Jenna Ortega Knows What Wednesday Addams Wants

by 24USATVNov. 24, 2022, 3:20 a.m. 13
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“I was pulling my hair out over that one,” she said. “Everyone in my close circle knows what that cello did to me.”

At 20, Ortega has already been performing in front of cameras for half her life, and she has the self-assurance to match. She grew up the fourth of sixth children in a Mexican neighborhood in La Quinta, Calif., in the Coachella Valley, where she caught the acting bug as a young child.

“I saw Dakota Fanning in ‘Man on Fire’ and told my parents, ‘Guys, I’m going to be the Puerto Rican Dakota Fanning,’” she said, trees flashing past as she walked through the city in a green turtleneck, big black headphones wrapped around her neck. (Her father is of Mexican descent; her mother’s heritage is Mexican and Puerto Rican.)

She spent the next three years “begging nonstop” to be an actor before her mother, an emergency room nurse, bought her a book of monologues — and posted a video of her performing one to Facebook when she was 9. A casting director saw it, and within a year, Ortega had booked her first TV role, on the short-lived sitcom “Rob,” with Rob Schneider.

A cascade of roles followed, including young Jane in “Jane the Virgin” when she was 10 and, when she was 12, a lead role as Harley Diaz in the Disney Channel sitcom “Stuck in the Middle” (2016-18). A month later, she withdrew from her eighth-grade classes to pursue her Disney dream.

“Stuck in the Middle” lasted three seasons, after which Ortega was eager to book more mature roles. But her Disney experience, she discovered, came with limitations.

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