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Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega catches heat for filming key scene while sick with COVID

A viral post garnered renewed attention to the fact that Jenna Ortega was experiencing coronavirus symptoms while filming Wednesday's dance scene

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Wednesday: Jenna Ortega had COVID during dance scene
Jenna Ortega
Photo: Leon Bennett (Getty Images)

Wednesday might be spooky, but Wednesday Addams coming to set while infected with COVID-19 is truly frightful. While the new series is reportedly doing pretty well for Netflix, fans have taken issue with the fact that star Jenna Ortega was apparently sick with coronavirus during filming of the first season. Specifically, she revealed that she was ill during the dance sequence, a fan-favorite scene that recalled her predecessor on the original Addams Family sitcom.

That Ortega was ill during the filming of this scene went viral after being boosted by the social media account PopBuzz–or as it might be referred to in this case, Pot-stirring Buzz. An interview excerpt was then reposted on Twitter:“this is a bad thing right? we all agree that this is not some ‘persevering through hardship’ moment, its [sic] a why the fuck didn’t she get sent home, she could get horrendously sick or infect others kinda moment,” reads a viral tweet.

It is an actor’s curse to frequently be taken out of context, but the full picture doesn’t look much better for Ortega than the snippet of a quote. In a November interview with NME, she told the outlet that she’d choreographed the dance herself, adding that “it’s crazy because it was my first day with COVID so it was awful to film.”

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Crucially, Ortega hadn’t tested positive before she went to set, and production company MGM shared a statement with NME saying that “strict COVID protocols were followed and once the positive test was confirmed production removed Jenna from set.”

However, Ortega was experiencing symptoms before she clocked in that day: “Yeah, I woke up and—it’s weird, I never get sick and when I do it’s not very bad —I had the body aches. I felt like I’d been hit by a car and that a little goblin had been let loose in my throat and was scratching the walls of my esophagus,” she said. “They were giving me medicine between takes because we were waiting on the positive result.”

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COVID protocols have slackened in many a workplace, despite the fact that best practice is still isolating when one feels the symptoms of illness (any illness, not just coronavirus). The young actor leading a major series would probably feel a fair amount of pressure to show up to work and not delay production. But if she was ill enough to be given medicine on set, someone should have made an executive decision to send her home, particularly when the scene involved lots of extras (not to mention the crew behind the scenes). Given how expensive it is for a production to undergo delays, it seems the decision was instead made to continue on at the risk of the health of cast and crew. The situation illuminates what is surely an ongoing labor issue in Hollywood in the COVID era.