Along for the Ride With Joy Sunday
The “Wednesday” actress reflects on a whirlwind year, from Bucharest breakfasts to Brooklyn art parties.
Before “Wednesday” premiered on Netflix last November, Joy Sunday thought her role in the show wouldn’t change much in her life. “I think I was bracing myself in a way,” she said, “by being in denial.”
An “Addams Family” spinoff, “Wednesday” imagines Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega, as a teenage sleuth, investigating monstrous murders at a boarding school for “outcasts,” including sirens, gorgons, vampires and werewolves. Tim Burton produced the series and directed four episodes, lending his playfully macabre influence.
Ms. Sunday, 26, plays Bianca Barclay, a siren and popular girl who clashes with Wednesday. Her character can influence people with her words, which serves as both a cool magic power and a complex emotional predicament when it comes to her love life.
The show became a record-breaking success. It surpassed “Stranger Things” for most hours viewed in a week for an English-language series, according to The Hollywood Reporter, citing Netflix’s internal data. It inspired a viral dance trend in which people recreated Ms. Ortega’s wonderfully weird school dance moves. Soon Ms. Sunday found herself in the spotlight, amassing fans and followers, and embarking on her first press tour. On Friday, Netflix announced that the show had been renewed for a second season.
“It’s a completely new playground for me,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in the past month, just outside of the actual explosion of the show, but even just how to walk a carpet.”
A filmmaker, Ms. Sunday grew up on Staten Island and graduated from LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She previously appeared in the Netflix show “Dear White People” “Good Trouble,” on Freeform; and the CBS reboot of “MacGyver.”
But “Wednesday” was her first lead role, and Ms. Sunday is excited to use the new momentum to develop creative projects with her friends.
Speaking on a video call from her home in New York, Ms. Sunday took a look back at glimpses of her life over the past year through seven photos in her camera roll. Here, in an interview that has been edited, is Ms. Sunday in her own words.
A struggle for a lot of the cast and everyone who was in Bucharest for “Wednesday” was the food. It was hard to stay healthy, a lot of people had dietary restrictions. Because of my character being so athletic, it encouraged me to just be more mindful of how I was eating. So this is a morning where I had the time to make a nice breakfast for myself. The fruits were quite good in Romania. I did a lot of home cooking. It was actually the first time I got to live by myself, and so I really enjoyed making my meals and sitting down and enjoying them.
We had just wrapped, probably 12 hours before. I took a flight to Paris. I was going to just vacation in Europe for a week. It was raining, but I didn’t have any umbrella or anything, so I just draped a napkin I had in my pocket over my head. I’m an avid solo traveler, so I love capturing moments like these by myself when I’m traveling. I love the French on the window, the bicycles.
“Wednesday” was actually my first time in Europe. Then I got to mini-tour after wrapping. I went to Paris, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I had dragged my bags through the Paris streets, got to my hotel, dropped my stuff at the hotel. Then I wanted to go get a hearty, American breakfast. I went to this fantastic restaurant. I had not slept at all.
My friend Joy Ofodu — who’s essentially my twin, we both have the name Joy O — is a comedian and an influencer. The Empire State Building had invited her to come make content in the building. This was my first time there since I was a kid. I found a picture of me going to the Empire State as a child that I had no memory of at all. So going in, I thought it was my first time in the building. And she’s from California, so I was very much in my tourist bag.
Joy and I ended up hanging out here and having a really long conversation, just catching up. She took this photo of me with the outline in the background. This was within a month of me returning back from Romania, so it was a reintroduction to New York. I really love the silhouette of it. It almost, I feel, is emblematic of who I am as a person. New York is my background, but I’m always elsewhere.
This is my friend from high school, Noni, and we’re standing in front of our friend Mar’s art piece. This was my first social outing since I had gotten back. It was getting close to summer, and it was a time of feeling like, OK, we’re getting back into the flow of things. We’ve been friends for now more than 10 years. We were in LaGuardia drama together.
It felt like home. Even though I had gone in nervous, I felt a lot of belonging. It was also a beautiful show. Noni’s boyfriend has an art gallery space called Hausen in Brooklyn, so this is that space. I got there probably around 7 or 8 and I didn’t leave until 2 a.m. At some point, the night just devolved. I think at some point we ordered McDonald’s.
I did a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past summer in Scotland. These two ladies, Laura Jordan and Sarah Street, were my two co-stars in the play, “Intelligence.” We had rehearsal almost every day in July, in New York. We flew out on a red eye, it was a connecting flight from Boston to Edinburgh. The festival scheduled our tech rehearsals for the morning that we arrived. So we landed, essentially just dropped our stuff at the apartment, walked around to try to find food, but when we got to the rehearsal there were technical issues so we just ended up sleeping for some time. I think Laura was being a good actor and actually going over her lines.
What was really special about this is it was the first play I’ve done since high school. It was so intimidating. These two ladies are giants of theater. I couldn’t have asked for a better stage debut.
On a trip to Venice for the Biennale, my friend Hans and I ended up on this boat tour with our Italian driver who didn’t really speak a lot of English. We had so much fun, so much so that the driver at some point turned to me and said, “You want to drive?” Mind you, you know, we’re poppin’ bottles and everything. I don’t think Hans heard the interaction, so he just saw that I suddenly was driving the boat. There was music blasting, and it was a beautiful first day in Venice. Trip of the century.
When you think of Scotland, you don’t think there’s a lot of Black people around. Toni and Ewa are from London and were also doing a play in the same theater that I was in. We basically met because I was standing outside somewhere, and they had passed me by. I remember thinking, “Man I wish I could be their friend.” They turned around and asked me some random question, and I was like, “Oh, you guys are part of this play!”
We just kept hanging out with each other again and again after that. A lot of my memories of Scotland are with these people. These are all very iconic people. Two of them are actresses, and Alloysius is in the band Young Fathers. This is almost like a Studio 54 photo for me.