Netflix’s stab at the infamous Addams Family arc concentrates on the titular teenager Wednesday, played by Jenna Ortega. The eight-episode season, shot in Bucharest, Romania and executive produced by Tim Burton, inspects a macabre chain of murders that take place at Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Morticia Addams’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) alma mater, Nevermore Academy. The New York-bred actor Luis Guzmán plays the new Gomez, who was famously played by fellow Puerto Rican entertainer Raul Julia over two decades ago. With about 40 years of acting oeuvre, Guzmán gives a welcomed take on the Addams patriarch with his crooked snarl, delightful snarky wit and, of course, a steaming desire for his soulmate, “Tish” (Morticia).
A household name in TV and cinema, Luis Guzmán has played a myriad of roles, mixing cleverness and vice in TV and movies like Narcos (2015), Magnolia (1999), Boogie Nights (1997) and Carlito’s Way (1993). In his latest role, Guzmán’s portrayal of Gomez is similar in physicality to the original 1938 Gomez, without the stunts we saw from 1991’s Raul Julia. From his home in Puerto Rico, Guzmán spoke to LATINA about his admiration for the late Julia, who was the last to embody Gomez. “He did such great work as an actor, and for me to step into this role was something that I was really thrilled and happy about. I just want to continue to honor the legacy of the Addams family.”
The twisted on-screen patriarchal lineage of the Addams family has transcended throughout decades of entertainment, from its cartoon inception in the 30’s, to its 1964 TV reboot, to the widely-known 90’s franchise. With the legacies of John Astin and Raul Julia behind him, Guzmán conjures the latest Addams father with precision and a modern twist. For this, Guzmán credits Burton, who directed four episodes of the Addams’ new world. “Tim Burton gives a certain level of realness to the directing and script writing that was really incredible. With those two ingredients together, as an actor, you pretty much just run with the comedy that came out of the writing,” recounted Guzmán.
Taking the parody of the classic American family deeper, Wednesday places importance on creating a supportive, healthy depiction of Latino fatherhood. This comes in contrast to previous Gomezes, now with less machismo and fixation on wealth. His family’s Latino heritage is cinematically more tangible, without diluting his signature characteristics. This modern rendition offers a deeper look into the cultural and spiritual traditions of their Latin ancestry. With nods to Día de Los Muertos, “La Llorona” musical folklore, brujería-like seances and use of Spanish vernacular, the Addams family feels even more connected to the culture. “As our voices have grown, we continue to grow,” Guzmán expresses with gratitude as a longtime actor who got his first big break in crime films. “I believe that is really important when it comes to audiences, knowing that the Latino audience is the biggest supporter of this genre in the entertainment industry. For that, I believe we need to have more Latino producers, directors and actors to create our own stories,” explains Guzmán.
We also see a new layer of modernity added to Gomez. Guzmán plays a Gomez who is unable to escape from his troubling past, but through therapy, becomes willing to put in the work. This unfolds when Wednesday discovers her father’s been accused of murder and works to exonerate the Addams’ stained reputation. To unearth the truth about what happened, Gomez and Wednesday commit to heart-to-heart therapy sessions together. Here she admits that Gomez bestowed her the “strength” and “independence” to get through life’s “darkest moments.” This emotional scene breaks through to the softness beneath the characters’ gothic, guarded exteriors, and brings them closer. Guzmán comments on the stigma surrounding therapy in Latino households, “Latinos never sit down as a family and discuss our issues, discuss our problems, and open up to each other. That is why therapy is really important because in the past it was so taboo. There are so many broken families because they just can’t confront, hear, cry or laugh with each other and deal with issues head-on. I hope the Addams family gets to heal those wounds.”
Netflix’s reintroduction of the Addams family salutes former installments with evolutionary casting while maintaining its essence of ghoulish satire in the scriptwriting. Gomez is the beating heart of the Addams family, while Wednesday is the brains; Luis Guzmán’s performance and character actuate the mystery developments in the series while cementing the Latin community in this genre. Appraising the misfits’ portrait of cinema’s most cynical family, with Guzmán as the impassioned television father, Gomez is mobilizing the new age.
All eight episodes of Wednesday are available to stream on Netflix.