Jenna Ortega learned to play Bach cello suites for hit Netflix series ‘Wednesday’

2 December 2022, 15:26 | Updated: 6 December 2022, 17:55

Jenna Ortega plays cello as Wednesday Addams, in new Netflix series ‘Wednesday’.
Jenna Ortega plays cello as Wednesday Addams, in new Netflix series ‘Wednesday’. Picture: Alamy

By Siena Linton

Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday Addams is a macabre-minded, cello-toting force of nature. But does she actually play the instrument, and what song does Wednesday play on it?

Since first hitting screens on 23 November, Netflix’s latest hit series Wednesday has smashed the streaming service’s records, earning the highest number of viewing hours in one week for an English-language series, and beating the likes of Stranger Things and Bridgerton.

The eight-part series is based on the Addams family’s troubled daughter, Wednesday, portrayed by Jenna Ortega in Tim Burton’s directorial debut for Netflix. The series also stars Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia Addams, and Christina Ricci who notably played Wednesday Addams in the beloved 1991 film The Addams Family.

Ortega’s portrayal of Wednesday sees her don bow and cello, in two moments crucial to the development of the series’ core plot. But viewers have been split as to whether or not Ortega really played the cello in the film.

Read more: What classical music is played in ‘Wednesday’ on Netflix?

Jenna Ortega (left) and Christina Ricci (right) as Wednesday Addams, in ‘Wednesday’ and ‘The Addams Family’, respectively.
Jenna Ortega (left) and Christina Ricci (right) as Wednesday Addams, in ‘Wednesday’ and ‘The Addams Family’, respectively. Picture: Alamy

Did Jenna Ortega learn to play cello for Wednesday?

Displaying extremely impressive dedication to the role, Ortega learned a host of new skills for Wednesday, including fencing, German, archery, boxing, and playing the cello.

She told Wired that she began taking cello lessons twice a week, two months before filming for the series began. “I probably couldn’t play too well now,” she admitted, but continued, “It is something that I want to continue to pursue. I have immense respect for anybody who plays the cello. I think it’s such a delightful instrument”.

Ortega also told the outlet that she would love to be a composer of ambient music and release “neo-composing albums”.

Read more: This cello quartet’s cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘How Deep is Your Love’ is sheer delight

What music does Wednesday play on cello?

In the run-up to the series, Ortega posted clips on social media of her cello practice, including a performance of the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G (watch below).

This off-book performance is rather impressive for a beginner, and there’s even an on-screen reference to the piece in the series. As Wednesday sits on the roof of her dorm to play a Rolling Stones cover, the sheet music on her stand is this very Bach prelude.

Read more: Yo-Yo Ma on how Bach’s Cello Suites give us the code to rebuild after tragedy

When it comes to Wednesday, there are two major scenes in the first series that centre around Ortega and her cello. In the first, Wednesday is seen on the balcony of her dorm, playing an arrangement for cello of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It, Black’ into the night.

Later, Wednesday plays her cello at a town fair, first accompanying her school’s band in a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’ before diving into a dramatic and electrifying version of the third movement of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Does Jenna Ortega actually play cello on the Wednesday soundtrack?

It’s fair to assume that Ortega’s own cello performances aren’t the ones heard on the series’ soundtrack, but Ortega does a remarkably convincing job of miming along to the track.

Eagle-eyed viewers noticed one section in ‘Paint It, Black’ where Ortega continues bowing as the cello in the soundtrack uses percussive techniques which are more likely to involve striking the strings with the wood of the bow, or plucking them.

However, for the rest of the film Ortega’s hand movements across the fingerboard are fairly accurate, and nine times out of ten her bowing pattern is spot on with the music – a sign of great attention to detail on both Ortega’s and the production team’s parts.

A second series of Wednesday is yet to be confirmed, but we hope to see more of Jenna Ortega and her cello in the future.