Few characters are as beloved and iconic as The Addams Family, withstanding shifting trends in pop culture, and now Netflix has added to the Addams world, putting Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) in a high school drama, also starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzmán, Fred Armisen and Gwendoline Christie.
With Tim Burton as an executive producer and one of the directors, Wednesday is a combination of Burton's gothic, horror style, with elements that are more reminiscent of Riverdale and Harry Potter. Wednesday certainly has some touchstones that will excite classic Addams Family fans, like the snapping, but it really is it's own independent story, and that's not a bad thing.
“If you're expecting a reboot or a remake, it's not that,” Canadian actor Percy Hynes White, who plays Wednesday's schoolmate Xavier Thorpe, told Yahoo Canada. “I think it really is like a Tim Burton show, that has The Addams Family as sort of a base level to work off of and to build a story off of.”
“All those characters, I think they did them justice, but it's also an entirely new world and it's a new thing. We've got more new characters than old ones, and it's great."
Jenna Ortega kills as Wednesday
The story starts with a classic Wednesday Addams scenario. Wednesday harms a group of jocks who were bullying her brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez).
"I’m not sure whose twisted idea it was to put hundreds of adolescents in underfunded schools run by people whose dreams were crushed years ago, but I admire the sadism," Wednesday says.
After getting in trouble, she is sent to the Nevermore Academy for "outcasts," like werewolves, vampires and other "monsters," which is where her parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán) met. Wednesday has started having visions, which her mother started getting when she was her age, but as Wednesday begins to understand her psychic powers, a supernatural murder mystery emerges at Nevermore. It links back to the time when her parents were students at the school. Wednesday decides to figure out how and why these murders are happening.
A highlight of the series is Jenna Ortega as Wednesday, giving an impressive performance where she expertly says lines with a deadpan delivery and a sarcastic tone that absolutely kills.
As Percy Hynes White highlights, that gave him a lot to play off of as an actor, especially when the series largely keeps you on your toes as you try to figure out if Xavier is a friend to Wednesday, an enemy or maybe even a love interest.
“It's not how you'd expect, because I guess if you think about it, going into a scene or something, when your scene partner is supposed to be emotionless,...you think that that's not a lot to play off, but it's actually everything to play off,” White said.
“Xavier is this sort of entitled guy who's always gotten everything he wanted, and he's very prideful, and when he just sees that Wednesday, this snarky kind of sociopath, doesn't really want to give him the time of day, that's the intrigue of her, but also he gets offended. That was very easy to play off of, because she is hilarious and she does it very well.”
'Charming but untrustworthy' Canadian star
For all the characters that interact with Wednesday, from Xavier to Nevermore Principal Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), the story was crafted in a way where, at any given moment, you don't really know who is "good" and who is "evil."
“I asked [Alfred Gough] and [Miles Millar] and [Tim, Burton], I said, 'Why did you cast me in your show?' And they said, 'Oh, it's because you're charming but untrustworthy,'” Percy Hynes White revealed. “I kind of just took those qualities and ran with it.”
“So sometimes when I was supposed to be a little untrustworthy, I played that up, and sometimes I played up the charming, depending on what the audience is supposed to think. That was fun and it was helpful to know.”
While we thought Christina Ricci was the only Wednesday Addams we could ever love, Jenna Ortega is an absolute star and the perfect person to bring The Addams Family to the next generation. Ricci does play a Nevermore teacher in Wednesday, which we can't say much about to not spoil the series, but the nostalgia factor alone is enticing.
“The Addams Family made such an impact because they showed the lighter side of being dark very well,” White said. “Wednesday is unashamed and quick, and that's what's so timeless about it, because you can always see the sort of macabre, dark reflection and dark humour in everything.”
“That's going to transcend however much time passes.”