Rushfield: Jenna Ortega and the A-List Challenge
The 'Wednesday' breakout faces a streaming age that makes enduring stardom elusive
Stardom has always been the most valuable commodity in all of Hollywood, greater than rubies or even IP. Minting new stars — the process upon which our entire industry rests — has never been easy, but in today's ADD-addled times, creating creatures who soar above the noise is almost a defiance of nature.
The performers who catch a bit of buzz or who get some attention from a role… very few retain that heat for more than the blink of an eye. Stardom has proven as ephemeral as today's political controversy — gone and forgotten before you even realize it was there.
For a very chosen few however, the heat comes and it stays. The ones who have turned it into real durable stardom in this era are so few we can all recite their names: Zendaya, Chalamet, Tom Holland.
At this moment, the finger of fate has been pointing to one actress, Jenna Ortega, 20, whose deadpan leading turn as Netflix's Wednesday drove her same-name show to become one of the year's few freshman hits. And at its helm, Ortega achieved the impossible — not only being genuinely celebrated for her performance, but becoming the subject of one of the year's biggest viral phenomenons as her signature tango became the most widely imitated dance since Gangnam Style or the Macarena.
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
But having achieved this breakout, the question stands: what now for Ortega? With the amount of attention she has now, she stands on the brink of stepping through the portal to Zendaya-level stardom, which is about as real as this era can offer.
On the other hand, the list of talents to break through and then fizzle away lately is long. Netflix in particular has created a string of breakout stars, and while some (e.g. Millie Bobby Brown, Katherine Langford, Regé-Jean Page) have turned that moment into lasting careers, most have faded into some lower level of intensity — none have broken through to that top, durable layer of stardom.
A writer advises, "NO SOCIAL [MEDIA] EVER. To me social is like having a gun at the house; statistical chances of getting hurt outweigh any potential benefit."
So where goeth Wednesday? As a case study on what it takes to mint a star in this day and age, I asked some of the great senior-level Hollywood thinkers in my life what they would do if they were guiding Ortega's career now. (Her actual reps at CAA and Viewpoint PR declined to comment for this column).
Herewith, a town’s thoughts on the state of modern-day stardom and how to achieve it: