Wednesday Addams is a character with an iconic identity. When pitched the idea for the show from Tim Burton and producers, music supervisors Jen Malone and Nicole Weisberg hopped at the dream opportunity to work alongside Burton and help characterize Wednesday through her unique and eclectic palette of musical taste.
The pair discuss building the musical world around Wednesday by both getting into her head and understanding her personality but also countering her classical and Latinx-inspired music with contemporary counterpoints. Malone and Weisberg detail their collaboration with Jenna Ortega on the classical cello as well as the viral sensation “Goo Goo Muck” that took social media by storm.
Read our full conversation with the music supervision duo for the Netflix series Wednesday below.
Hi, this is Danny Jarabek here with Awards Radar, and I am extremely excited to be speaking with Jen Malone and Nicole Weisberg, the music supervisors for the Netflix hit series Wednesday. Thank you both for joining me. I am super excited to be talking about this show. It’s one of my favorite shows of the entire past year, and I think the music in it is fantastic, and I can’t wait to just unpack that a little bit. So, thank you both for joining me.
Weisberg: Thanks for having us.
Malone: Thank you.
To start off, Tim Burton is of course behind this project. What were your early conversations with him on building the vision for this, and how did you really come into this project?
Malone: We came on board through MGM. We’ve worked with their team before and we met on the project, and we were just super stoked to be a part of this iconic family. The first couple of meetings with Tim were very much sending ideas and zeroing in on the tone that we would give Wednesday and making her playlist, as well as the Morticia and Gomez scene when they were in the car in the first episode. It was really just overall about tone. But it’s Tim Burton, so you get out of his way and let him do his thing.
Nicole, was it a special experience between the two of you just to get an opportunity to work with Tim Burton? Was that something that you had ever imagined was possible?
Weisberg: That was definitely one of those bucket list things that you don’t think is going to happen, that you put on your bucket list as a pinnacle item. When that call came in, I think both Jen and I were just like, “Oh, my gosh. Oh my gosh!” Then when we booked the gig, it was like, “Oh, my God, this is happening!” Wednesday is such a special character. When you grow up with The Addams Family, as soon as the pitch is made for the Wednesday story you want to watch that story, and I want to build her playlist. The Tim of it all was surreal. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. The duo was just so iconic. Big fan, and very grateful.
First of all, I just realized this. I’m glad we’re doing this interview on a Wednesday. But for you both, what is your collaboration? I know you’ve done so many different projects over the years, both individually and as a team. How did you come together as a team and what has that collaboration been like over the past few years for you both?
Malone: I run an all-female music supervision company, and Nicole and I started working together in about 2019. After Euphoria season one, I was approached about doing the show The Wilds with Amy Harris, who’s an amazing, iconic showrunner at Sex in the City. It was one of those things where I needed help. I needed somebody to work with me on this project. Nicole and I obviously knew each other from the community. The music supervision community is quite small. I reached out to her, and I said, “Hey, you want to do this one with me? That one was so great and such an incredible collaboration, and we just ended up getting more projects and continuing to work more together. We share the same brain, but yet we come from very different angles, which makes everything so much more exciting because we’ll trade ideas back and forth. And then Nicole, I never would have even thought about this. This is perfect. Let’s definitely send it in. And then we brought Sarah Chapeck on board, who’s our coordinator, and then we have Haley Hanna, who takes care of all our clearance. We also work with Whitney Pilzer on the team as well, doing some other projects that we have coming in. But I love working with Nicole. She grounds me. Music supervision is really a tough job, and you’re in the grind every single day. Being arm-in-arm with somebody as talented as Nicole, it’s amazing. We just work so well together, whether it’s the business end of everything and getting the clearances and making those happen, or, again, the really fun part of doing the clearance and creating the sound and tone of a show and creating music for characters. I love her.
So, with Wednesday, Wednesday Addams is an iconic character coming from, of course, existing source material. How did you approach getting into the head of a character who is going to be the focus of this show? How did you get into the head of Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega, and find the musical tone, the musical era that might represent her?
Weisberg: Wednesday is a very developed character in the consciousness of humanity. We all know what her thing is. So it was like lead with the gut, lead with what you would expect and what is true to the Addams family as a family. I think, for everybody involved on the creative team, it was just clear cut what feels right, what works, who is she? What’s her background? From the beginning, she doesn’t have a cell phone. She’s not interested in current pop culture. She has her own agenda; she has her own persona. She’s an individual. She appreciates the classics; she appreciates art and realness and culture in a way of standing the test of time. So it was really important to build out iconic pieces that went with her and using songs like “Paint it Black” would really ground the show. It works for her; it works for the scene. But it’s also something that’s an iconic piece that everyone knows. We went with our gut for every moment that needed something. I think it was fun for us to explore those gramophone moments, too, where she’s in her room having her introspective time, because it was a question of what is she using to really get in her headspace? It was the classics and the Latinx vintage artists. It was about exploring those female vocalists and it was really a cool exercise.
Something that I think is super unique about music supervision, and something that I think really draws an audience into what you do in your role is the fact that you have this really unique position with an audience where you’re expanding the story with the music, but you’re also providing a direct link to something they can share with you. I was just listening to the Spotify playlist soundtrack of this show this morning. How do you approach that, knowing that the music is something that supports the story, but also becomes a whole other thing that can expand beyond the scope of the show?
Malone: I think exactly what Nicole said. Obviously, it’s a collaboration with our showrunners and with Tim always staying true to the story, staying true to the character. But we start every show with a giant playlist of all sorts of different ideas, and it becomes a pretty massive playlist that’s a place to keep our ideas. Through that, we share it with our editors and with the showrunners. Then we take every moment of the show and find the right piece of music for that moment and how that song is functioning in the scene. This show was a little bit different because we already had such an established character and so it wasn’t something that we really had to find. What was special about this iteration of the Addams family is being able to tap into the Latinx, into her Latin heritage, and really spotlight some of those classic recordings from I don’t even remember, the 40s and 50s from the archives? We were able to dip in and really find what would match.
Speaking of the setting of this show, it takes place in the modern day. How do you approach your selection process from the beginning, when you’re not tied to a specific period where the music has to come from? You have everything from Beach House to Fleetwood back in this. Does that open doors for you? Does it become more difficult because you have maybe a wider range of options?
Weisberg: I was just going to say that it’s an interesting project because it’s almost like we had limitations around what we know these characters are and what feels right against picture with them and what’s true to what they would actually be listening to, so that felt like even though it wasn’t a period piece, we had the limitations of these characters. You have the goth element and then you also have the playful Roy Orbison spookiness. Other moments you mentioned like Fleetwood, that’s really meant to, I think, play contrast to what Wednesday wouldn’t be like. When the Acapella group is singing in the second episode and they’re singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” we were having fun with playing in contrast to the goth because we are in the current day. It shouldn’t feel like we’re stuck in the 40s or something like that. But to an extent, the Addams family and Wednesday are in that world, so it’s about toeing that line to. This is prominent, this sound is prominent. Then things like “Don’t Stop Believing” are our counterpoints. Dua Lipa is the counterpoint song, too, when we use The Cramps. It’s a little of both.
You mentioned The Cramps. Of course, I have to go to this. “Goo Goo Muck” became a viral sensation. The music paired with Jenna Ortega’s dance in the show and completely blew up all over social media everywhere and became a massive sensation. What was the experience of watching that unfold? What was the experience of even seeing when this song was set to her performance? Take us through that moment.
Malone: So, we got the script for the fourth episode and we knew it was scripted in that Wednesday was going to do a dance. That’s all we had to work with. We’ve been fans of The Cramps for forever. They were one of the first songs, one of the first artists that were on that Spotify playlist I mentioned earlier. We didn’t know what the dance was going to look like or what was it going to be inspired by or anything like that. We were just thinking about what songs, like what Nicole said, were perfect in that they would play counterpoint to the rest of the dance and the rest of the kids. With Goo Goo Muck, it’s such a unique song. It has those psycho, Gothabilly, dark spooky, fun lyrics and the vibe and tempo and syncopation. Everything would lend itself to a really cool dance moment. It was such an easy pitch. We always pitch a couple of options, but this one was like, “You guys got to go with this. It’s great, this is going to work.” They went with it and I remember when we got the first cut of that episode, which had the scene in it, it was very much, “Oh, my God, did you watch the dancing? So good.” Then to watch it blow up, it was like a runaway train. I was getting messages from a lot of my high school friends and college friends to tell me, text me and hit me up, and say, “I can finally watch a show that you did with my kids.” They would send me the video of their kids doing the dance. I don’t know, it was surreal.
The music pairs so well with Jenna Ortega’s performance, and I’m sure it was just absolutely wild to see the reaction and how it resonated. One quick, final speed round question for both of you, either of you. Nicole, we can start with you. Do you have a favorite song or moment where you were able to incorporate music into this show?
Weisberg: I would shout out all the cello moments. It was a big team effort and I think it really came together in such a powerful way. The Metallica cover was really cool in the third episode. Bringing the element of classical music, I will shout that out because Jenna had a great role in that. She had really strong opinions about which classical pieces we should pick. Those pieces are really important to me from coming up in music. I’m glad that “Elgar” made it onto the playlist.
And Jen, for you?
Malone: I have to agree. I think working with the cello pieces and having an arrangement made of “Paint It Black” and the way it came back to us and how it was arranged was so good and so exciting. One of the other elements is that I don’t really work a lot with classical music, and cello pieces at that. It’s such a beautiful instrument. Even the graphics of Wednesday with the knife, holding the cello with the knife as the bow. I think being able to do these classical pieces and create these arrangements and then also seeing Jenna’s dedication to learning the cello, it is not easy. I started playing cello, taking cello lessons after I heard Paint It Black. Terrible. But it’s just such a treat to be able to work on something a little bit different and creating something, an arrangement of an iconic song like Paint It Black for our character that lives in our world. It was great to again dig into the Latinx heritage and have fun with scoring the music for the kids. But to be able to work with that was just such a special moment and so to see it and again, with Jenna playing it, she killed it, and it’s not easy to do. It is not easy. So, a lot of props to her as well for learning how to do that and making it very believable.
Well, thank you both so much. I really appreciated getting to hear a little bit more behind the scenes of the music of Wednesday streaming on Netflix. Jen Malone, Nicole Weisberg. Congratulations on this show. Thank you for your effort, and happy Wednesday.
Weisberg: Thank you so much. Have a great day.