Playing Wednesday Addams Was Never ‘Work’ For Christina Ricci

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Christina Ricci played Wednesday Addams with a biting edge, making the character her own in a definitive way. Wednesday’s refusal to fit in strikes a chord with those who relates to her outcast status, and her borderline-sociopathic, deadpan demeanor is, dare I say, iconic for many reasons. Ricci’s performance is a clear standout in the 1990s “Addams Family” films, even when stacked up against the movies’ solid cast of eccentric characters. There’s something curiously creepy about Wednesday, a young girl who rejects socially-expected norms and holds a deep fascination for all things morbid. How did 11-year-old Ricci navigate this layered role?

Ricci made her acting debut in the 1990 family comedy-drama “Mermaids,” in which she played the role of Kate Flax while starring alongside a young Winona Ryder. The following year, Ricci assumed the mantle of Wednesday. In an interview with The New Yorker conducted at the top of 2022, Ricci explained how playing the child “homicidal maniac” was never a chore for her. She was naturally able to embody the role, as it did not entail putting on a cheerful persona just to please the adults in the room.

Channeling Wednesday Was Natural For Ricci

Because of her connection to the “Addams Family” character, Christina Ricci has never bothered by the idea that people still primarily associate her with her performances as Wednesday:

“I’m glad it’s not a more annoying character because that would be difficult, but she’s kind of great. Wednesday to me felt like who I could be when I didn’t have to put it on for other people … I was very much used to performing for people even before I was an actor. I knew when I had to be charming and happy, and when other people needed to be cheered up. With Wednesday, there was no emotion, no nothing, and for me, that was great, because it felt like I could just relax and not do any work at all.”

Being a child actor in a burgeoning industry can be difficult, especially when they’re expected to take on mature, layered roles that are directed by adults. Ricci explained that she always had to put on a front to cheer other people up, and her role as Wednesday was a welcome departure from this routine. As Wednesday’s personality was naturally deadpan and affectless, Ricci had the freedom to hold on to those traits and channel her emotions directly into her performance. 

Ricci went on to note that Wednesday is “not just a child that performs for adults.” Instead, the role demanded a considerable amount of personal autonomy, which helped her to deliver a better performance. Interestingly, according to the oral history of “The Addams Family” by The Hollywood Reporter, Ricci even got the film’s ending changed after the cast was unhappy with it. She was also the go-to for dealing with any on-set clashes, being “the most articulate, intellectually gifted of any cast member.”

Continuing The Legacy In A Different Manner

Spoilers for “Wednesday” ahead.

Netflix’s “Wednesday” takes a rebranded, modern-ish approach to the titular character while paying homage to Christina Ricci’s rendition, preversing several elements from the “Addams Family” movies she starred in. Moreover, Ricci co-stars as Marilyn Thornhill, a botany teacher at Nevermore Academy who ends up playing a crucial role in the series’ plot. Jenna Ortega, who assumes the role of Wednesday on the show, succeeds in making the character her own while still paying homage to Ricci’s rendition in a respectful manner.

Ricci’s role in “Wednesday” allows the actor to revisit the “Addams Family” world on very different terms. In time Thornhill is actually revealed to be the show’s Big Bad, with plans to eradicate the Outcasts at Nevermore, Wednesday included. It is interesting to see Ricci play an antagonist who is directly opposed to Wednesday’s values and motivations in this fictional gothic universe she herself is so familiar with. Although Ricci’s Wednesday casts a long shadow, it is great to see Ortega’s unique version being realized on-screen, with Ricci giving it her stamp of approval.

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The post Playing Wednesday Addams Was Never ‘Work’ For Christina Ricci appeared first on /Film.

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