In this episode, we talk with Melissa Hunter about the new season of Adult Wednesday Addams, her acting career and what she has coming up next.
Melissa Hunter was informed as a child that she looked like Christina Ricci. Wednesday was a nickname given to her by middle school bullies. So the ebony-haired, doe-eyed Hunter decided to retake the moniker and dress up as the angry teenager for Halloween a few years ago. Because of the positive feedback from friends and strangers, the writer/actor decided to revisit the Addams Family movies and reclaim the figure that plagued her youth as a creative ally.
Continue reading below to watch my complete interview with Hunter on the creation of the two seasons of Hunter’s web series Adult Wednesday Addams, which I wrote for LAWeekly HERE. Hunter has a wealth of knowledge on how to start a successful series.
Give us a brief rundown of where the character’s inspiration originated from.
People used to tell me all the time when I was a child that I looked like Christina Ricci. In middle school, a bully began calling me Wednesday, and the popular kids picked up on it. I despised it at the time, and kids would often wonder why I didn’t dress up as Wednesday for Halloween.
I eventually dressed up as Wednesday a couple of Halloweens ago, and it had such a positive response that I went back and watched the movies. The character had such an impact on me, and it reminded me of what an incredible hero she is. So I knew I wanted to do something with the character after that, and the term Adult Wednesday Addams came to me, and I was like, “Yep.” In my view, the simpler the idea, the better.
I believe it attracted such a large audience for many reasons. Obviously, nostalgia and adoration for this great figure play a large role in gaining Internet attention. Then, if you’ve got a good hook, it’s just a matter of committing to live up to the hype. I wanted the series to be as authentic to the character as possible, including how she acts.
Also, I have a sizable adolescent audience, many of whom have never watched The Addams Family, and I believe one of the reasons they relate to it is because there isn’t a powerful female antihero like Wednesday on television or the internet. She’s an outcast who isn’t attempting to blend in. In the face of her foes, she remains unwavering. In order to win, she leverages people’s expectations against them. She is bold, self-assured, and a predator. I believe that’s a lot of fun to watch and cheer for.
What inspired you to create SEASON TWO? What did you wish to add to your Wednesday research?
There are many causes for this. To begin with, the response to the first season was completely unexpected, and fans were eager to see more. She’s such a delightful character that you can truly place her wherever and watch her go, so there’s no limit to the number of episodes you could do with her. Also, there were a lot of… firsts in the first season! Wednesday is only getting started in the real world, with first dates, apartment hunting, and job interviews. I wanted to create a season in which she has settled down and can now have more fun–at least Wednesday’s idea of fun.
What did you learn – both good and bad – about writing, production, and marketing during Season 1 that helped you with Season 2?
Writing: To be honest, they are difficult screenplays to write, and I spend a lot of time on each one. I didn’t want to make the same jokes or use the same revenge methods as before (ha). After writing the first season, I discovered that finding out what she wants in each episode is the best place to start. It’s entertaining to see how she pursues her goal if she has one.
Production: I had a fantastic staff for the first season, so it was wonderful to have them return. I was happy that I was able to give everyone of the crew a fair wage now that I had financing, since they had done me such enormous favors the first time around. When it comes to crew, I believe that if it ain’t busted, don’t repair it.
Mike Bernstein, my director, contributed so much to the tone and aesthetic of the film that he not only nailed it, but he pushed it to the next level. I wanted to keep going since we have such a strong shorthand and work so well together.
Promotion: Even if you just have a few episodes, consistency is essential on YouTube. So Wednesday was the logical option for releasing each week, and I stayed with it. Also, since the fans are so supporting and the comments are largely positive, which is fantastic, I try to reply to as many as I can, which I believe keeps supporters loyal and supportive.
Can you tell me more about the $5000 Technicolor grant you received for the series, as well as other methods you collected money?
I learned about the Creative District grant from a friend, and I applied online. It was a really easy procedure, and I believe it’s important to keep a look out for similar scholarships; there are a lot of them out there! I believe I received it because I had previously completed a season and they could see what I could accomplish with very little money and knew I would put the money to good use.
I was able to raise another $15k via Indiegogo, which was fantastic. It was mainly because to fans who were constantly inquiring when new episodes will be released. Again, if I hadn’t made the first season, I wouldn’t have had such a great campaign. So, the greatest advise I can offer to individuals who are trying to raise money is to create something — anything — out of favors and whatever you can scrape together to show people what you can accomplish and that you are serious about your job. If people react positively to your work, they will donate everything they have.
Season 2 seems to have a little more of a universal message with each episode – who are the true villains in our lives, what does it feel like to be catcalled as a woman, and how brushes with death make life more worth living. Was it a deliberate decision, and am I insane for believing there’ll be a little more of it in season 2?
You’re not insane at all! That’s exactly what I was aiming for. As I previously said, the first season followed Wednesday as she navigated the challenges of becoming an adult: finding an apartment, applying for a job, going on an online date, and so on. What impressed me about Wednesday, apart from the fact that she is a gorgeous little homicidal lunatic, was her outlook on life. I wanted to exhibit more of that aspect of her now that she’s established into her LA life. This may come off as arrogant, but I believe she has a strong, unique philosophical viewpoint. It’s bleak, yet somehow strangely inspiring. She is unafraid of death and loves life. By addressing the problems straight on, she makes the things we’re all afraid of – assault, death, and love — a little less frightening.
I like how each episode is brief yet packed with information, and how we always end up loving Wednesday despite our fears about her. Did you write Season 2 by yourself or with others?
Thank you very much! Season 2 was written entirely by myself. However, the whole process was collaborative. Mike, my director, took notes on each episode and offered several fantastic gags and ideas that ended up being included in the program. He’s in charge of a lot of the narrative. Also, since many of the guest performers are improvisers, there are beats in a number of them that are great improvisational moments (one of my faves is the catcallers, who improvised the whole part when they are deciding what music to play). My favorite phrase is “Newer Smashmouth.”)
You’ve now created a number of digital series. Could you imagine this being a sustainable business where individuals make real money and marketers reach real consumers based on your experience? If that’s the case, could you explain why you believe it’s feasible in the near future?
I really hope so! Because of the high cost, premium scripted programs are more difficult to maintain. Even with a $15k budget, we had to stretch every dollar and make a lot of sacrifices.
Brand sponsorships and direct fan contributions are two options for supporting quality programs online, in my opinion. Brands may offer excellent resources, but the true key is for them to be open and flexible, rather than micromanaging the creative process. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a diluted, once-funny concept or a glorified advertisement. But it would be wise for brands and wonderful for content creators if companies signed on to a concept and then, for the most part, let artists do their thing while just stating “Sponsored by X” at the beginning of the video.
The second option is to solicit contributions directly from fans, which is what I’m doing right now. This, I believe, is a realistic and interesting approach to create web series. It’s similar to a subscription. If people enjoy a program and are ready to pay $5 each season to watch it — and you have 20,000 of them — then you have a production budget. To me, the most fascinating aspect is a direct economic connection between a creator and the audience.
May you tell fans what they can anticipate from the remainder of Season 2? I believe I saw you go to London to film part of Season 2.
Sorry, that was only a tease! My sister lives in London, and she just gave birth to a child, so I paid her a visit. And I thought to myself, “Why don’t I simply pack Wednesday in my carry-on?” It was so much fun having a buddy shoot photos of me all around London. It seemed like a great series of pictures to utilize for marketing. Wednesday in London, on the other hand, wouldn’t be nearly as amusing since she fits perfectly in. I spent the whole day on the Tube dressed as a Wednesday, and no one gave me a second glance.
Could you please provide me with the STATS? – What was the total number of episodes you produced for Season 2? When did they first air? What method is being used to release them? What are the locations where you want them to be seen? How many people have seen Season 1 thus far?
For Season 2, I produced a total of 7 episodes. The first episode aired on January 28th, and new episodes will air every Wednesday through March 11th.
I’m not sure how many people watched Season 1, but the program has gotten over 2.5 million views overall, and my channel has 80k subscribers. It’s exploding this weekend, thanks to the catcallers episode’s popularity! It’s really thrilling.
Would you consider a third season?
Yes! Right now, I’m working on a pilot for NBC, which is really exciting. I am a finalist in the NBC Playground tournament. They’ve hired me to write a pilot and film a pilot presentation, both of which will be evaluated by this crazy panel (Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, Maya Rudolph, Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, etc etc). So, this spring, my directing partner and I will be filming the NBC pilot presentation. So it’s a really hectic time right now, but I’m planning on doing another season when we both have some free time. I put up a Patreon account to collect recurring contributions so that whenever we have a window, we can start working on the next season. I’m not going to be able to skip Wednesday.
I believe that’s all there is to it! Is there anything I’ve forgotten?
I figured I could say something particular about the Catcallers episode since it’s receiving a lot of blog attention. Use or don’t use as you want!
When the street harassment video went viral and everyone was discussing what the proper reaction was, I created the catcaller episode. There is no right or wrong response, and it is a tough and complicated subject to even debate. Wednesday, I reasoned, would be a wonderful hero to tackle this issue among all women. Wednesday’s essay is mostly wish fulfillment — that is, what I would want to do in a difficult circumstance. Wednesday might easily destroy the catcallers, but that would be no fun. Instead, I believe that experience education is necessary for some types of guys who are unaware of how frightening this may be. And, as we all know, Wednesday Addams embraces and welcomes death, I believe this is a more severe punishment than death.