So far, Jenna Ortega has done everything right. The California native who started out as a Disney star has been having another breakout moment lately. After appearing as a young version of Jane on Jane the Virgin, Ortega went on to play Ellie Alves, the “kid who thinks she’s not a kid,” in the hit Netflix series You.
The actress has also gone on star in the long-awaited follow-up of the slasher flick Scream where she gained critical praise for her performance as victim Tara Carpenter. Ortega also stars in Tim Burton’s upcoming Netflix series Wednesday, where the actress will play the iconic titular character from the much-loved Adam’s Family films and animated shows.
Clearly, Ortega is poised to become a true Hollywood star. However, the actress has expressed concerns that she may be unable to shake off her Disney past no matter what she does.
Ortega has clearly come a long way since playing adorable middle child Harley Diaz in the Disney family sitcom Stuck in the Middle. Shortly after leaving Disney, the actress booked a part in You after she casually asked for it.
“That job was kind of insane. I had actually seen the show when it was on Lifetime, and I called my agent because she reps Penn Badgley, and I told her, I said, ‘Hey, I gotta get on the show’,” Ortega recalled.
Soon after, the actress also landed the lead role in the critically acclaimed drama The Fallout which tells the story of a high schooler who has her whole life changed forever following a school tragedy. In the end, it’s roles like these that got Hollywood to take Ortega more seriously.
“I remember just being really discouraged at a point in time. But after doing projects like You on Netflix and things like that where I think people saw me in an older light or in a different light,” she explained. “I started to get more opportunities.”
Among those opportunities was the recently released Scream, which sees the return of Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Initially, Ortega was convinced she wouldn’t land a role in the movie since she may be too young.
“They typically cast 30-year-olds to play teenagers. I was 17, and I figured I wasn’t going to fit in with the crowd,” the actress recalled. “And when I got that call, it’s not often that you watch something and then get to become a part of that world later on. So very surreal.”
Ortega has also since starred in Ti West’s horror thriller X. In the movie, she plays a young woman who joins her boyfriend on a trip to assist him in shooting an adult film in Texas. The cast also includes Mia Goth and Brittany Snow.
For the actress, there’s something about horror films that appeal to her and her craft. “I tend to do a lot of horror, but even my horror films I think are pretty different in themselves, which is enough for me and also keeps me on my toes and I think forces me to work in a different way or exercise a muscle in a different way,” she explained.
Ortega may have succeeded in booking more adult roles since her Disney days. However, the actress admits that she still gets associated with the house of Mickey Mouse from time to time and it worries her.
“Ultimately, I don’t want to be pigeonholed, and I want to do all that I can. I am somebody who is constantly searching for some sort of balance,” Ortega explained.
“But ultimately yeah, because of the Disney name — they’re incredible, but it’s really hard to get away from that stereotype, especially because real acting isn’t really associated with Disney.”
The actress even once worried that her Disney association would ultimately result in getting removed from You. “I was in constant fear that I was going to be fired because I had forgotten how to act, because I was so used to the sitcom dialogue,” Ortega said.
“And it was really important to me, because I really want to do more indie films or dramatic films, that I’d be seeing in a new light as soon as possible. That’s always a hard transition.”
As far as Ortega’s fans are concerned, however, the actress hasn’t put a foot wrong so far and even Hollywood execs seemed impressed. Aside from being the star of the upcoming Netflix series Wednesday, Ortega is also set to reprise her Scream role in the upcoming film Scream 6. The actress is also attached to the upcoming crime drama Finestkind.
Jennifer Ong is a veteran writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. She covers lifestyle, entertainment, business, and world news. When she’s not on the job, she enjoys action films and a glass of wine.