the botany classroom, while the Olga Greceanu Mansion stood in for the Gates manor.
The old-world architecture of Cantacuzino Castle and Casa Monteoru gave Nevermore Academy the perfect gothic vibe, making it easy to imagine the fictional school’s most famous alumni darkening its doorways.
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Wednesday pays massive tribute to the godfather of gothic literature, Edgar Allan Poe, and his most famous poem, “The Raven”. The academy’s name comes from the line, ”Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’”. The school dance is the “Rave’N”, and Wednesday’s gloomy visions are said to make her a “raven” psychic, rather than an optimistic “dove”.
Let’s not forget the Poe Cup race or the statue of the man himself that leads to the Nightshades hideout. Wednesday is all about those details.
Nevermore’s four main cliques are “Fangs, Furs, Stoners, and Scales”. In the quad, not only are the arches designed to look like monster jaws, but there are gargoyles to represent the different school groups.
There’s also a reference to Wednesday’s dorm, Ophelia Hall, in the semi-submerged sculpture in the reflecting pool.
Wednesday may hint that she can relate to the Hamlet heroine “who drowns herself after being driven mad by her family”, but she’s no tragic figure. Even if her name says otherwise.
Wednesday’s name comes from the ‘Monday’s Child’ nursery rhyme line, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”. As a nod to this, every episode in Season 1 has ‘Woe’ in the title. In the 60s sitcom, Wednesday’s middle name is Friday, and as Morticia explains to Principal Weems, she was born on Friday the 13th. It takes a lot more than an unlucky birthday to be this good at being bad.
Jenna Ortega had to pick up some insane skills for her role. These include archery, fencing, and learning to play the cello only two months before shooting began. She also learned German for the hilarious Episode 3 scene where visitors looking for fudge at Pilgrim World get schooled on the evils of colonialism—a moment inspired by the Thanksgiving pageant Wednesday burns to the ground in 1993’s Addams Family Values.
But Ortega wasn't the only actor who trained hard for her part.
Actress Emma Myers, who plays Wednesday’s bubbly werewolf “bestie”, Enid Sinclair, had to go through some pretty unconventional training to get into lupine shape. She describes leaping and running on all fours with the actors playing her wolf-pack brothers while stunt people circled them pretending to be sheep.
“I’ve never done so much parkour in my life”, she said.
At least she didn’t have to doggy paddle for those intense lake scenes.
Many cast members had to take up canoeing to prepare for the Poe Cup race. Joy Sunday, who plays Queen Bee siren, Bianca Barclay, talked about getting up early to travel to a lake in Bucharest where the actors would have to race against each other for hours, calling it “pretty grueling”. On one of the filming days, the actors even had to go into the water—and this was no pleasant dip.
It was so cold all they could do was laugh.
Maybe because they were used to it.
None of the Wednesday cast had a hot shower during the entire eight-month shoot. Some of that was in the winter, people. Boilers for the apartments broke early and with everything closed due to Covid lockdowns, there was little that could be done.
“I feel like we survived something”, Jenna Ortega jokes. She had to be adaptable, that’s for sure.
Jenna was a vegan for years before filming began, but Romania’s most popular dishes are heavily meat-based and she had a hard time meeting her nutritional requirements. “The food is very different there.
.so I started eating fish again. So I’m currently a pescatarian”. If this shoot has taught her anything, it’s if you don’t look after your own health, who will?
According to a recent Reddit poll, the most popular character on the show isn’t Wednesday Addams, or her parents, or any of her classmates. So who won?
Give him a high-five, it’s Thing. Out of 2,523 votes from 88 countries, Thing beat out Wednesday by 23 votes. Oh, snap!
Want to be more impressed with Jenna’s talent? Ortega choreographed the “Goo-Goo Muck” dance herself. She credits studying old footage of nightclubbing goth kids, punk priestess Siouxsie Sioux, and Bob Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug” as inspirations. She also paid special homage to original Wednesday, Lisa Loring, by incorporating steps she made famous in the 60s.
But another Wednesday from the past made an even bigger impact on the show.
Long-time Addams fans were thrilled to hear Christina Ricci—who played Wednesday to morose perfection in the 90s—would have a role in the new series as “normie” botany teacher, Marilyn Thornhill. The actress felt honored to be asked back by Tim Burton, whom she worked with on 1999’s Sleepy Hollow, and grateful for the chance to reconnect to a role that’s a huge part of her identity. And to think, it almost didn’t happen.
Not only was actress Thora Birch “dismayed” at being unable to reprise her role as Dani in the recent Hocus Pocus sequel, she’d already filmed most of her Wednesday scenes as the character Tamara Novak before leaving the production for a “personal matter”. Later, she hinted that creative differences also led to her role’s reinvention for Ricci, who reshot Birch’s parts using greenscreen.
It’s too bad, but Christina isn’t really a scene-stealer unless she wants to be.
Christina is only too happy to pass the Wednesday torch to Jenna, but the actresses never compare notes.
Ricci doesn’t want to be territorial or overbearing, and Ortega is mindful of not doing an impression of her predecessor’s performances. “I think when she was on set, neither one of us said ‘Wednesday’ once to each other”, Jenna said.
As if two weren't already enough, there was another Wednesday on set—even if it was only in her heart.
Before landing the role of living rainbow/werewolf Enid Sinclair, Emma Myers auditioned for the role of Wednesday Addams.
”I would consider myself more a Wednesday because I am very introverted and I don’t have a lot of energy,” Emma said. Still, she’s embraced her role as the bubbly bestie, proving the production made the right call. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been casting controversies.
Tim Burton and Netflix came under fire from fans unhappy that all three major black characters—Bianca, thuggish townie Lucas, and Mayor Walker—seemed to be villains. It’s not the first time Burton’s heard complaints about discriminatory casting, something he denies. Joy Sunday, who plays Bianca, later defended the director, but says she appreciates the dialogue and understands the reactions of viewers who had not yet seen the three characters in question turn out to be allies.
Now for another unpopular creative choice.
Fans used to seeing Gomez played as a debonair Latin lover, whether by Raul Julia or John Astin, cried foul over the casting of Luiz Guzmán, even though he bears the most resemblance to the original cartoons. The show also wanted to dig into Gomez’s Latin heritage. Luiz is Puerto Rican, as is Jenna, who has Mexican roots.
Guzmán may go for sentimental over suave, but he’s proud to be playing Gomez as such a caring father. Playing the passionate, devoted husband to a smokeshow like Morticia is not such a bad gig either.
A big part of Wednesday’s storyline deals with her stepping out of her popular mother’s shadow. With Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Morticia, that shadow is insanely glamorous.
The actress wanted to put her own spin on the role, focusing more on her character as a mother and loving wife, but messing with her iconic look was a definite no-no.
“We didn’t want Morticia in pants all of a sudden. When I close my eyes, I see Morticia, and we don’t need to vary that”. Some characters are just timeless.
Proving you’re never too old for PDA, 66-year-old Luiz Guzmán and 53-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones are the oldest actors to ever play Gomez and Morticia. And while we’re crunching numbers, George Burcea, who is 6’3”, is the shortest actor to play the family’s imposing servant Lurch. Another figure worth talking about is five—as in, the five real fingers playing a disembodied hand.
The intelligent, detached hand Thing is no CGI creation.
He’s played by magician Victor Dorbantu, who wears a full-coverage blue suit on height-adjusted sets so the special effects team can edit the rest of him out. Another magician, Christopher Hart, also lent Thing his sleight-of-hand gestures in the 90s. Victor admits, “It’s pretty hard to find movements that can express feelings” like love or anger. If he thinks he’s limited, he should see things through Jenna’s eyes.
Wednesday’s unnerving deadpan stare comes courtesy of the fact that Tim Burton doesn’t want Jenna to blink. The actress tried the technique a few times before Burton decided he loved it, and insisted she keep doing it.
Easy for him to say. Jenna often had to do retakes because the Romanian winter made her eyes water. “There was all his wind in my face. I learned to blink on other people’s lines”.
At least Joy Sunday would’ve been used to people staring.
Sunday got so used to wearing the luminous blue contacts that give Bianca her siren’s allure that she’d forget to take them out. People meeting her for the first time on set would stare at her strangely, and sometimes she’d be halfway home before reactions reminded her to turn around and bring the lenses back to set. Speaking of signature looks.
Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood is a longtime Burton collaborator. Her work on Wednesday mixes fashion trends from the music world with the look of Charles Addams’ original drawings. She also likes to incorporate elements of a character’s gifts into their wardrobe.
For example, with Enid, she uses soft, furry textures in bubblegum colors.
For Bianca, she likes to use material or jewelry with a scale effect. As for Wednesday, Atwood has tricks to keep black from being basic.
Atwood keeps Wednesday’s black and white wardrobe interesting by manipulating fabric with shine and texture, even customizing Wednesday’s Nevermore uniform with a hand-painted grey stripe. When it came to that standout Rave’N look, Atwood found the perfect dress—a ruffled black Alaïa—in a shop window. She recalls telling her assistant “I’ll never do better than this”, though she did wind up tweaking the collar for Jenna. The actress had to get used to people fussing over her appearance.
Think getting Wednesday’s hair right is as easy as a couple of braids? Think again. “We tried silver streaks...short, tiny braids. Really long, thick braids..”. recalls Jenna. It was her idea to cut bangs, which Tim Burton loved but constantly fussed over. At least she didn’t have to shave her head like Fred Armisen did to play Fester. He didn’t think a bald cap would be convincing. The lengths some cast members went to. ..
Catherine Zeta-Jones’s transformation took the longest. After having her hair styled with waist-length extensions—some of which were her own—make-up artist Tara McDonald would take at least an hour applying Catherine’s face and covering her hands, chest, and neck with super pale foundation. Jenna also briefly wore body makeup until, she joked, she “lost all melanin” during the winter.
She wasn’t the only actress surprised by her makeover.
Gwendoline Christie claims that playing shape-shifting Principal Larissa Weems is the first time she’s ever felt beautiful on-screen. She and Colleen Atwood modeled her look after Tippi Hedren’s portrayal of Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Birds. Daniels is another classic “outsider” character, and Weems, Atwood says, “is her own kind of misfit in a totally different way”.
But Wednesday's horror homages get a lot more terrifying than The Birds.
When some “normie” pranksters use Nevermore’s sprinkler system to shower Rave’N goers with red paint, it’s Wednesday’s way of showing love to the classic horror Carrie’s insane, bloody climax. In the film, a terrorized teen has a bucket of pig blood dumped on her, which unleashes her telekinetic rage.
Of course, Wednesday’s only complaint is that the blood is fake. We’re not mad at these next shout-outs either.
Wednesday is bursting with nods to the past, such as the original theme song’s double-snap being the entry code to the Nightshades lair, and Tyler Galpin’s use of Lurch’s catchphrase “You rang”? Clever call-backs to the 90s films include Pugsley being introduced with an apple in his mouth—again!—and Wednesday’s “I could eat Girl Scouts for breakfast” line referencing her past run-in with the do-good troupe.
Gomez’s jail jumpsuit number, 171912, is Charles Addams’ birthday. And we’re not even done.
That shrunken head on Principal Weems’ office desk is totally tipping a tiny hat at the after-life waiting room scene in Beetlejuice. The Weathervane Café features actual weathervanes on the walls with Burton movie motifs. Keep your eyes peeled for Willy Wonka’s top hat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and scissors that point at both Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd.
Most bizarre of all, the taxidermied rodents at Uriah’s Heap wear outfits based on Tim’s films. Why? Why not?
Hunter Doohan, who plays Wednesday’s “normie” crypt-crush, Tyler Galpin, couldn’t believe he had to take a test to prove he could handle a scene requiring him to drive a car two feet. “They don’t like actors driving”, he said, which was especially true when the crew chased Percy Hynes White down for taking a joy ride on the set with a golf cart.
Percy, who plays Wednesday's other love interest/fellow gifted student, Xavier Thorpe, is considered the cast’s biggest joker—but he may be headed for trouble that’s no laughing matter.
Wednesday has no time for love triangles—at least not according to Jenna. She wants her character’s main focus to remain on solving mysteries, saying it’s important to her that Wednesday’s interactions with boys “be strictly out of pleasure or amusement, rather than severe interest”. Guess there’s no need to choose Team Tyler or Team Xavier, but she could’ve fooled us.
Building romantic tension between Tyler and an expressionless, seemingly emotionless Wednesday Addams was a little tricky for Hunter Doohan.
He and Jenna are good friends off-screen, so whenever he had doubts they were creating enough chemistry for the cameras, Jenna would assure him, “I can do that with a look”. Needless to say, she was right.
Hunter said, “I was watching the show and I was like...yeah she can”. Tell us more, Hunter.
Hunter’s answer to those wondering whether Tyler, who—spoiler alert!—turns out to be a murderous Hyde monster, genuinely had feelings for Wednesday or whether he was just messing with her, might disappoint. “I think he was always playing her. Maybe there’s an attraction...a respect for her, but he’s filled with so much anger”. Sigh.
Oh, well, Wednesday fans have another ship in mind anyway.
Now that Tyler’s off the table, Jenna doesn’t exactly see things between Wednesday and Xavier going forward. “I feel like she is off boys for a while”, she’s said, giving hope to fans rooting for a “Wenclair” relationship. Many regard Enid Sinclair’s struggles with “wolfing out” as code for her coming out and think that love between roomies could bloom. Jenna agrees.
“In a perfect world we would be a thing”.
Good news, too, because Xavier is probably never going to happen...
On Jan 18, 2023, Twitter user @milkievich accused Percy Hynes White of assault, claiming that while the actor was in high school, he took advantage of intoxicated women at parties, and harassed those who turned down his advances.
The initial thread set off a wave of other accounts detailing Percy as a vengeful predator.
Neither he nor representatives for Wednesday have responded to the allegations, but it’s unlikely they’ll stay silent on the matter, especially with Season 2 of the show on the way.
Gomez and Morticia can’t get enough of one another and fans can’t get enough of them. Now that Wednesday’s given us a first-time look at the lovers as teens—played by the perfectly cast Lucian Hoyos and Gwen Jones—there are calls for a spin-off featuring their epic romance and more Nevermore mysteries. They’re popular enough to pull it off—but the vote for favorite Wednesday character will probably come as a shock.
Wednesday holds the new Netflix record for most hours viewed in a single week for an English-language TV series. Stranger Things Season 4 previously held the record with 335 million hours, before Wednesday smashed it with 341 million hours. It’s now only second to Stranger Things’ fourth season with over 1 billion hours viewed in a month. That score may change when fans tune into Season 2 for answers to burning questions.
We may know the identities of Season 1’s main baddies, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still questions. For example, in Pilgrim society, Goody was a prefix akin to Miss or Mrs. Is Goody Addams’s real name something we’ll ever learn? Who sent Wednesday that threatening text?
And is Larissa Weems actually gone or does she have something to do with the eerie theory surrounding Lurch?
In the last scene, as Lurch drives Wednesday home from Nevermore, eagle-eyed fans noticed that the color of his eyes had changed, specifically that the blue, milky eye he had in Episode 1 was gone.
Could it be a continuity problem or has some shape-shifter taken his place? Millar and Gough already have Season 2 mapped out, but they’re not saying much.
Millar and Gough have actually laid out four seasons of Wednesday, saying that in Season 2, they want to “complicate” evolving relationships. Gough also teased that some characters audiences thought were gone are still out there.
Talk about complicated. Jenna Ortega has said she wants Wednesday to be darker, but all other clues are cryptic. What’s known for sure is that audiences will have to wait until mid-2024 to see where Wednesday’s story goes. Woe is us.
Backlash to Wednesday's filming practices came out before the show even aired. Critics slammed the production team for putting Jenna, and everyone else, in jeopardy by allowing her to film the Rave’N dance scene when she had symptoms of Covid. Knowing a test was likely to come back positive—and it did—they rushed filming the now TikTok-famous number to stay on schedule, giving Jenna medicine in between takes.
It’s insane that she was able to pull it off, but she won’t take all the credit.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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