Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

Considering the success of the inaugural season of Wednesday — including how it became Netflix’s third most-watched show of all time — we wanted to take a look at the series’ star for this installment of Path to the Emmy Awards. Jenna Ortega is a contender for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category thanks to her work as the title character in the hit Addams Family spin-off show. Should the actor’s name land on this year’s list of Emmy nominees, it would be her first-ever nod from the Television Academy. And if you’re wondering what led up to this moment in Ortega’s career journey, you’ve come to the right place.

The Wednesday star grew up in California’s Coachella Valley as the fourth child in a family of six. Ortega’s mother is an ER nurse, and her former-sheriff father now works in the California district attorney’s office. According to an interview with Elle, watching Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire made Ortega want to be an actor when she was just six years old.

During a recent Saturday Night Live monologue, the star recalled how a video her mother posted of Ortega on Facebook led to the actor being discovered. She started auditioning, and her first-ever acting role was leading a Colgate toothpaste commercial. The young actor started building her TV résumé, landing roles on CSI: NY and Days of Our Lives at just 10 and 11 years old. She led the Disney Channel series Stuck in the Middle from 2016 to 2018 and played Young Jane on Jane the Virgin throughout its five seasons. The TV roles continued with Ortega landing the part of Ellie Alves in season two of Netflix’s You. She also lent her voice to the character of Princess Isabel in Disney Channel’s animated series Elena of Avalor and to the role of Brooklynn in Netflix’s Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.

The young actor started nabbing bigger film roles, such as Katie Torres in Yes Day, Tara Carpenter in Scream, and Lorraine in X. According to a recent interview, she had no plans to return to TV before Wednesday. “My goal has always been film, so I was trying to focus on that,” Ortega shared during The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Comedy Actress Emmy Roundtable. “But then this was a character that was so legendary and so badass — it’s also the most well-known role I’ve ever taken, and [it was a chance to give] Latin representation to a character who has never really been shown in that light.”

Ortega told Tudum that having Tim Burton directing Wednesday helped make her decision, as well. The breakout star also recalled how she’s always been compared to the titular character. “People never know whether or not I’m being serious,” she added during the interview. “My sense of humor is a bit awkward at times and maybe a bit too dark.” The 20-year-old’s performance as Wednesday Addams, including the character’s sleuthing pursuits as a student at the supernatural Nevermore Academy, has Ortega as a top contender for this year’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series nominees. You can find out if the actor lands her first-ever nod from the Television Academy when Emmy nominations are announced on July 12.

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