Everything We Never Knew About Jenna Ortega: A Scream Queen For A New Generation
Vote up the coolest facts about the star of Netflix's ‘Wednesday.’
Plenty of horror fans have a favorite scream queen - Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, or maybe even Heather Langenkamp. Those are the classics everyone knows, but the genre’s next generation also has a pretty impressive lineup.
Jenna Ortega is among them, with a horror-filled resume that includes X, Scream (2022), The Babysitter: Killer Queen, and Insidious Chapter 2. She’s also been in dark TV series like You and Over the Garden Wall. Of course, she also snagged the huge role of Wednesday Addams in the Netflix show Wednesday, which may just become her most popular project to date.
If you're looking for a favorite new face in horror, she's got the qualifications. Check out these behind-the-scenes facts about the actress, and don't forget to vote up your favorites.
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Unlike A Lot Of Scream Queens, She Actually Loves Horror MoviesPhoto: jennaortega / Instagram
Ironically, quite a few actresses who made their names in horror have also admitted they aren’t particularly fond of the genre. Legendary scream queens Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis have said they’re typically too freaked out by horror movies to watch them, while other spooky faves like Mia Goth and even Toni Colette have said they’re more drawn to the genre’s characters than to the scary stories surrounding them.
That being said, Ortega breaks the mold. She enjoys watching horror movies just as much as she does acting in them, saying, “I love blood and guts. I love to run for my life.” She even listed her top five horror movies of all time in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes: Prom Night (1980), Insidious (2010), Possession (1981), The Witch (2015), and Persona (1966).
About her dark choices in roles, the actress said, “I think I’ve always kind of been internally drawn to that stuff, so it’s nice that my work is able to reflect that. I would also love the opportunity to be the villain.” A horror movie with Jenna Ortega as the bad guy? Sign us up!
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She's Already An Award-Winning Actress In Her 20sPhoto: Scream / Paramount Pictures
It’s notoriously rare for horror movies to win prestigious film awards or critical praise among establishments like the Academy, but maybe Ortega can help them see the light. After all, the fresh-faced actress is barely in her 20s and is already gaining recognition for her work.
The Imagen Awards are dedicated to recognizing positive portrayals of Latines in the entertainment industry and, in the past, have honored famous faces like Antonio Banderas, Rita Moreno, and even Jennifer Lopez. Ortega has received nominations for multiple Imagen awards and has even won two: one for Best Young Actor and another for Best Children’s Programming.
Then, of course, there’s her 2022 MTV award win for “Most Frightened Performance,” which she earned from her work in Scream (2022). The Hollywood Critics Association has also honored her, awarding her best actress for her performance in the 2021 drama film The Fallout (in which she co-starred alongside Shailene Woodley, as well as Maddie Ziegler of Dance Moms fame).
Here’s hoping she continues seeing critical success and recognition in the coming years.
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Her Unique Dance Scene From 'Wednesday' Was Inspired By Siouxsie and the BansheesPhoto: Wednesday / Netflix
When Wednesday dropped on Netflix, one of the season's highlights was the obligatory high school dance scene, in which the titular child of woe busts out the moves to “Goo Goo Muck” by the Cramps. It's one of the moments when Ortega truly seems to embody the Wednesday Addams spirit. Even better? She choreographed the scene herself and helped director Tim Burton pick out the music.
Though she said she initially “felt really insecure” about her dancing, she found inspiration to help her through. In a tweet, she thanked “Siouxsie Sioux, Bob Fosse’s Rich Man’s Frug, Lisa Loring, Lene Lovich, Denis Lavant, and archival footage of goths dancing in clubs in the ['80s]” for helping her come up with the right movements.
Of course, while the moment was popular among Ortega and Wednesday fans, it also sparked criticism online when it was revealed that, while filming the scene, the actress was experiencing symptoms of COVID. The admission drew disapproval, not only of the actress for working while knowing she was sick, but also of those in charge of filming for medicating an employee instead of sending her home. MGM said in a statement that “strict COVID protocols were followed, and once the positive test was confirmed, production removed Jenna from set.”
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She Helped Raise Money For A Child’s Cancer TreatmentPhoto: Stuck in the Middle / Disney Channel
Jenna Ortega once promised her mother that if she ever became famous, she’d use her platform for good, and she seems to be keeping that oath. Alongside her outspokenness about diversity in Hollywood and mental health, she’s also given back in the form of charity.
In 2016, while she was still acting in Disney Channel shows like Elena of Avalor, Ortega joined an event to raise money for a fan’s cancer treatment. Riley Rose was a 5-year-old battling neuroblastoma, and to help pay her hospital bills, Ortega hosted meet-and-greets, took pictures with fans, and signed autographs at a local restaurant in return for donations.
By the event's close, she had raised $4,100. Riley Rose’s mother, Kristin Sherman, was ecstatic, and said that “Riley loved it and loved meeting Jenna,” who also gifted the child an Elena of Avalor book and CD.
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Ortega Said Playing Wednesday Addams Was Super StressfulPhoto: Wednesday / Netflix
While no one can replace Christina Ricci’s perfect performance as Wednesday in the Addams Family films of the '90s, many were nevertheless excited to see Ortega’s take on the character after she was cast in the eponymous Netflix show.
While Ortega did express gratitude for getting the part, she also found it extremely stressful, precisely because of Ricci’s legendary status. She even spoke to her predecessor about it, saying, “It was really important to me that I wasn’t doing a knockoff of your performance… I would call my parents every night in a panic… I did the best I could, but that’s probably the most overwhelming job I’ve ever had.”
Fortunately, she did find support on set in executive director Tim Burton, who also directed some episodes. She said he allowed her to provide input on her character and lines, and that others on set also made her feel welcome, helping her deal with the job's stress.
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She’s An Author
Along with award-winning actress, activist, and scream queen in the making, some fans may not realize that Jenna Ortega has also added “author” to her long list of titles. In 2021, she published a book titled It's All Love: Reflections for Your Heart & Soul, which contains illustrations, inspirational and insightful quotes, and personal stories from the actress herself.
When asked why she felt the need to publish her writings, Ortega explained, "Growing up in this day and age where social media can be so harmful and so toxic to young people’s mental health… It's really important to know that people you see on the screen or people you support go through the same things you do and we all kind of struggle with self-esteem and self-love - with this book, [I] really just wanted to reach out to people who may also be struggling.”
To that effect, she said she tried to include intimate or even embarrassing stories and mistakes from her own life in hopes that others could relate to or possibly even learn from them.