The Untold Truth Of Jenna Ortega

If you don't yet know Jenna Ortega's name, you soon will. The actor has amassed a following over the last decade as a child and teen star, and she is poised for real fame with a starring role in the Tim Burton Netflix show "Wednesday," in which she plays a teenage Wednesday Addams of the Addams Family. Ortega has continuously made choices that challenge what one would expect from a former child actor, choosing darker fare over the family-friendly stuff for which she originally became known.

Ortega started acting in 2012, but her first big break was in "Jane the Virgin," in which she appeared as a younger version of the main character, Jane Villanueva. After that, she took on the voice of Princess Isabel on "Elena of Avalor" and got the lead part in her own Disney Channel show, "Stuck in the Middle." Adult audiences took notice of Ortega in 2019, when she appeared in a pivotal role on Season 2 of Netflix's "You," and then again when she began appearing in a string of horror films, including 2022's "Scream." 

In addition to "Wednesday," Ortega is set to appear in the films "Scream 6" and "Finestkind," opposite Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Foster, and others. It's time to get to know more about this up-and-coming "it girl," and we have all of the important details. Here is the untold truth of the talented, multilayered Jenna Ortega.

She has wanted to act since she was six

Like many child actors, Jenna Ortega caught the acting bug very, very early — at the age of six, to be exact. Growing up in Coachella Valley, a desert area that is part of the Greater Palm Springs metro, Ortega was close enough to Hollywood, but not exactly in its backyard. Still, she could not curb her desire to appear on screen, which developed after watching the film "Man on Fire." The 2004 film starred Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning, and Ortega has mentioned in multiple interviews how strong of an impact it had on her wanting to act.

"I told my mom that I wanted to be the Puerto Rican version of Dakota Fanning," she told Nylon in a January 2022 interview (she is one-quarter Puerto Rican, per PopSugar). Her mom was less enthused about the idea, and it took Ortega "begging nonstop" for four years to get her to soften. When Ortega was 10, her mother made a Facebook post featuring the actor's dramatic monologue reading, which garnered the attention of a casting director in their extended network (per Nylon). Less than a decade later, the 19-year-old Ortega has already hit many career milestones that most actors only hope for.

When she first started out, Jenna Ortega only did commercials

It is not uncommon for actors — child or adult — to get their start wherever they can, which might include short films, student films, commercials, or even those terrible workplace training videos we all dread. Jenna Ortega's first stop was in commercials, not necessarily by choice, but because it was all she was permitted to film, per Allure. "My team told me, 'We don't know what you're capable of, so do commercials first and see how well you do,'" she told the magazine in 2022. Despite the limitations placed on her, Ortega more than proved herself during that first year.

According to an interview she did with Nylon magazine, Ortega booked a dozen national campaigns in that one-year period. This included big spots for Colgate, Fruity Pebbles, Old Navy, and Burger King. It also included ads for McDonald's — a huge deal for a budding kid star. "I had done three McDonald's commercials. Two of them I was the apple girl, which is fine," she told Nylon. "But if you're around McDonald's and you're 9 years old, you don't want to be eating the apples. The last McDonald's commercial I did, I was assigned to be the nugget girl. And that was the greatest, the greatest day. I just had to eat nuggets all day."

She found it difficult to transition to adult roles

After a couple small television guest spots, Jenna Ortega booked her first minor film role (which was mostly cut), playing the vice president's daughter in "Iron Man 3" (per Nylon). She continued to work in a variety of genres throughout her tween and early teen years, but eventually found herself squarely in the family market when she took on the lead in Disney's "Stuck in the Middle." Ortega played Harley Diaz — a middle child in a family of seven kids — from 2016 to 2018, accomplishing one of her first acting goals. 

"When I was trying to convince my parents to let me act, I told my mom, 'I could get on a Disney show if you wanted me to,'" she told Nylon. Ortega added, "And my mom just kind of like laughed it off and said, 'Oh yes, we'll see about that.' So, that being something that I had promised my parents that I would do, I was thrilled."

After the experience ended, however, Ortega found it difficult to shed her squeaky-clean Disney image. She told Complex that it was difficult to even get auditions during that period, let alone book a job. And while the drought did not last long, the fear of being "pigeonholed" stuck. "Because of the Disney name — they're incredible, but it's really hard to get away from that stereotype, especially because real acting isn't really associated with Disney," Ortega admitted to Women's Wear Daily.

She was very nervous on the set of You

"You" was a huge gig for Jenna Ortega, as it was her first big role after leaving Disney, and the show was already an established hit for Netflix by the time she joined in Season 2. Ortega appeared as Ellie Alves, a teenage neighbor that main character Joe Goldberg befriends and protects. Despite knowing it was a good opportunity, Ortega had some reservations when she first signed on for the show. "I was worried about my 'Stuck in the Middle' audience seeing that because they're a little young for that type of content," she told HOLA!. "Also coming off of Disney, that was my first project, and I felt like I had completely forgotten how to act."

Ortega has since discussed these (clearly unfounded) fears about her acting skill in other interviews, and it seems that it was the switch from a sitcom to a more serious show that was her biggest anxiety. She told Women's Wear Daily, "I was in constant fear that I was going to be fired," though she has also praised star Penn Badgley and the overall environment. Given that Ellie (spoiler alert!) is one of the few past characters who remains alive, there may also be hope for Ortega's eventual return to the series. She has strong feelings about fan theories regarding her character, as discussed with Insider, and told Nylon that scheduling conflicts are what kept her from returning for Season 3. "I would love, love to be back on that set," she said.

Jenna Ortega has always seen film as the ultimate goal

The boundaries between film and television are blurrier than ever, but that has not stopped Jenna Ortega from setting her sights on a more traditional film career. Despite getting her presence on television, Ortega has always planned on film as the ultimate goal. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "I'll do anything, but I think specifically my interest is indies, just because I love a good passion project. And it's always really exciting to provide or contribute to people's outlets of creativity, or artistry. " She continued, "And if there's any way that I could be supportive in that, or beneficial in that process, I jump at the opportunity to do so."

Even with film, it is important for Ortega that her projects are diverse and challenging. "A big fear for me is I've never wanted to be pigeonholed. I never want to be seen as one thing," she told Complex in an interview. "So if I can get my hands in as many bowls as I possibly can or have all of my projects not really resemble one another, that would be really, really, cool." In the interview, Ortega says she loves a challenge, which is ultimately what drives her choices in projects. This is quite evident when one looks at her films, including "The Fallout," which is about a school shooting, and "X," a horror film set in the porn world.

She has become a scream queen

In her relatively short film career, Jenna Ortega has already established herself as somewhat of a "scream queen" by choosing to appear in multiple works in the horror genre. And though she does not feel she has yet earned such a title, per Vulture, we certainly feel she has. Ortega's first horror film was 2013's "Insidious: Chapter 2," which she starred in when she was only a child. In 2020, she appeared in "The Babysitter: Killer Queen," and she has followed that up with notable horror films including "X" and "Scream," which was the fifth sequel in the popular series. Even her television choices, from "You" to "Wednesday," are relatively macabre and dark.

Ortega's horror focus has not been accidental, as the actor is a huge fan of the genre. According to Rotten Tomatoes, her favorite horror films include "Prom Night," "Possession," and "The Witch," and her love of horror was established at an early age. "I think I've always kind of been internally drawn to that stuff, so it's nice that my work is able to reflect that," she told the outlet. 

In regard to "X," Ortega told Complex that she signed on to do the slasher film in part because she was a fan of director Ti West. "Scream" has been Ortega's most high-profile project to date — she won the MTV Movie & TV Award for "Most Frightened Performance" – and she was cast in the sixth installment of the franchise.

Stage blood sometimes impacts her skin negatively

Actors' skin can often take a beating on set, as the makeup alone is enough to irritate even the most genetically gifted faces. But for Jenna Ortega, it's not just makeup that has caused her dermatological issues. "The set that I was on required a lot of dust, dirt, and blood and that was really heavy on my skin," she told People in spring 2022. The actor is a Neutrogena ambassador, so she has done her fair share of discussing her skin care routine, and though she is clearly holding up okay, it makes sense that her skin would be sensitive after her numerous horror roles. According to Allure, standard theatrical blood is just corn syrup and dye, but the color chosen depends on many factors, including how fresh the blood is supposed to be and the lighting.

Fake blood is a key component of horror films, as it makes each story look realistic, but non-actors have no idea what actually goes into setting up a bloody movie scene. It turns out that stage blood is actually kind of gross, and Ortega told Teen Vogue that some brands tend to dry out her skin and create blemishes. "Sometimes while filming it's nice because the next day I just show up to work and I have to put more blood on so it covers up any blemishes that I've sprouted, but it's really rough on my skin," she said, while noting that "The Babysitter: Killer Queen" was her worst shoot for acne issues.

The Fallout taught Jenna Ortega to embrace emotion

One of Jenna Ortega's first starring film roles was in "The Fallout," a 2021 movie about a high school student navigating the aftermath of a school shooting. Landing the lead role of Vada Cavell appears to have been kismet, as Ortega was recommended to the director by a friend. According to InStyle, Francia Raisa is the one who suggested Ortega to filmmaker and actor Megan Park, with whom she had co-starred on "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." The pair met for coffee, with Ortega's mother in tow, and Park immediately knew she wanted Ortega for the role. "I just fell in love," Park told InStyle. "I remember calling the producers from a parking garage being like, 'She's the one, I just know that she's the one.'"

The poignant drama forced Ortega to engage new skills and to go deep. "I got to explore Vada's character more than I have any other character I've played," she said to Nylon magazine. "I've also never had to do a project that showed such a range of emotions with one character. ...I felt like I was flexing my muscle in ways I hadn't before," the actor added. Ortega credits her role in "The Fallout" with forcing her to look internally and to embrace her own feelings to a greater degree. She told InStyle that the production taught her to let her guard down and let her tears out, which she previously struggled to do.

Shooting X was her first time out of the country alone

There is no doubt that the film "X" marked a turning point for Jenna Ortega's career, in that it was a more adult role than she had ever taken on. The slasher flick, which is set in 1979, is about a group of people traveling through Texas to create a pornographic film. Ortega plays Lorraine, the girlfriend of director RJ (Owen Campbell), and a key player in the movie. But adult themes aside, there is another reason why the film was important for Ortega's growing up process: she had never traveled solo internationally.

The movie was filmed in New Zealand, in a variety of places, including Whanganui (per the Whanganui Chronicle), a small city of roughly 40,000. Ortega had to quarantine for three weeks upon her arrival in the country, which she told InStyle was actually a very pleasant experience. "It was my first time out of the country alone — I think it was a nice period of self growth," she said in the interview, adding, "I spent a lot of time with myself and I feel like somebody would typically feel like they were losing their mind, but I just got to watch more movies and write a lot." In addition to movies and writing, she told The New York Times that she took much comfort in music while abroad, particularly Radiohead's "OK Computer," which she bonded over with Jim, a production assistant.

She is wary of social media's effects

Even for us non-famous folks, social media can have detrimental effects on our self-esteem and overall sense of wellbeing. For celebrities who deal with thousands of unsolicited opinions, the effects of social media are likely magnified. For Jenna Ortega, boundaries have been really important for protecting herself from the online hoopla — and not just the negative stuff, but also the positive declarations that name her the next big thing. "Honestly, I try not to read or pay attention to social media as much as possible because I feel people sway a lot," she admitted to Teen Vogue. "So it's either they're all in and they're all out and I don't think that it would be healthy for me. I wouldn't want to get my hopes up too high."

Ortega has also noticed the pitfalls that social media can have when it comes to how she views her appearance. She told InStyle that she deletes the Instagram app a couple times a week. However, she also struggles with FOMO as social media is how people associate in today's new media landscape. But while Ortega appears to have enough digital literacy to realize that what we see online is not always realistic, she is a typical young person who can't exactly stay away. "I can't even lie when I say that, occasionally, I'll fall down a rabbit hole of going on so-and-so's Instagram account and just wishing that I looked like this, or that I was as talented as them," she told Allure.

Jenna Ortega feels pressure playing Wednesday Addams

There have been many iterations of the character Wednesday Addams, given that the Addams Family has been around in pop culture since 1938. The first appearance of the character (though not yet named) was in a comic strip in The New Yorker, but the iconic family has since been featured in everything from television to film, both in animated and live-action formats. Wednesday has always been one of the standout characters, and so it makes sense that Jenna Ortega would feel pressure taking on the role. "She's been done so beautifully by people before me that it's really important that I do something fresh and different," Ortega told InStyle, after admitting that she found the role, "Really nerve wracking, honestly." 

Not only does Ortega have big shoes to fill — Christina Ricci's Wednesday remains embedded in our brains — but this is the first time Wednesday is taking the lead. In the Netflix series, it is the darkly deadpan Addams daughter who sits center stage, a challenge in itself. "Wednesday is a one-liner character. She usually just says the joke. We've never spent so much on screen time with her before," Ortega admitted to Nylon. "So, how do you take this deadpan, dry, sarcastic character and give her some sort of range and volume enough to carry and lead a story without taking away from who she truly is?" We have faith that Ortega and director Tim Burton will find a way.

Wednesday's style is rubbing off on her

Not only does Wednesday Addams have an iconic personality, but the character is also known for a very specific look. And though Jenna Ortega's version of Wednesday is a teenager rather than the child we are used to, she remains outfitted in much the same manner. Ortega's Instagram has photos of her dressed up as Wednesday, with her trademark bangs, braids, and white-collared black shirt. "I think it's probably the most physical transformation I've ever done," Ortega told The Hollywood Reporter. "I cut my hair, and it's black, and mannerism-wise, speaking cadence-wise, expression-wise, I'm trying to pull from a different toolbox this time around." Even then, the actor admits that she has been compared to Wednesday Addams throughout her life (via Flaunt).

In an interview with Allure, the actor discussed how she opted for "real fringe" rather than a hairpiece that would stand in for bangs during her hair and makeup tests. Interestingly, Ortega seems to be enjoying Wednesday's peculiar sense of style — so much so that she admits it has rubbed off on her. "I got a taste of it and I decided that was what I wanted to look like. It stuck. I didn't realize how much I like the color black and I didn't realize how much I like white button-ups, but it's become a thing," she told Allure. "I will tie a braid on either side of my head and it's like, 'Oh, look, it's Wednesday!'"

She is excited about representing Latinas on screen

For Jenna Ortega, one really exciting aspect of playing Wednesday Addams is to finally be able to depict the well-known character as a Latina. Despite the Addams patriarch Gomez being Latino, Wednesday has traditionally been represented as a white girl. "I remember Christina Ricci's Wednesday. She killed it and it's very important to me to honor her legacy and the role. My abuela, my parents all saw the original series de 'Los locos Adams.' Everybody is familiar with the story," Ortega told mitú. "I know what it means that a Latina is playing Wednesday. It's a big deal to me."

In Tim Burton's "Wednesday," both Gomez Addams and Pugsley Addams are also played by Latinx actors (Luis Guzmán and Isaac Ordonez, respectively), and this is something that very much fits with Ortega's mission. In fact, increasing the prevalence and diversity of Latinx people in media has always been important to Ortega, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. Even at age 13, she was speaking out against stereotypes about Latinx communities (via Teen Vogue). It goes beyond representation. 

"I feel like the Latinx community, first of all, they're not often shown on camera in general. But they're also oftentimes not shown in a positive light," she told Cosmopolitan in 2021. "I never want to play a maid and I never want to play a cartel leader's daughter. I would much rather play a person of power, a powerful character in a positive way."

Jenna Ortega loves books – and even wrote one

Jenna Ortega is a huge lover of reading, which is something that she has mentioned in multiple interviews. For example, in January 2022, she spoke about her love of books with InStyle, and noted that she often does not get the time to read as much as she would like. Speaking with The New York Times, Ortega discussed her love for antique books in particular (much like Joe Goldberg in "You," minus the killing and stuff). "I developed a fascination with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I found a collection of his essays from 1879," she said. "And not only was I obsessed with the way it looked, but the pages smelled different, the texture was different, and I realized, 'Oh, I want to protect this book.'" 

In addition to reading and collecting books, Ortega is also a fan of writing them. In January 2021, she published her first book with Penguin Random House, entitled "It's All Love: Reflections for Your Heart & Soul." The illustrated book for teens and young adults, which includes quotes, affirmations, and personal anecdotes, is part self-help book and part memoir.

Jenna Ortega has a substantial net worth

Though she is by no means mega-rich, as far as celebrities are concerned, Jenna Ortega has been able to amass a small fortune in her relatively short career in Hollywood. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the actor is worth $3 million — not too shabby for a 19-year-old who is just emerging as an It Girl. Little is known about Ortega's actual salary for projects like "You" or "Wednesday," but clearly she is doing alright for herself. And while her "Scream" co-star Neve Campbell will not appear in "Scream 6" due to the salary she was offered (per Entertainment Weekly), Ortega appears to have been happy enough with her compensation to sign on for another sequel.

In addition to her television and film roles, Ortega also brings in money as a spokesperson and influencer. Though her Instagram does not appear to have direct advertisements, her nearly 8 million followers have surely impacted her ability to land lucrative advertising contracts. She is a Neutrogena brand ambassador (per People) and has previously worked with Aeropostale as a part of their "Teens for Jeans" campaign with, which donates jeans to homeless youth (per AP News). She also likely gets residuals from her past work, including "Stuck in the Middle" (streaming in various places including Disney+).