Jenna Ortega covers ELLE’s April 2023 issue. The star of WEDNESDAY and SCREAM VI built her career on intense observation and obvious talent. “I’m definitely the actress who’s like, ‘More blood,’” Ortega deadpans. “If I’m going to speak up about anything, or put my two cents in about anything,” she says, it would be that: Let a scene be as crimson as possible. Gore has always fascinated Ortega; she wanted to start acting, at all of six years old, because she watched a movie that scared her. It’s fitting, then, that Ortega is Gen Z’s reigning scream queen: The star of SCREAM VI commits to the bit.
On how she has shaken off the nerves of joining such an iconic film series like Scream: “I have so much respect for the franchise that I didn’t want to do it wrong,” she says. “I wanted to do it justice, but I also didn’t want to be ripping anybody off.”
On how she knows exactly how to perform on camera, but the networking side of acting—the red carpets, promos, and appearances—she seems less certain about: “If I want to make films so badly and I want to play characters or I want to direct and write film scores, I could do that all in my backyard. I don’t have to be doing it on a grand scale like this,” she says. What pushes her forward is the chance to work with the best. “But ultimately, all the other side stuff that comes with my job, sometimes it makes it feel like it’s almost not worth it. I don’t want to feel like a walking billboard, which is a really, really scary feeling because then you feel less and less in control of your life. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of people or know people who have succumbed to that pressure. I don’t want to belong to anyone or anything.”
On how she wanted to be an actor after watching Man on Fire, the Denzel Washington kidnapping thriller marked by Dakota Fanning’s standout performance: “I was happy sitting and dissecting that movie over and over again. I couldn’t fathom how someone so young could do something that would scare me so aggressively. But I also loved the way that it made me feel,” she says. “I decided that’s what I was passionate about.”
On getting her start acting and the impact it had on her family: “To do that four to five days a week and still raise your other children was absurd,” she says. “My family made a lot of sacrifices.” The prospect of building her career was exciting—and daunting. “It was the guilt of, Okay, well if this doesn’t work out, I’m screwed, I guess,” she says. “I just put my entire family through this because that’s a lot of money and time that we did not have.”
On producing and starring in her first romantic comedy, Winter Spring Summer or Fall, and how she doesn’t like romantic comedies herself: “I hate being goo- goo gaga over a boy,” Ortega says. “I think it’s secretly a pride thing. It’s a problem with a lot of female characters, that a lot of them are guy-oriented or what they’re expressing or emoting is based on a guy’s position and a guy’s story.” The same is not true for Ortega, who says she isn’t dating. “Maybe I am too obsessed with my work, but the idea of relationships stresses me out,” she explains. “And also being that vulnerable with someone and having to get to know someone that well and having someone see you for all that you are….” She trails off. “My brain knows that I don’t need to think about that right now.”
On her typical early-twenties anxieties and how nice feedback from the public encourages her: “I am so fearful of disappointing the people in my life, or even people in public,” she says. “I want to live up to people’s expectations, which is something that I need to get over, but I’m also scared that, I don’t know, maybe someone will get to know me too well and realize that I’m not all that.” Which is why when people compliment her, she sometimes feels disbelief: “The kind words that I hear that they say about me through other people are unbelievable to me. I feel like just the people in my life see me in a way that I don’t really see myself.” The compliments are also encouraging as she’s figuring out her own voice.
[Photo Credit: Felix Cooper for ELLE Magazine]
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