Percy Hynes White didn’t really know what he was getting himself into when he booked a part in “Wednesday,” the Netflix “Addams Family” dramedy that marks Tim Burton’s TV directing debut.
“I didn’t know anything for such a long time,” the Newfoundland-born actor said in a video interview.
“I didn’t know who else was cast. I didn’t know how long we were going to be filming for. I didn’t have many other scripts. I learned where we were going to be shooting the day that I got the part, but I had to wait about five or six months between getting the role and starting shooting. It was a long six months.”
“Wednesday” shot in Romania, including capital city Bucharest and a castle called Cantacuzino. It’s an apt location for a TV series about supernatural high school students, including vampires and werewolves, since Romania was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula.
It was also the furthest that Hynes, son of writer/producer Sherry White and actor/writer Joel Thomas Hynes, had ever travelled for a role.
“It was definitely a unique life experience because I don’t think I would have ever gone there otherwise … so I’m very happy that I got to go,” he said.
Hynes has been acting since he was six, beginning with a role in “Down to the Dirt,” a movie based on a novel by his father, with a screenplay by his mother, in which Joel Thomas Hynes also starred. The younger Hynes has appeared in plenty of Canadian TV series, including “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Between” and his mother’s latest, “Pretty Hard Cases”; in movies like “Cast No Shadow” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”; and American shows like “The Gifted,” in which he played a teenager with supernatural powers.
But “Wednesday,” in which the 21-year-old plays another teenager with powers, stands to boost his profile even further.
It was created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who developed the Superman series “Smallville”; it’s based on the Addams Family comics, which also spawned a beloved 1960s TV series, several movies and a Broadway musical; and fantasy-horror master Burton, a “lifelong Addams Family fan” according to Netflix, directed four of the eight episodes.
Its focus is on 16-year-old Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega (“Jane the Virgin,” “Stuck in the Middle”), who’s sent to Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for so-called outcasts, since her misanthropic tendencies are a poor fit for regular high schools. (You might have seen the teaser in which she unleashes piranhas on the swim team.)
At Nevermore, Wednesday matches wits with the headmistress, Principal Weems (Gwendoline Christie of “Game of Thrones”), tolerates her cheery werewolf roommate, Enid (Emma Myers), and enlists disembodied hand Thing (Victor Dorobantu) as a co-conspirator in her various schemes. And while she wouldn’t stoop to anything as sentimental as romance, both Hynes’ character, Xavier, and a “normie” named Tyler (Hunter Doohan, “Your Honor”) vie for her attention.
“Xavier is the son of a famous psychic in the world of ‘Wednesday,’” Hynes said. “And so he comes from this very rich family. And he’s kind of a gifted painter. And he himself is psychic and he’s able to bring his paintings to life … He sort of has this entitlement and he’s used to people wanting to be his friend. And so when he kind of gets rejected by her, I think it piques his interest … He chases after her a little bit and also becomes an object of suspicion in the show.”
Apart from the usual high school rivalries and adolescent identity quests, there’s a homicidal monster loose in the woods near the school and other mysteries that Wednesday is determined to solve while also grappling with her own psychic abilities.
Other cast members include Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman as Morticia and Gomez Addams; Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in two Addams Family movies, as teacher Marilyn Thornhill; Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester and George Burcea as Lurch.
Hynes hasn’t seen the original “Addams Family” series, which ran from 1964 to ’66, but said he loved the 1990s Barry Sonnenfeld movies.
While Ortega told Variety that making “Wednesday” was stressful and confusing for her in the early going, Hynes said there was a lot of fun to be had on set.
“What really made it fun for me was all my cast mates on the show were people who I really got along with who had the same sense of humour as me, who were like goofballs … And we were just trying to make each other laugh all the time. Plus we got to do all the crazy stunts and the boat races and the dances and the fight scenes and all the special effects stuff.
“It was like working on a huge blockbuster movie, and you’re with all of your friends and you’re just having a ball,” he said.
He expects to continue acting for the long haul.
“I think I’m going to be doing it for a long, long time, whether it’s indie movies that nobody watches or this kind of thing. I’m just happy to do it, whatever environment.
“That’s what I’m in it for, is playing pretend, you know?”
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