Jenna Ortega: The Emotional Challenges of Being Wednesday Adams
We were all captivated by Jenna Ortega’s portrayal of Wednesday Adams. Indeed, Tim Burton knew she was the right actress for the role. The result was spectacular and the series became one of Netflix’s biggest hits. However, taking on one of the most iconic gothic characters in pop culture wasn’t easy for Jenna.
Netflix has now approved the second season, and the young actor has spoken of the psychological cost that the filming implied for her. As viewers, we often aren’t aware of the wear and tear that these kinds of experiences entail for artists (Arias, 2019). We’re going to explore the emotional challenges faced by this brilliant actress.
“I remember it being very stressful and confusing. I did the best I could, but that’s probably the most overwhelming job I’ve ever had.”
Jenna Ortega and the emotional reality behind Wednesday
“Oh, don’t worry, you’re going to do great. It’s gonna look great”, Tim Burton said to her when she expressed her concerns about filming. The young woman already had experience in movies and television. She appeared in the Disney Channel’s Jane the Virgin and also starred in the Scream franchise. However, playing Wednesday was different.
The artist had to learn several extremely difficult skills in a really short period. In fact, to portray the fascinating and singular protagonist of this series, she had to take fencing, cello, and German classes. She had to pick up skills that usually take months and even years to learn so she could start filming. As would be expected, this came at a cost.
You might be interested to read Eight Celebrities with Mental Health Disorders
Being Wednesday Adams and the weight of anxiety
The magazine, Interview, published a conversation between Christina Ricci and Jenna Ortega, in which they discussed the challenges of assuming the role of the Adams’ daughter. At this meeting, Ortega highlighted how stressful the filming was. It isn’t hard to imagine the mental pressure put on an artist when they have to become a character who’s an established cultural icon.
In fact, the actress admitted that, at one point, she felt completely defeated. She was barely sleeping and filming lasted between 12 and 14 hours per day. Moreover, she only had one day off. And, she used her few free hours to learn the aforementioned skills. Unsurprisingly, these kinds of dynamics wear individuals out emotionally and can lead to serious clinical disorders.
Ortega stated that she suffered episodes in which she pulled her hair out, a behavior linked with trichotillomania. A study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry confirms that this behavior is a characteristic of anxiety disorders. In Jenna’s case, the pressure to perform her acting role to the best of her ability was undoubtedly a tough emotional challenge.
“Don’t blink”, don’t show any emotion
Another of the challenges of being Wednesday for Ortega concerned the containment of her emotions. Indeed, this rather strange character is known for not exhibiting any feelings or emotional reactions. This was difficult for the artist to carry out, especially when she was completely dominated by fears and stress.
As if that weren’t enough, the famous director demanded another requirement from Ortega: not to blink. The young actress also faced the following difficulties during filming:
- Dealing with the almost constant urge to cry.
- Having to film the famous, but complex, dance scene despite suffering from COVID-19.
- Being limited when it came to visiting the bathroom, due to the restrictive nature of the dresses worn by Wednesday Adams.
Being away from family
Despite the fact that Jenna Ortega has been in the world of acting since she was a child, the Netflix series marked a before and after in her life, as it brought her overwhelming success. However, the emotional price of the shoot was extremely intense for her. For example, she had to move to Romania for issues associated with the project. There, the weight of her anxiety was mixed with loneliness.
As she’s frequently declared in the media, she made video calls every night to her parents in tears. She didn’t see herself as capable of assuming the challenge. She doubted herself and at times experienced performance anxiety. But, willpower and her love of acting gave her the ability to overcome these difficulties.
“They had to start using stunt doubles or occasionally cello doubles if they didn’t have time to get hands, but I was very adamant about being as well-prepared as possible because I wanted them to be able to use myself because that’s so much more believable if you could see your face.”
What we don’t see: the psychological cost of fame
Ortega had an interesting talk with the presenter Oprah Winfrey, in which she also talked about her psychological problems related to fame. Becoming an artistic icon isn’t easy for most actors. When success comes so quickly and life changes from one day to the next, it becomes difficult to maintain stability.
In an investigation published in the Journal of Individual Differences, some interesting questions are raised, such as: is it necessary to suffer to succeed? Can pressure be a motivating element in some people? It claims that, in a way, great achievements require that we navigate outside of our comfort zones.
Moreover, great success implies facing unthinkable challenges that enhance the individual’s capabilities. This is the case of Ortega, who not only demonstrates that she’s an excellent actress, but is also capable of achieving great goals.
You might be interested to read Mental Illness Affects Celebrities Too
Celebrities and mental health, the courage to break the stigma
For Jenna Ortega, the emotional challenges of playing Wednesday Adams were immense. Yet, she overcame them with willpower and tremendous professional dedication. Undoubtedly, the second season of the series will bring her new challenges, like dealing with her continued fame, being constantly exposed on social media, and having her life analyzed in detail.
This young actress is extremely brave when it comes to revealing her experiences and breaking the stigma and broaching the subject of mental health, as well as pointing out certain realities that previously stayed in the shadows. In fact, these fears, anxiety, pressure, and feelings of loneliness are common events that we all go through.
It’s worth remembering that artists are also people and their vulnerabilities are similar to ours. Finally, we wish Jenna much success and well-being while we eagerly await the second series of Wednesday.
Main image editorial credit: Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Arias, G. L. (2019). In the wings: Actors & mental health A critical review of the literature. Lesley University. https://digitalcommons.lesley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1108&context=expressive_theses
- Grant, J. E., Redden, S. A., Leppink, E. W., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2017). Trichotillomania and co-occurring anxiety. Comprehensive psychiatry, 72, 1–5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330411/
- Jenna Ortega and Christina Ricci have a cathartic conversation about Wednesday. (2022, 20 de octubre). Interview Magazine. https://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/jenna-ortega-and-christina-ricci-have-a-cathartic-conversation-about-wednesday
- Strack, J., Lopes, P., Esteves, F., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2017). Must we suffer to succeed?: When anxiety boosts motivation and performance. Journal of Individual Differences, 38(2), 113–124. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317194653_Must_We_Suffer_to_Succeed_When_Anxiety_Boosts_Motivation_and_Performance
- Netflix Philippines. (2022, 10 de diciembre). Wednesday competes in the poe cup. YouTube.