Jenna Ortega's Best Moments As Wednesday Addams

This post contains spoilers for Netflix's "Wednesday" series.

2022 has been a banner year for Jenna Ortega. While she's been working for a decade now, it wasn't until her roles in "Jane the Virgin" and "You" that she caught the world's attention. She's since appeared in several shows, including "Big City Greens," and a slew of high-profile films, such as "Scream" (2022) and "X." Along with excellent turns in "The Fallout" and Netflix's "Wednesday," Ortega has commanded the conversation. She's more than a scream queen: Ortega is the moment.

Ortega's body of work also includes appearances in television series like "Stuck in the Middle" and roles in "Insidious: Chapter 2" and "The Babysitter: Killer Queen." Her other credits this year include "Carnage" and "Studio 666," a Dave Grohl-produced horror-comedy. Whenever Ortega appears on screen, you'll know it. She draws you into her world with performances that are grounded, authentic, and complex. She doesn't mark through her lines or play herself on screen as many actors do. She commits to her roles on deeply emotional and psychological levels.

For her spin as the titular character in "Wednesday," Ortega delivers yet another dynamic and detailed performance. She not only learned cello and fencing for the role but dove into uncovering the specifics of the physicality. If "X," "Scream," and "The Fallout" were not enough to make you a fan, "Wednesday" most certainly will. Below, /News walks through the actor's best moments from the show. Let's get a little spooky, y'all!

Dance 'till you die

Nevermore Academy has a thriving social scene. There are fangs, furs, stoners, and scales — the four main cliques. Like normie high school, there are certain social expectations, including attending the upcoming Rave'n. If you're gonna go, you have to have a date. Torn between two lovers, Wednesday attends with Tyler (Hunter Doohan) and even dresses the part. Donning a frilly black dress, Wednesday crashes the party with gawking looks and gasps from the crowd, a moment ripped out of "She's All That."

She hits the dance floor, and you won't believe her moves. This is the first time in the show Wednesday lets her hair down. Her dancing is appropriately kooky. Given Ortega's work this year, from "Scream" to "The Fallout," this moment is unlike anything else she's accomplished recently. Wednesday's choreography – designed by Ortega – draws influences from singers Siouxsie Sioux (from the Banshees) and Lene Lovich, actor Bob Fosse's "Rich Man's Frug," Lisa Loring (who played Wednesday in the '60s sitcom), and actor Denis Lavant. Without a doubt, this scene demonstrates how dedicated she is to her characters. One thing is for certain, Ortega is a visionary and knows exactly what she wants. Wednesday's dancing is equal parts mesmerizing and ooky in all the best ways. No wonder showrunners, executive producers, and writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar cast her in the role and called her "the one." She is Wednesday Addams.

Paint it black

If you need more evidence of how seriously Ortega takes her role, look no further than her cello playing. As part of her preparations, she took cello lessons twice a week to hone her craft. In episode 1, her roommate Enid (Emma Myers) discovers Wednesday outside on the ledge where she's playing The Rolling Stones' 1966 chart-topping hit "Paint it Black" from their "Aftermath" record. Gone is the rock arrangement, yet the driving beat remains, mimicked through Ortega's sharp, thumping bow. As she plays her musical soliloquy, the camera pans around Nevermore Academy to capture its essence and outcasts. There's no better song or cinematic moment to represent what is coursing through her head.

Later, in episode 3, Ortega takes to the cello once more. During a ceremony to dedicate a new fountain erected in honor of Jericho founder Joseph Crackstone (William Houston), Wednesday joins a slew of other musicians for a performance of "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac, a 1977 cut from their iconic "Rumours" LP. Unbeknownst to everyone, Wednesday and Thing (Victor Dorobantu) have outfitted the fountain with dynamite. The explosion sends everyone bolting away, and Wednesday takes a musical swerve and begins playing Italian composer Vivaldi's "Winter" with a smirk across her face. It's utter chaos, and her performance makes it even more delicious.

Thing is stabbed

After meeting for a romantic rendezvous with Tyler, Wednesday returns to her surprisingly ransacked room. Someone was searching for Nevermore founder Nathaniel Faulkner's diary. Tragically, Thing has been stabbed directly through the palm, blood dripping down upon a golden gramophone. Wednesday yanks out the knife and quickly dashes away with Thing. Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen) will know what to do! Using his gift of electricity, he attempts numerous times to revive Thing. Initially, it appears that nothing can work and that Thing will most surely die. But one last shot of voltage does the trick, and Thing revives.

During this entire scene, Ortega displays such potent vulnerability. With each attempt at resuscitation, tears well up in her eyes. Her lip quivers, and she nearly reaches her breaking point. It's among the show's quieter moments, allowing Ortega to shine as an actor. Much like her work in "The Fallout," which depicts a school shooting and the emotional aftermath, Ortega hypnotizes the viewer and simultaneously delivers a smack across the face. There's a similar moment in "Scream" where she shares an embrace with her sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) and breaks down in tears. These moments have made 2022 such an important year for her, setting into motion a long career ahead of her.

Challenge accepted

To the surprise of no one, Ortega took fencing lessons two days a week — and it shows. When Wednesday introduces herself to a siren named Bianca (Joy Sunday), the "self-prescribed queen bee," as Wednesday calls her, she challenges her to a duel. She's a newbie but more than holds her own, earning the first point. Bianca snidely calls it "beginner's luck." To take things to the next level, Wednesday invokes a military challenge. They duel again, but this time without helmets and with no tips on the end of their foils. The winner draws first blood — and this round goes to Bianca. Wednesday merely receives a scratch, and only a little blood oozes down her brow.

Ortega is exemplary here — worlds apart from her role in "X" as Lorraine, a mousy super-religious character. And it's even more different than her turn as Camilia in "American Carnage," where she plays one of many illegal immigrants forced into a facility to care for the elderly population. Ortega fiercely prepares for her roles — whether finding the nuances of the performance or engaging with the more physical aspects. As far as rising stars go these days, she's the most promising.

Standout vocal delivery

As with Lisa Loring's and Christina Ricci's performances, Wednesday Addams requires a unique line delivery to make the humor work. Now, you can count Jenna Ortega as part of the unholy trinity of Wednesday performers that get it right. (Sorry, Nicole Fugere!) Throughout the series, Ortega leans into cold readings of her lines, peppering in just enough emotion. When a scene calls for it, she allows bursts of color to break out — like when Uncle Fester arrives, a toothy smile plasters across her face, and her eyes beam wide.

There are countless scenes where Ortega exemplifies the Wednesday Addams spirit. In an early carnivorous plants classroom scene, Wednesday eviscerates her arch nemesis, Bianca, when talking about plants and their functions and appetites, proving she's much cleverer than people notice. Elsewhere, she delivers 1-2 quippy sucker punches in scenes with therapist Dr. Kinbott (Riki Lindhome) and Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane).

When she meets her colorful roommate Enid, her mother Morticia claims Wednesday's allergic to color. Wednesday offers up one of the show's most iconic lines about "breaking out in hives" and her skin falling off her bones. Later, when talking about emojis, she asserts that when thinking about Enid, "the following emojis come to mind: rope, shovel, hole." Across the board, Ortega excels in her line delivery and it becomes impossible to envision anyone else in the role.

Let's get physical

The other essential component to nailing Wednesday is her physicality. With Ortega's performance, Wednesday almost floats into and out of scenes. But there's also a command that comes with her approach. "I would walk like Wednesday," Ortega notes in a behind-the-scenes featurette for Netflix, "I think that people might have thought I was kind of crazy because I wanted her to be specific and certain and assertive."

Director Tim Burton compares her to silent movie actresses of yesteryear. "She's able to convey things without words," Burton said. "To see the inner life and the subtleties was very exciting. I can't imagine any other Wednesday." When I think of silent movie actresses, my mind immediately goes to Lillian Gish and her performance in "Broken Blossoms," a deeply moving, nuanced, and heartbreaking performance. Even in the quiet moments, Gish had a way of peeling back her character like an onion to reveal an even more affecting layer. 

Throughout the series, Ortega mines similar territory in her commitment to embodying Wednesday Addams. You see this in how she enters her room in episode 1 and greets Enid or dashes through the woods in episode 4 to save Eugene (Moosa Mostafa) from the fang-toothed Hyde. Other moments include confronting her parents in therapy and when she has visions. These scenes are peppered throughout the series and culminate in one of the strongest television performances of 2022. Consistency is vital, and Ortega slays it all.

Defeating Crackstone

In "A Murder of Woes," the Nevermore prophecy comes true. However, Wednesday learns that destroying the school wasn't her destiny. Wednesday finds herself face-to-face with Jericho founder Joseph Crackstone (William Houston), who made it his life's mission to tear down the academy. Armed with a saber, she digs her heels into the earth and musters the courage needed to fight him. Flames consume the lone tree in the courtyard, threatening to destroy Nevermore.

Everything Ortega accomplished in the series comes in handy in this one scene. She's met her match, and each swipe of the saber faces an equally near-fatal reaction. As her sword shatters into a million pieces, it appears Wednesday might fail. Bianca gives her a window of opportunity by stabbing Crackstone in the back. Quick on her feet, Wednesday grabs a saber fragment and brandishes it into his cold, black heart, effectively killing Crackstone's resurrected form. Wednesday stands victorious as he dissipates into black smoke. Ortega grips the audience with her magnetic presence and shows off yet another aspect of her talents. Her action talents standout from her roles in previous films. That's why she's a bonafide star. She has incredible range.

Goody Addams

In "Wednesday," Ortega plays the lead and the role of Wednesday's ancestor, Goody Addams. Goody, one of Nevermore's original outcasts, also possesses the power of visions. Jericho founder Joseph Crackstone rounds up all the outcasts, packs them inside a barn, and lights it on fire. All but Goody are burned alive. Goody manages to escape, and then she exacts her revenge. In the present, Goody returns to help Wednesday figure out who is planning to resurrect Crackstone's body and destroy Nevermore.

Appearing in various scenes with Wednesday, in addition to flashbacks, Goody gives Ortega a chance to strip away the goth girl aesthetic for something softer — almost angelic. Like Wednesday, Goody has pigtails, but her hair is silver. Her features are gentler, as are her vocal intonation and speech patterns. Goody stands in stark contrast to Wednesday. In both instances, Ortega brings weight to these characters. "You are the key," whispers Goody in an early scene to Wednesday, suggesting that the solution to all her problems lies inside herself. Since she is an apparition, Ortega's approach feels ghost-like, as if the viewer is stumbling through a waking dream.