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Disney alum to horror 'it' girl: How Jenna Ortega rose to fame

"Wednesday" lead Jenna Ortega's long, storied career proves she's a star any day of the week. – Photo by @imdbpro / Twitter

Wednesday is everyone’s new favorite day of the week all thanks to rising starlet Jenna Ortega. Her viral rise to fame might seem sudden or enigmatic if you've just started watching, but Ortega has been on the road to greatness for years.

Ortega has been on the acting scene since she made her television debut as a guest star in the CBS sitcom "Rob" at just ten years old. She also appeared in other programs like "CSI: NY" and "Rake" racking up an impressive amount of acting credits at quite a young age.

Her film debut came in 2013 with a minor role in the box office hit "Iron Man 3," which, despite being divisive, is one of the most successful Marvel movies ever.

Most of Ortega’s early career consisted of small guest appearances in some of our favorite shows and movies like "Insidious: Chapter 2," Netflix’s "Richie Rich" series and most notably as a young Jane Villanueva on 30 different episodes of "Jane the Virgin."

Most people remember a younger Ortega from her hit Disney Channel series "Stuck in the Middle," where she played Harley Diaz for a total of 57 episodes from February 2016 to July 2018. The show follows Harley as the middle child of seven children who uses engineering and creativity as an outlet for her own case of "middle child syndrome."

In the show, the character often broke the fourth wall to talk about her problems with the audience, showcasing Ortega’s natural charisma and comfortability on camera. The show was a big hit for Disney, leading Ortega to her new path as a leading lady and earning her an Imagen Award for her performance. 

Following her Disney days, Ortega began performing in more adult roles that allowed her to show off her wide-ranging acting chops, like her role as Ellie Alves on season two of the Netflix hit, "You."

Alongside heavy hitters like Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti, Ortega held her own as Joe Goldberg’s (Badgley) young, pestering neighbor who tries to seem older and more mature than she actually is. Her performance as Ellie was authentic and emotional, and it marked Ortega as the young actor to watch out for.

She went on to star in Netflix’s "The Babysitter: Killer Queen" and "Yes Day," opposite Jennifer Garner. While "Yes Day" only received a rating of 51 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer, Ortega’s performance was a real standout and made what The New York Times called a "mediocre comedy" somewhat watchable. 

One of my personal favorites on Ortega’s resume is director Megan Park's 2021 film, "The Fallout." The film surrounds the aftermath of a school shooting and how one student, Vada Cavell (Ortega), deals with the inexplicable grief and confusion following such a tragic event.

Ortega’s portrayal of Vada is such an accurate and genuine look into the kids of Generation Z and sheds light on the reality of dealing with this kind of trauma.

In the Hollywood Reporter's review of "The Fallout," critic Sheri Linden wrote that "Ortega’s beautifully nuanced turn understands the nothing-to-look-at-here facade and the chinks in the armor."

Ortega's performance was bolstered by Park's cinematic prowess and effective collaboration with both stars of the film, Ortega and co-star Maddie Ziegler, making it a truly unforgettable film.

Ortega’s reign charged on with hits like "Scream," "Studio 666" and "X." Ortega seems to have a knack for all things horror, and her talent never fails to shine brightly in even the darkest of films. 

Most recently, you can catch Ortega in Tim Burton’s Netflix series "Wednesday," a new take on the classic character of Wednesday Addams. The series shows Wednesday in a new chapter of her life as she enrolls in Nevermore Academy, an institution for outcasts and misfits alike. 

The show is laced with the definitive stylings of Tim Burton, like Wednesday's dancing to "Goo Goo Muck" by The Cramps (a scene and dance that have gone viral all over social media), scary monsters and an all-around "mysterious and spooky" goose chase to find a killer. 

Ortega is being highly praised for her portrayal of Wednesday as she has truly found her own footing in the role all while following in the iconic footsteps of the 90's films Wednesday, Christina Ricci. Ricci claims that Ortega is "truly incredible at making Wednesday a modern bada**" in an interview with Elle. 

Ortega’s obvious dedication and particularity regarding the role are explanation enough as to why this show has exploded into acclaim and virality, all with the young actress at the forefront. 

Ortega’s career is incredibly impressive for someone who is only 20 years old, and her unique talents are sure to supply audiences with great entertainment for years to come. I am eager and waiting impatiently to see just what she does next!

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