“Wednesday” and the challenge of authentically recreating the atmosphere of the Addams family for today’s tastes


A lot went into the casting choice for the titular character of the new Netfilx series “Wednesday.” In addition to someone who could do creepy, weird, mysterious, and spooky, the role of raven-haired, braided Wednesday Addams had to go to a young actress who could get a chance to play a character of such an iconic property. .

“It’s always a little daunting when you start a process with this legacy and historical roles around it,” said casting director John Papsidera in a chat with CNN.

The show marks a return to the world of the Addams Family, based on the cartoons of Charles Addams and first introduced to the screen in the iconic black-and-white sitcom of the 1960s and later in the much-loved movies from the early 90s. by Barry Sonnenfeld. In the new series, Wednesday is at a boarding school called Nevermore Academy where all manner of outcasts and monsters are allowed to roam free.

For those expecting an idiotic rehash of “The Addams Family” (complete with double-click theme), think again. This “teen-centered dark comedy,” as showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar describe it, isn’t a reboot, but rather a closer examination and celebration of its mostly macabre, edgy big sister. razor, from the Addams clan.

In the search for their perfect Wednesday, Gough and Millar worked with casting directors Papsidera and Sophie Holland, among others, and said in an email to CNN that “it was always our intention to cast a Latina actress.” for the role, because they wanted to honor the legacy of Gómez Addams. While the character of the patriarch of the Gomez family was played by white actor John Astin in the 1960s sitcom “Addams Family,” he was played by Puerto Rican actor Raul Julia in the films from Sonnenfeld. In “Wednesday,” Gomez is played by veteran performer Luis Guzmán, also from Puerto Rico.

The role of daughter Wednesday eventually went to teenager Jenna Ortega (“Scream,” “You,” “X”), an actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. Gough and Millar knew they had found their Wednesday as soon as they met Ortega, they said.

“I had talked a lot about Jenna in (the casting process),” Papsidera said of Ortega. “It’s also a thin world of girls who can be number one on the call sheet and handle the pressure of that, and she’s also accomplished in her own right. When you start talking about a young Latina actress, it rises to the top of the heap”.

Millar and Gough said the show employed a Mexican creative consultant to “help ensure the scripts reflect Jenna’s specific heritage”.

“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 at Nevermore Academy were truly a reflection of modern American society. It’s not just about the series regulars, but the depth of the casting throughout the series, including the extras of background”.

Another stroke scored by the casting team on “Wednesday” was to land actress Christina Ricci, who timeless portrayed the character in Sonnenfeld films, in the minor role of Marilyn Thornhill. It almost didn’t happen, due to Ricci’s schedule and commitment to his hit Showtime series “Yellowjackets.”

“It was a really long match with Christina,” Papsidera said. “We had always talked about her from the beginning. And it wasn’t until almost the end that her schedule opened up, and then we turned around and Tim (Burton, director of “Wednesday”) got on the phone with her and everything went well.”

Ricci and Burton, which marks his first foray into directing a television series with the new series, having previously worked together on the 1999 film “Sleepy Hollow.”

“I think the idea of ​​working with Tim again was probably the biggest bonus in our camp,” Papsidera said of landing the veteran actress. “I also think he got the idea to be involved in something that he also loves, which was really special for everyone involved.”

“Wednesday” certainly wastes no time surreptitiously honoring Ricci’s contributions to the character. Without spoiling too much, the pilot episode features a group of people dressed as pilgrims who encounter one unfortunate luck, remembering Ricci’s most memorable Thanksgiving scene in 1993’s “Addams Family Values.”

“There’s a certain serendipity to the whole series that way,” Holland added of Ricci’s catch. “It’s like things would come together sometimes at the last minute, sometimes when we were pulling our hair out thinking, ‘We can’t find this, we can’t find that.’ And then something would lock into place. And the whole series , you’ll see once you look at it as a whole, it’s that everything works together almost like a Rubik’s cube.”

“Wednesday” too stars Gwendoline Christie, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joy Sunday, among others.

The casting team operated under the direction of Burton, who Papsidera said had a clear vision for the show and the characters.

“If anything, that’s where we started and ended our discussions, with what Tim saw and who he felt he was attracted to as characters,” Papsidera said.

Entering such a consolidated world, the aim was “to try to reinvent what it is without throwing away its spirit”, he added.

“There’s some pressure because we’re also … fans,” echoed Holland.

Holland said he wanted to “cover everybody’s needs and wants” and give “proper attention to what we do” in terms of 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.

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