Netflix’s Wednesday has truly taken over the world. Rising actor Georgie Farmer is just happy to be part of the ride.
When the news first broke that Netflix was adapting a show based on the iconic The Addams Family with the likes of Tim Burton at its helm, everyone was ecstatic — but had their reservations. Is it really possible to adapt something as quirky as The Addams Family — a show that highlights differences and celebrates them — in 2022? At the end of last year, we got our answer: it is possible, and it’s even better than what audiences could imagine. The show centers around the family’s deadpan daughter Wednesday, played by Jenna Ortega. After getting shipped to boarding school — perfectly titled Nevermore Academy — she meets a myriad of similar outcasts that she tries to avoid getting close to while attempting to solve a monster mystery. One of those fellow outcasts is the shy, soft-spoken Ajax Petropolus, portrayed by rising actor Georgie Farmer.
Coming-of-age is difficult for anyone, but doing so when you feel out of place to begin with is a tricky thing to navigate. For Georgie Farmer, the role of Ajax is one that brings a lot of grace and gratitude. Growing up, Farmer felt out of place; not fitting in anywhere at school and wondering what his path was. Ajax is a gorgon, like Medusa, which requires him to hardly ever part with his hat out of fear his head of serpents will petrify others. Although Farmer can’t exactly relate to growing up as a gorgon, it’s within that longing to feel accepted and to find your own group of outcasts where he first felt a kinship to his character.
On the heels of Wednesday being renewed for a second season, Georgie Farmer sits down for a conversation with 1883 Magazine where he discusses being in the industry for over a decade, what advice he’d have for his Wednesday character Ajax, his love for photography, and more.
Congrats on the release of Wednesday. I bet it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for you to say the least.
Thanks very much. It’s crazy to think of how big it’s become and how much people like it. I just feel very grateful. You never know how a show is going to turn out, especially in this day and age as well with so many amazing shows out there. It is the golden age of television at the moment. I just feel incredibly lucky and grateful that it turned out well.
Your first role was just over a decade ago in The Ministry of Curious Stuff, how would you describe how you’ve grown and developed as an actor between then and now?
I think when I was younger, I didn’t get into acting purely because I used to like performing. As a kid, I felt like I never really fit in anywhere. I was always the odd one out. When I went to stage school near where I lived, it was the first time that I felt like I fit in with people. From doing that first job to now, I feel like I’m starting to understand acting and learn about it as much as possible. I’m nowhere near the greats — you’re always trying to find the perfect ingredients to be an actor. I feel like I’ve just started to understand that there’s a real craft behind acting. I’ve been trying to dedicate myself to that and try to be like the greats and resemble something that they’ve they’ve done, which seems impossible. [Laughs]
I spoke with an actor last week and we compared going to set is like going to school because you’re constantly learning. There is a constant newness to acting; there’s a new crew, a new set, and new actors. Everyone has their style. Is that something that you’d agree with?
Yeah, 100%. I went to Sylvia Young theatre school in London and I met a teacher there named Bryn Williams. He was my acting teacher and he introduced us to the craft of acting. Then, luckily enough, I was about to get work on a set and I did The Ministry of Curious Stuff and another show for three years called The Evermoor Chronicles. As a child, when you’re on set, it’s an eye-opener. It’s a professional environment where everybody is so skilled, so talented, and so creatively fulfilled. It almost feels like you learn in a day what a year of school education would teach you. There’s just so much going on and so much creativity sparking around. Another thing I learned from an early age is knowing how lucky I am to work and seeing how everyone else was just grateful to be there. Everyone from the directors to the writers to the DPs, they’re so grateful to be doing something they love as a job. It’s a dream world.
You’ve also done work on stage before, too. How has it been transitioning between the two?
I did a play at the National Theatre. I must have been 13 at the time. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. There’s something so crazy about doing a show every night for six months, going out on stage and having the whole feeling of freshness — a new audience, new eyes watching — coming over you. It was such a group effort. We used to go back into the dressing rooms during the interval and down RedBulls. It was a massive, massive learning curve for me compared to on-screen work.
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You portray Ajax in Wednesday. What initially attracted you to the role?
For me, it’s me trying to persuade them to let me do it! [Laughs] When Wednesday came around, I was actually at a big crossroads. I was unsure what to do, whether to go down a cinematography route or continue acting. Then this audition came up and it said that it was Wednesday Addams going to a boarding school and Tim Burton was directing. Tim Burton has been an idol of mine ever since I can remember. I remember watching Edward Scissorhands for the first time and just being enthralled by this story. The idea of getting to be able to collaborate with somebody like that just blows my mind. It’s all about the collaborations, the fantastic scripts with three-dimensional characters, and the challenges in the show. It makes you think, “Can I actually do this? Would I be able to do this?” That’s the sort of stuff that attracts me and I hope that I’m able to do more.
You’ve already touched on this briefly, but I find Ajax really interesting because he’s quite introverted and shy because he’s a Gorgon, and I feel like kids can really relate to those growing pains that he’s experiencing. You mentioned you felt out of place growing up, similar to what Ajax is experiencing. What has it been like to read the fan’s reactions to Ajax and the show?
I’ve had a couple of really nice messages and I’ve had some people come up to me on the street. They’ve said they’ve had to hide away from people because of the way they were born and watching the show and seeing how Ajax copes with it has really helped them. For me, that’s a whole new level of gratefulness. For people to watch it and resonate with it, that’s the most gratifying thing. If some people feel like they’re an outsider and they feel like they have to hide, and watching Ajax and his journey helps them, that’s amazing. If they learn to love that coolness — because that’s what I call it, it’s a coolness — it’s all worth it. I want them to embrace it. I think that’s what the Addams Family really represents in a way. I feel like in this world that we live in, it’s such a scary time and it’s such a scary world. We’re taught, almost like it’s manufactured into us, to hide our differences and hide the things that are unique to us. Wednesday and the Addams Family represent how embracing those things is a good thing. People love them for it. I feel like that’s why people love this character and that’s why people have fallen in love with the show.
The Addams Family kind of holds up a mirror to society and shows that it’s okay to be different. Now, with this new generation, kids are now able to see that as well.
Yeah, and Wednesday is such a great role model for young people. She’s somebody who is completely okay and confident with how she is and she’s not going to change for anybody. I feel like that’s such an important thing for young people and people of all ages to see.
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With Ajax, was there anything in particular that you did to prep?
The main thing I leaned into, which was inspired by conversations with Tim right at the beginning, was embracing his shyness. At first, I always thought of his shyness as a challenge because playing a character that doesn’t want to look people in the eye was a challenge for me. How am I going to be able to do this without just turning away every five seconds? I need to show that he wants to have a connection with Enid but he feels like he can’t. I spent a lot of time in my apartment looking in the mirror and seeing how I could avoid eye contact while also making eye contact at the same time.
I actually made a playlist for Ajax that I used to listen to every morning. I had a lovely driver in Romania who would let me play music in the car and I felt bad because Ajax’s music, to me, is a mix of Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and some Joy Division, and I got the sense that she wasn’t into it. I apologized and told her I could play it through my headphones and she said it was fine. [Laughs]
Oh, that’s lovely. Speaking of Romania, it probably felt like you were in another world. I’m sure there were some pretty crazy moments while filming.
Oh, man, so many moments. I think that’s actually been such a big shock. In Romania, we were this small, tight-knit bubble for eight months. It felt like our own little secret, tucked away from the rest of the world. It’s a big reason why the cast got so close because we really did just have each other. We only had one another to rely on. So, suddenly being at this big premiere in LA was crazy. Spending time in Romania was eye-opening because I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so different from home. I think we all really did appreciate that. The best part about it was how close it made us. We would hang out literally all the time.
It sounds like an actual boarding school for you guys!
It was! I think Percy said it was like a boarding school because of it being summer and the activities we were doing. In the beginning, you’d wake up at like eight, you’d be picked up and you’d be taken into a stunt gym and you’d learn to fence. Then, I would turn around and see Emma [Myers] crawling around like a world, or you’d go out on the lake and be in a boat. It was such a cool experience.
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Knowing what you do about his arc over the season, if you could give Ajax a piece of advice what would it be?
I would say don’t put a towel over the mirror. I would tell him that he should be more aware. I think he’s a little bit unaware sometimes of things that are happening. He maybe should have just gone off and spoken to Enid after the whole date situation. I want him to just embrace it and be confident, to find the parts of himself that can be loved. I feel like throughout the early part of it, he thinks she can’t like him because of who he is when he doesn’t even know that for sure. I wish I was boarding with Ajax because I would say to him, No man, you can do it. There are parts of you that can be liked because you’re a cool guy.
Exactly! Obviously we don’t know what’s to come, but there is going to be a second season. Do you hope he embraces that side of him in the next one?
Yeah, I’d love to see more about the Gorgons. I think they’re a cool sort of fraction of Nevermore that we could definitely explore. I’d love to see more of the Nightshade and how they work within the school, too. I want to see him come into his own a bit more. I want him to know that he’s got a group of friends at Nevermore that accept him for who he is, he doesn’t really have to feel so shy. I know he’s always going to be shy, that’s part of who he is. But I would love to see him break out of his shell a little bit more.
I think we see that a bit in the finale, he’s helping Wednesday out. We are starting to see growth. We’re on a good path.
Yeah, that’s a good point. You know, he sort of does instigate that whole sort of saving the school situation…
He really is the catalyst to it all.
I’m just saying, Nevermore has to thank him for that!
Outside of acting, do you have any other creative hobbies? I see a guitar in your background — do you play guitar?
Yeah, I’m currently learning to play guitar. But in my spare time, I’m an avid photographer. Photography has become my saving grace, especially in downtimes from acting — and there are many. I was reading a memoir, I think it was James Dean’s, and he said that so much of acting is unbelievable and out of your world, that if you sort of think about it in your head, you can’t believe that happened. Photography has become a thing where I can capture moments and then go look back at them and say this actually happened. I just got this book printed of all the pictures I took and it’s great just to look back and think oh, wow, that did actually happen.
It’s like making your memories a little bit more tangible. They existed, it wasn’t this fleeting moment in time.
Yeah, exactly. That’s the great thing about set, too. I have so many cool pictures from that time. Photos of Tim, Emma, Jenna and Percy. It’s really good to have a physical piece of something. That’s why I love shooting film, I love the process, it feels like such an organic, almost transformative experience. It feels like Christmas Day every time you get pictures developed. Man, I remember being in Romania and we’re just taking all these pictures from Thanksgiving. It was so sweet to get them developed to look back on.
I’m slowly learning with my old Canon film camera. It’s definitely a process, you have to play around a lot.
Yeah, 100% I feel like film is a big trial and error. Sometimes I shoot and it’s a complete roll of blanks!
Lastly, if you could manifest anything for yourself in 2023, what would it be?
I just want to be lucky enough to work on great projects with great people. I feel like Wednesday was such an incredible opportunity to work with great people and to work on a great project. I just really hope to be able to do that for the long term. I want to play challenging characters and just be able to love the craft and dive deeper into the craft.
Wednesday is streaming now on Netflix.
Interview Kelsey Barnes
Photography Sofi Adams
Styling Jessie Stein
Grooming Sandra Hahnel
Set Design Sam Eden
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