The Women Who Became Wednesday

Ironically, while Critics and fans alike are praising Jenna Ortega’s performance in Wednesday, the hit Netflix comedy/mystery show, the very first actress to play the goth girl has passed away last weekend. Lisa Loring died on January 28 in Burbank, California at the age of 64. Her first role as an actress was playing little Wednesday on the 1960’s The Addams Family. Since that time, the role has been portrayed by a variety of different actresses.

Before the TV shows and movies, the macabre family of comedy first appeared on the pages of The New Yorker magazine as a series of cartoons created by Charles Addams beginning in 1938. Originally, the characters in the cartoons were not given names until the first TV series was being developed for ABC. The artist said that Wednesday’s name was inspired by the nursery rhyme, “Monday’s Child” where the midweek child was described as one “full of woe.” Over the years, Wednesday Addams has appeared on screen as young as five and as old as one in her late 20’s, but her personality has changed little. Here is a brief history of the very different Wednesdays that have come about over the years.

Lisa Loring

The Addams Family (1964-1966)

David Levy developed this series with Donald Saltzman. Together, they worked with Charles Addams who helped create backstories for each of the characters. With an iconic theme song composed by Vic Mizzy, the show debuted in 1964 competing against another monster-themed TV show (The Munsters) for ratings. In this first adaptation, Wednesday was depicted as the youngest Addams member. Over the years, Loring has said that she won the role of Wednesday at the early age of 5 because of her pout! This version of the character was a little more sweet and a little less disturbing than the versions to follow despite her love for headless dolls. The ABC show’s version of Wednesday had a love for the arts including painting, drawing, writing poetry and dancing. In 1977, Loring reprised her role for the 1977 made-for-TV film, Halloween with the New Addams Family.

Cindy Henderson

The Addams Family (1973)

Hanna-Barbera first presented their version of The Addams Family during an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies in 1972 titled “Wednesday is Missing”. The cartoon featured the voices of many of the original cast members including John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy. However, Wednesday’s character was voiced by Henderson. In 1973, she won the role again for the new animated show, but Astin and Jones bowed out. Her brother Pugsley was voiced by Jodie Foster! The plot for the new cartoon series involved the entire Addams family taking a very long road trip across the country in their large RV which looked suspiciously like their house back home

Noelle Von Sonn

The Addams Family Fun-House (1973)

ABC tried creating another Addams Family show in 1972 reimagining the family as hosts of their own TV variety show which some have described as similar to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. The show never got past the pilot stage which featured Von Sonn as an older Wednesday, Jack Riley as Gomez, Liz Torres as Marticia, Stubby Kaye as Uncle Fester, Pat McCormick as Lurch and Felix Silla as Cousin Itt. Butch Patrick, a former child star who played Eddie Munster in The Munsters played Wednesday’s brother Pugsley. Jim Nabors was the guest star of the first and only episode.

Christina Ricci

The Addams Family (1991)
Addams Family Values (1993)

Barry Sonnenfeld made his directing debut with the first film adaptation of the Addams family in 1991. Actress Christian Ricci presented a darker, more sadistic Wednesday with an interest in the Bermuda Triangle and an admiration for her Great Aunt Calpurnia Addams, who was a witch who was burned at the stake in 1706. During a financial hardship, she and Pugsley sold toxic lemonade to help make ends meet. In the sequel, it was revealed that Wednesday had buried a cat alive, set fire to Camp Chippewa and came close to harming her new baby brother Pubert.

Debi Derryberry

The Addams Family (1992-1993)

After the success of the first movie, Hanna-Barbera created a second Addams Family-themed cartoon series with a similar but different look and tone to the first show. This cartoon was set in the family home located in Happydale Heights. However, unlike the movie, the macabre nature was dark humor was toned down. Still, Wednesday was shown enjoying a pastime of torturing her brother. Throughout the series, the family dealt with the Normanmeyer family who would try to rid the Addams from their neighborhood. Interesting enough, John Astin reprised his role as Gomez. The show also featured the voice talents of Rip Taylor (Uncle Fester), Carol Channing (Granny Frump), Jim Cummings (Lurch), Rob Paulsen (Norman Normanmeyer), Edie McClurg (Normina Normanmeyer and Dick Beals (Norman Normanmeyer Jr.).

Nicole Fugere

Addams Family Reunion (1998)
The New Addams Family (1998-1999)

Addams Family Reunion was a direct-to-video sequel film which featured a whole new cast of actors including Tim Curry as Gomez and Daryl Hannah as Morticia. The plot centered on the “Addams” family mistaking another “Adams” family as long lost relatives. Fugere played Wednesday who spent her time messing with her “new” cousins and getting in trouble for opening up a grave. At the same time, a new syndicated TV series was developed where Fugere was the only returning cast member. Some of the show’s episodes were remakes of the original 1960’s series.

Melissa Hunter

Adult Wednesday (2013-2015)

A parody following the misadventures of an adult Wednesday Addams was a popular web series which starred Hunter. The unofficial YouTube series featured the all-grown-up Wednesday readjusting to adult life outside of the Addams home. In one popular episode, Wednesday was shown punishing a pair of catcallers. The series was flagged by the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation for copyright violation and the series was removed from YouTube. It was reinstated in 2016.

Chloe Grace Moretz

The Addams Family (2019)
The Addams Family 2 (2021)

Both of these MGM animated films focused a lot of screen time devoted to Wednesday and Moretz delivered her lines with a perfect monotone blandness. In the first film, Wednesday was at odds with her mother and disappointed the elder with her new fondness for bright, colorful clothing after befriending new preppy friend, Parker Needler. In the sequel, Wednesday takes on a new love for science experiments while distancing herself from her family because of her perceived differences. While the first film was similar in tone to the original TV series, the second one strayed off the familiar path.

Jenna Ortega

Wednesday (2022)

Tim Burton has been very involved in this new series having directed four out of the first season’s eight episodes. When school bullies torment Pugsley, Wednesday comes to the rescue and yet gets expelled for dumping live piranhas in the school’s pool. She then is sent to her parent’s private high school, Nevermore Academy, which is designed for troubled “monstrous” youth. While there, she finds that, like her mother, she has psychic powers that help her solve a murder mystery. Ortega was even nominated for a Gold Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy. Picked up for a second season, Wednesday also features Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia, Luis Guzmán as Gomez and former Wednesday Christina Ricci playing duel roles as botany teacher Marilyn Thornhill and dorm mother Laurel Gates. Karina Varadi also appears as a young Wednesday in the show.

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