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How Many Times Does Wednesday Addams Actually Blink?

Jenny Ortega as Wednesday Addams. Image: Netflix.

Blinking is similar to breathing. When you do it regularly, no one notices. When you stop doing it, it freaks out everyone around you.

The new Addams Family-inspired series Wednesday is a creepy show, and Jenna Ortega plays the spooky star of said creep-fest. Her blank Kubrick Stare is enough to chill your bones, and maybe that’s because fans recently discovered that Ortega’s Wednesday doesn’t ever blink. As if things couldn’t get any creepier. Netflix later confirmed this unsettling fact with a tweet marketing the show as a spook-a-thon in which the lead actress never once shuts her eyes.

Well, almost never.

So, how did this whole “Wednesday doesn’t blink” thing begin?

During an interview on the Today Show, Ortega explained that director Tim Burton “likes it when I tilt my chin down and look through my eyebrows, kind of like a Kubrick Stare” because … of course he does. It’s a spooky expression, and even a casual viewer of Tim Burton’s oeuvre knows that spooky is what this man does best. According to the aforementioned Netflix post, Burton asked Ortega to perform a take without blinking. “He was so enamored with the result he told Jenna Ortega not to blink anymore when playing Wednesday. So she didn’t,” the tweet concludes. Apparently Burton has never liked blinking, as many of the characters in his films hardly blink at all. He confirmed this in an interview with Yahoo in 2016. “I don’t know why,” he explained. “Even when you’re mentioning it now, it freaks me out.”

If you or a loved one have ever been freaked out by a Tim Burton movie, corner him on the street and blink rapidly at him. He’ll probably curl up in a ball and cry, and you can consider that restitution for the injustice you’ve faced.

How does Jenna Ortega do it? Do they tape her eyes open?

No, that can make you go blind. Remember that scene in A Clockwork Orange, where Malcolm McDowell’s Alex is strapped to a chair with his eyes clamped open? Remember the doctor next to him who was putting eyedrops in his eyes every few minutes? That wasn’t an actor—that was a REAL DOCTOR who was doing that so McDowell wouldn’t suffer permanent ocular damage.

Kubrick was a famously cruel bastard to his actors, and Tim Burton is not. Jenna Ortega explained that she is free to blink while other actors are saying their lines, because the focus will cut to them during the final edit. However, she did say that having to hold her eyes open during filming was “pretty annoying.” When you consider that much of the show was shot at night in Romania while freezing wind was blowing in her eyes, you can imagine that holding them open must have gotten pretty tiresome.

Does Wednesday ever blink?

She does! But only in moments when closing her eyes carries emotional weight. You can see her close her eyes in episode 1 while riding to Nevermore with her parents, Morticia and Gomez. She does it again in episode 4 while confronting Bianca at the Rave’N. And, most poignantly of all, she lets her eyes shut as she wraps her arms around Enid in the season 1 finale. By blinking sparingly, the moments when Wednesday does close her eyes feel all the more powerful, communicating moments of intense emotions to the viewer.

What a cool character idea! Has it ever been done before?

Yes, it has! There is another character even creepier than Wednesday Addams who famously never blinks. Can you guess who it is? He likes to eat liver with fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti. It’s Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs! If you watch his performance closely, you’ll notice that he never blinks. Not even once. While discussing the character with Barbara Walters on 20/20 in 2001, Hopkins explained his choice: “If you don’t blink, you know you can keep the audience mesmerized.” He went on to add that the enthralling nature of his character comes from “being still,” and that “stillness has an economy and it has a power about it”—something he says he learned by “watching American actors.” By choosing stillness and economy of movement, Jenna Ortega is following in the footsteps of cinematic giants. She’s also making viewers at home poop their pants in terror. Both are admirable things.

(featured image: Netflix)

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