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The Untold Truth Of Wednesday Addams

She's creepy, she's kooky, she's altogether ooky — just add in a gallon of mystery and angst, and you've got Wednesday Addams. Some people have weird families, and others have weird families. But even among the likes of her bizarre but loving parents Morticia and Gomez, her goofy brother Pugsley, and her shagadelic Cousin Itt, Wednesday Addams is arguably the most relatable (and most beloved) Addams.

Through decades of multiple TV shows, movies, and comics, no one seems to get tired of the sardonic, smart-as-a-whip little girl whose fascination with the macabre is dramatic enough to creep anyone out. It's no surprise that a character with as much ambiguity and intrigue as Wednesday would have a few secrets up her sleeve, and there's probably a lot that "Addams Family" fans don't know about her mystifying background.

For instance, did you know that she got her start long before she ever appeared on TV? Which staple cartoon did the woeful Addams Family cross over with? And what's with that pesky lawsuit, anyway? The Addams Family is teeming with secrets, but we're more interested in the one particular Addams with two iconic braids and a scowl to boot. Here's everything you didn't know you needed to know about Wednesday Addams and her pet spiders.

Wednesday wasn't born on the screen

Most people think Wednesday Addams was born on screen, but her debut came long before the '60s sitcom "The Addams Family." Like many popular characters, she got her start in a comic strip penned by, you guessed it, American cartoonist Charles Addams. His woeful tales first appeared in the New Yorker in 1938, but while his name was Charles, he used the pen name "Chas Addams" to sign his comics. It's an unusual tactic to base your characters on your last name while changing your first name. But then again, Charles (or Chas) Addams was a peculiar guy. Maybe he just thought Chas sounded cooler ... we'll probably never know.

Now, Addams also created work that wasn't doom, gloom, and creeptastic — but like Edgar Allan Poe, that's all that people seem to remember him by. Naming his creepiest characters after himself certainly didn't help matters. It also didn't help that, according to NPR, his idea of a good time consisted of telling his friends he visited insane asylums for fun and offered to drive friends home — only to seek out routes that passed dozens of cemeteries. But hey, entertainment was hard to come by in the 1930s. Give the guy a break.

What's in a name?

Wednesday Addams may have existed long before she appeared on TV, but when she meandered on her comic strip with the rest of her family, she was actually nameless. (Maybe that's why she lightened up in the '60s sitcom: She finally had a name.) According to a letter to the editor posted in the New Yorker, Joan Blake, a forlorn mother in a custody dispute, gave Addams inspiration for Wednesday's name.

When Addams voiced his concern about not having a name for the comic strip daughter as he went into a TV show deal, Blake recited the line of an old nursery rhyme, "Wednesday — Wednesday's child is full of woe." The cutesy rhyme is a fun adage meant to determine what a child will be like depending on the day of the week they're born. Granted, Wednesday would also fit the bill for Monday, which states, "Monday's child is fair of face." But then again, Monday Addams just doesn't have the same ring to it. Funnily enough, Wednesday's middle name is Friday in the sitcom, but despite her morbid tendencies, she's still pretty "loving and giving," so it still tracks.

Even beyond her name's intention, the word "Wednesday" has some pretty powerful connotations on its own. According to the Guardian, back when creating a weekly calendar was first a blip on the Romans' radar, Wednesday was called "dies Mercurii," translating into "The day of Mercury." So, who's Mercury? Just the god of tricksters (among other things). Fitting, huh?

From smiles to devilish grins

It's pretty tricky to make a six-year-old seem intimidating without going the full-on demonic route, and the '60s "Addams Family" sitcom faced that very issue. Sure, a young Lisa Loring was quite capable of a fearless glower, but it usually prompted an "awww" rather than an "aghhh."

Even her darkest lines, like "Nice knife. Can I play autopsy with it?" don't seem so menacing out of the mouth of the adorably braided child — not even when she carts around her decapitated doll that's reminiscent of a headless Marie Antoinette. As a whole, Loring's Wednesday is kindhearted and quick to help her family with any task that needs doing, even something as mundane as fetching the mail ... from the family's sentient decapitated hand named Thing, of course. Just normal kid stuff, right?

But while the '60s series slightly muted her angsty personality from the comics, the '90s films starring Christina Ricci brought her back to her darker persona and aged her up a bit from the six-year-old she was at the beginning of the show. From then on, she and Pugsley have flip-flopped between being the older sibling in multiple projects the fictional Addams family starred in.

Scooby Dooby Addams

Everyone wants a piece of Wednesday Addams' dishonor, including none other than the super sleuth pup, Scooby-Doo. Wednesday appears in the episode "Wednesday is Missing" of the confusingly titled TV series "The New Scooby-Doo Movies." The episode, only the third in the series, serves as the backdoor pilot to the 1973 animated "Addams Family" series (not to be confused with the '90s animated series of the same name).

When Morticia and Gomez Addams are looking for some "us" time, the Scooby gang are hoodwinked into playing housekeepers (and babysitters) for the wayward Addams children after The Mystery Machine goes missing. Wednesday uncharacteristically wears a pink version of her usual collared dress. However, she's still quick to get a "voodoo booboo" while she sticks needles in a voodoo doll, so she definitely hasn't lost her ooky streak beneath the smiles and the pink. Even her parents are disappointed with her peppy demeanor, forlornly remarking that she's growing up to be a "sweet, cheerful young lady." The horrors.

Cindy Henderson took on the voice role of Wednesday, continuing into the short-lived animated series that followed. Most of the actors featured in the Scooby episode didn't reprise their roles for the standalone series. However, John Astin, the '70s live-action Gomez, appeared in the crossover episode. He later joined the '90s series a few decades later, though he skipped a recurring role in the '70s cartoon. There are just way too many projects titled "The Addams Family" – only adding to their chaotic presence.

Ricci channels her inner Ryder

By the time Christina Ricci auditioned for Wednesday, she had only worked with Winona Ryder one year prior on the film "Mermaids." But that didn't stop Ryder from being so influential to Ricci that she changed the course of the young star's career forever. During a 1991 interview on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Ricci explained how deeply Ryder impacted her landing the role of Wednesday. She told the hosts, "When I went up to audition, my mom told me to sort of think of Winona Ryder in "Beetlejuice" [...] because they're sort of similar." If you watch the movies back-to-back, you definitely get a similar vibe between Lydia and Wednesday.

In the late '80s and early '90s height of punk and grunge, there was a trend of more alternative, dark, and slightly twisted heroines on the big screen — and Ryder was one of the most iconic leading ladies pulling these characters off. Between her work on "Beetlejuice" and "Heathers," she helped develop a new category of female protagonists, and young actresses like Ricci took notice. Good thing she did, too, because if she hadn't channeled a little bit of her inner Winona Ryder, someone else might have taken on the likes of Wednesday Addams — and the films just wouldn't be the same.

Onscreen smooches

One of the most hotly debated aspects of child stars is kissing scenes that happen too soon for young actors. Whether it's in modern films and TV shows or those of decades past, the concept of children kissing will always garner a spirited discussion. Where should we draw the line? At just 13 years old, Ricci had her first onscreen kiss with future "Numb3rs" star David Krumholtz, who was only two years older. The "Addams Family Values" scene marked the latter actor's first onscreen kiss as well.

In a 1993 interview, Bobbie Wygant asked Ricci if there was "a big to-do" made about the kiss. She brushed it off, saying, "No, there was no real big deal about it because, I mean, when you think about it ... there's so much of that, you know, in movies and everything, and it's just a movie." Listening to her speak is a wild experience, given that she's more mature than most adults these days. She also noted that Wygant is "a nice guy."

But in a way, it's a little sad that Ricci had to grow up quite so fast and in the limelight. While she may have told Wygant that it was no big deal, Krumholtz told Buzzfeed for the film's 20th anniversary that Ricci was less than thrilled with her scene partner's peach fuzz. He noted, "That made me really self-conscious." Ah, awkward teen drama (in front of a camera, no less).

The Addams Family meets spontaneous show tunes

If Wednesday's portrayals in film, TV, animation, and comics weren't enough, the Addams' broodiest (and only) daughter made her debut on the Great White Way in 2010 after a short run in Chicago a year prior. Krysta Rodriguez played a grown-up Wednesday Addams in the Chicago world premiere of the "Addams Family" musical, remaining in the role during the initial Broadway transition. The Tony Awards may have snubbed Rodriguez — she didn't even garner a nomination — but she took home the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite Breakthrough Performance.

It's hard to imagine Wednesday without her patented braids. Yet she received a shocking makeover during the Adam Lippa musical, ditching her girlish hairstyle for a more grown-up look. However, fans couldn't celebrate her updated style, given its implications. Falling into the outdated trope of Unique Girl Changes For A Boy, the plot follows an 18-year-old Wednesday who, at one point, wears a bright yellow dress to impress her "Normal" fiancé, Lucas — much to her family's chagrin.

Meanwhile, Pugsley accidentally roofies Lucas' mom with a potion meant for Wednesday, to get the darkest parts of his sister to come forward again. Of course, he's praised for this effort because it ends well, but it's not the best message to send — and certainly a deviation from Wednesday's progressive attitude in "Addams Family Values." While the Broadway version closed in 2011, the musical toured until 2017, giving it a pretty long lifespan.

Christina Ricci still feels connected to Wednesday

Most child stars have done anything humanly possible to distance themselves from their most iconic role, but Christina Ricci has other ideas. She told the AV Club that the "Addams Family" films "have clearly had the biggest impact on my career and life." Not only fully aware (and appreciative) of the role that defined her career, Ricci still feels a kinship toward her darker alter ego. She said, "I feel very inextricably bound to [Wednesday]."

We'll probably never know just how much the role shaped Ricci as a person, but she's certainly defied the tragic fate of many child stars – so maybe Wednesday's resilience and strength played a part in Ricci's transition from a child star to a successful adult actress. She posed this question to the AV Club: "It's like a chicken-or-egg debate: Did I influence her as a character, or did she as a character influence my personality?"

In a sobering follow-up thought, Ricci noted, "The way memory works in childhood, it all blurs. So I don't have a sense of who I was or what I felt like before I was an actress, essentially." So in a way, she and Wednesday are permanently intertwined — for better or for worse.

Adult Wednesday Addams

If you thought young Wednesday Addams is a mood, she has nothing on comedian Melissa Hunter's "Adult Wednesday Addams" miniseries. We first got a glimpse at Wednesday's enlightened social views in "Addams Family Values" when she ranted during her camp's Thanksgiving skit, which glorified the "peace" the pilgrims extended to the Native Americans. 

Hunter took the social commentary 10 steps further with her ultra-feminist rendition of adult Wednesday as she tried to reconcile her gloomy yet woke disposition amid the superficiality she faced in LA. Between savagely getting even with a handful of cat-callers and showing an entitled "It girl" who's boss, the show's 13 episodes weren't nearly enough. Sadly, according to the Daily Dot, the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation wasn't as charmed as the show's millions of viewers, slapping a lawsuit on the young comedian and her low-budget passion project.

After a copyright cease-and-desist forced Hunter to take the series down in 2015, rumors floated around that the foundation took action due to a planned MGM animated movie. It took years for the film to happen, but that very well could have been why the foundation robbed us of a dry, witty, and woke Wednesday Addams. Luckily, we'll always have seven seasons of Aubrey Plaza's April Ludgate on "Parks and Rec." The two characters could practically be twins. Actually, can someone make the adventures of Wednesday Madames and April Smudgefate happen? No copyright infringement there.

On Wednesdays we wear ashes

Let's face it: We all have those days where we feel like channeling our inner angsty Wednesday Addams. Luckily for those looking to get her pallid complexion just right, MGM released a YouTube video called "Wednesday's Late-Nite Makeup Tutorial." The video is perfect for anyone whose real-life eye shadows aren't quite dark enough. And don't worry, "it's guaranteed to make you look like you haven't slept in years."

The video served to promote the release of the 2019 animated film "The Addams Family." Voice acted by the film's very own Chloë Grace Moretz, Wednesday takes viewers through her arsenal of makeup by brands like "Coverghoul's Depressed Powder," "Dry N Somber lip chalk," and the very exclusive ashes of her ancestors. (Does anyone have an urn lying around that they're not using? Asking for a friend.)

MGM also produced a video on "How To Make Wednesday's Halloween Lemonade," and she wasn't the only Addams character to get some animated YouTube love. There were even some Morticia, Gomez, and Grandma tutorials to make your Halloween (or a random Wednesday afternoon) extra spooky.

Tim Burton's Addams Family hump decades

A Tim Burton-led "Addams Family" project has been a long time coming — since the '90s, to be exact. People usually assume that the macabre director has helmed at least one of the "Addams Family" iterations that have graced the screen in the past few decades, but no dice. According to Film Stories, Burton even turned down the offer to direct the 1991 film by the same name, with the honor eventually going to Barry Sonnenfeld. Even the 2019 animated film seemed like a Burton project, though Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon directed the film.

As it turns out, the third (or fifth) time is the charm, and Burton is finally lending his dismal expertise to the dastardly family in a live-action Netflix series simply titled "Wednesday." The series, of course, focuses on everyone's favorite angst queen: Wednesday Addams. But unlike her previous onscreen appearances, the Addams' daughter will be aged up quite a bit.

According to early reports, Wednesday's storyline has a bit of a "Nancy Drew" vibe while she tries to solve a supernatural case from her parents' past. With a slight nod to Edgar Allan Poe, she attends Nevermore Academy. Quoth the octopus, "yes, please!"

Channeling your inner Wednesday isn't easy

Jenna Ortega is already a "Scream" queen, but playing Wednesday still proved a challenge. What typically makes Wednesday a fascinating and status quo-defying child is just that — she's a child. Most people expect young girls to be docile, frilly, and largely agreeable and innocent when they've barely reached double digits. That stereotype has faced increasingly widespread challenges in recent years, but it still hasn't fully gone away, and that's precisely what makes Wednesday a fascinating character. 

So, with an aged-up Wednesday, how did Ortega and the "Wednesday" writers avoid making her a run-of-the-mill snarky teen? According to a conversation Ortega had with EW, that was one of the biggest challenges of taking on the role. "We've never seen her as a teenage girl. You know, it's funny and sweet and almost charming to hear this eight-year-old's obsession with murder and blood and guts," she explained. "As she gets older, that nasty attitude or [those] biting remarks, it's almost kind of hard to not make it sound like every other teenage girl." 

It's tough to film such a long series about a sardonic and somewhat unemotional character, but Tim Burton knows what he's doing. Ortega praised Burton's attention to detail to EW, saying, "That has been really incredible, just being such a fan of his work prior, but also getting to know him and realizing he's the most detail-oriented director I'll ever work with."

Jenna Ortega gets the Christina Ricci seal of approval

Though Ortega noted some of the challenges she had getting into character and keeping Wednesday fresh, Christina Ricci isn't worried about the younger star's performance. As it turns out, "Addams Family Values" (and the few parodied versions that followed) won't be the last time fans see Ricci in this kooky world. Her role in "Wednesday" has given her a front-row seat for Ortega's performance, and according to Ricci, she's living up to the hype. After applauding Tim Burton and Gwendolyn Christie's work on the show during a Variety interview, Ricci deemed Ortega's performance as Wednesday "incredible." 

"I saw some of the wardrobe photos before I went [to set], so I knew [what she looked like in character], and I was like, it's such a great modern take on Wednesday," said Ricci. "It's so true tonally to the heart and soul of [the original], but it's then it's incredibly modern, and it's great." If Ricci is down with Ortega's take on the character, fans have gotten all the approval they need directly from a generation's favorite onscreen Wednesday.