This story about “Wednesday” originally appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. The interview was conducted before the writers’ strike.
“Wednesday” is Alfred Gough and Miles Millar’s reinvention of the Addams Family characters first created by Charles Addams in 1938 and made famous by the 1964 television show. In Gough and Millar’s version, young Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is sent away to Nevermore Academy, a school for misfits where she gets embroiled in a mystery stretched across two timelines, uncovers the identity of a murderous monster and makes some great friends along the way.
If this sounds like an irresistible premise, it is: The show almost instantly broke Netflix viewing records. By the third week of release, it became the second most-watched English-language Netflix series ever. It seemed just as ubiquitous on social media, as countless fans on TikTok replicated Ortega’s memorable dance moves (set to “Goo Goo Muck” by the Cramps) and “Wednesday”-related memes spread across Twitter.
It was a phenomenon. And Gough and Millar didn’t expect any of it. “It’s been kind of shocking,” Gough said. “We were very proud of the show, but you never know how people are going to react to it. So many people have reacted so positively, and it’s brought so many emails and texts from people from all eras of our career saying how much they enjoyed it. My parents, who are 80, were getting texts from their friends saying it’s the first show they’ve watched with their grandkids. It’s kind of incredible.”
Millar added that he’s heard, anecdotally, about an increase in kids taking cello classes or signing up for music academies and fencing schools, all keys to the “Wednesday” experience. “It feels like it made a real impact in a way that we never expected,” he said. “You always hope that something you create could do that, but the fact that it actually has is miraculous.”
Millar and Gough point to the special alchemy of the show, including the fact that they were able to recruit Tim Burton to direct the first half of the episodes and that he, in turn, brought along regular collaborators like composer Danny Elfman and costume designer Colleen Atwood. When she took the role, Ortega was on the verge of becoming a superstar thanks to roles in 2022’s rebooted “Scream” and the A24 hit “X,” which greatly contributed to “Wednesday’s” success.
Ortega caused a minor stir in March after she spoke about clashing with Burton and the show’s writers during production, but Millar and Gough had nothing but praise for her. “You’re dealing with an iconic character and you’re putting it in a way that’s never been done before,” Gough said. “We had a million discussions with Tim before the casting because we were like, ‘If we don’t get the right Wednesday, we’re all screwed.’ Once we got Jenna on board, it was a million discussions with her. We all wanted to do the character justice and make it great. And look, I think the response has been fantastic. She’s now the iconic Wednesday.”
Both producers note that Ortega and Burton are back for their next project: “Beetlejuice 2.” Gough said that during a recent cast read-through, Ortega was “fantastic” adding, “Those kind of people come along once in a generation.”
In addition to “Wednesday’s” overwhelming commercial success, the series is now also in the awards conversation. “It’s kind of a shock because when you see the show on paper, it’s not like, Oh yes, this should be in awards contention,” Gough said. “It’s incredibly gratifying that people are thinking of the show this way.”
When they’re not working on “Beetlejuice 2” (“Don’t say it three times!” Millar joked), the pair is prepping for “Wednesday” Season 2. They hope Burton returns to direct more episodes, and they look forward to diving deeper into the many supporting characters who peppered the first season. “We set the table,” Gough said. “You’ve seen the world. You’ve seen Wednesday. And now all of those other characters that you saw will be able to be fleshed out more and you’ll be able to learn more about them. That’s certainly exciting to us.”