Joy Sunday Finds the Heart of Bianca Barclay in Wednesday

The Netflix series breakout star on working with Jenna Ortega and Tim Burton—and her character’s icy style.

Joy Sunday

Joy Sunday told herself that “nothing much would change” when she accepted the role as Bianca Barclay, the foil to the title character played by Jenna Ortega in Netflix’s smash hit Wednesday, which has blown past streaming records in its first week on the platform.

“It’s pretty wild, because I’m still living my normal life, as normal as it could be,” the 27-year-old native New Yorker told W over the phone. “[I’m] talking to my friends and my family, my loved ones, while also understanding that loads of people have seen my face. It’s a hard equation to solve.”

Wednesday, which stars Ortega as the insouciant, morbid-obsessed daughter of the Addams family, takes place at Nevermore Academy, a Hogwarts-adjacent boarding school for the supernaturally gifted. Sunday portrays queen bee Bianca, who leads the Siren clique both in song and attitude. With a buzzcut and icy blue contacts, Bianca cuts a striking figure, and though she starts out as something of a nemesis to Wednesday, both of their characters experience plenty of growth and evolution.

“From the onset, when I got the audition, I recognized the heart that was in Bianca,” Sunday says. “Specifically, because of one of the scenes—my confrontation with Xavier (Percy Hynes White) pretty early on in his room. The other was my scene with Wednesday at the Rave-N. I could immediately tell they were looking for someone to really capture the sincerity of Bianca's desire to be loved.”

Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay in Wednesday

Cr. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix © 2022

Like her love interest Xavier, Bianca comes from a troubled background, including growing up in something of a cult with a less-than supportive mother. Nevermore has proved to be her escape, but even her future attendance there is up in the air. “For any child or teenager, it would be really unfortunate for them to have to think about survival all the time, and that’s where Bianca is,” Sunday says. “She has to maintain her place in the world to make sure she remains safe.”

Almost as soon as the Tim Burton-directed Wednesday hit Netflix’s queue, fans took to social media to discuss how its few Black characters were treated—both in and out of the context of racial representation in the fantasy and YA genres—and Burton’s history with including actors of color in his projects. It’s a topic Sunday doesn’t take lightly, but it is a conversation that she hopes will evolve.

“We have a complex set of characters across the board, and I appreciate the conversations that are happening, because it’s not like they exist in a vacuum,” Sunday says. “They come from a lot of characters and portrayals that have come before this show. I appreciate them because they are what got me to this position, but I’m waiting for the conversation to evolve past this point now.”

As for working with Burton and Ortega, Sunday praised both, saying, “I honestly might have interacted more with Tim than I did with Jenna.” In addition to being praised for her layered performance, Sunday has gained a following for her unique style, which she herself calls “narrative and fluid.” She says, “I love telling stories with my clothes, which is why I can never say that I have a specific style. I just always love knowing what story I’m telling when I step out.”

Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay, Gracy Goldman as Gabrielle in Wednesday

Cr. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix © 2022

And while Sunday’s favorite way to shop is secondhand (she shouts out Oluchi Vintage in particular), Bianca is no stranger to designer gear. “During the course of production, I really fell in love with Jacquemus,” Sunday says. “I was wearing a lot of Jacquemus throughout.” She also adds that the pants Bianca wears are from British brand ME+EM. But labels are far from what’s important when it comes to style, she says.

“People would be a lot happier if they told stories with their clothing as opposed to showing status,” she says. “Not even trying to be pretentious about it, but I think style is such an opportunity. I can’t draw for shit, and styling is an opportunity for me to be able to visually express myself. I always find it really unfortunate when people don’t put a little bit of themselves into their clothing.”

As for what’s next for Bianca in Wednesday’s inevitable second season, Sunday says her character may be faced with revealing more of her true self. “She’s found other people like herself, and she's also been able to get herself in a position of power where people don’t question her and question what she’s doing, which allows her to lead this double life,” Sunday says. “It’ll be a relief for her to be able to share that part of herself. I personally have fun butting heads with Wednesday, and I’d really love to continue that tug of war while also both going forward with the knowledge that they’re more alike than different.”