Lisa Loring: How She Went From Wednesday Addams To Soap Opera Star

The following article contains references to drug use and suicide.

You may not know the name Lisa Loring, but if you're a fan of "The Addams Family," you'll recognize her as the original Wednesday Addams. Before Christina Ricci or Jenna Ortega took on the iconic goth girl role, Loring brought the pigtailed sullen child of woe to life in the 1964 black-and-white sitcom.

Loring was just a young girl when she first donned Wednesday's iconic black dress with the white Peter Pan collar. She went on to play the role until the show came to an end in 1966. After her career-defining stint as Wednesday, the actor went on to have a rather tumultuous career and life. On screen, she appeared in a number of guest roles and appearances in B-list movies. Her next big break came in the '80s with an ongoing role in a soap opera. Although her career eventually slowed down, she continued to appear at conventions, celebrating her turn in "The Addams Family." In her personal life, Loring married a number of times and had two children. In January 2023, she died at the age of 64.

Here is a closer look at this famous child actor's fascinating life story.

She was cast as the original Wednesday Addams at just 6 years old

Lisa Loring became an instant icon of the entertainment industry early in life after stepping into the role of Wednesday Addams when she was just 6 years old. Although the role was the young actor's big break, it wasn't actually her first role — she had already appeared in one episode of "Dr. Kildare" and had been a model since the age of 3, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As the actor recalled in an interview at a fan convention years later, the audition for Wednesday was an open call for girls aged 6 to 13. "I didn't know how to read yet — I hadn't been to first grade," she said (via Reality Check TV). "[The producer] wasn't prepared to see children that young." However, according to Loring, she immediately looked the part so they made an exception. Her mother had outfitted her in a dress, white gloves, and a patent leather handbag. The producer read Loring the script just once and Loring was able to repeat the lines verbatim.

As Loring later recalled to the Sydney Morning Herald, "I learned to memorise before I could read." What ultimately set her apart from the other potential Wednesdays was her resemblance to actor Carolyn Jones, who played the character's mother, Morticia — well, that and her facial expressions. As she told the soaps magazine Daytimers, "I got [the role] because of my pout" (via The New York Times).

Lisa Loring became a fan favorite as Wednesday

As soon as "The Addams Family" aired, Lisa Loring became. fan favorite and catapulted to fame. In interviews, Loring has always remembered her time as Wednesday Addams with fondness. Speaking during a convention, Loring recalled that the cast had been like an extended family. "It was like a real family," she said. "You couldn't have picked a better cast and crew. And, you know, Carolyn Jone, John Astin — Gomez and Morticia — they were like parents to me. They were great."

To this day, Loring's version of Wednesday remains a cult favorite. "She brought to life one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood history that is still celebrated today," Loring's agent, Chris Carbaugh, told CNN. Indeed, it's hard to imagine "The Addams Family" without Loring's iconic portrayal of Wednesday.

As one critic wrote for The Guardian, Loring served as an "icon for goth girls everywhere" for decades after the show's final episode. She even went viral for one scene in which she attempt to teach Lurch to dance. Jenna Ortega later took inspiration from this original dance to create her own for Netflix's "Wednesday." As she explained on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," "I paid homage to Lisa Loring, the first Wednesday Addams. I did a little bit of her shuffle that she does."

Her mother died when she was a teen

Lisa Loring's life took a tragic turn when she was just a teenager. When Loring was 16 years old, her 34-year-old mother, Judith, died. According to People, her death was related to chronic alcoholism. Judith had raised Loring in the San Fernando Valley, where she worked as a waitress at a restaurant owned by Loring's grandmother (via Tidewater Horror Convention). After a local photographer spotted Loring, he helped her mother get her set up with an agent. She continued to help Loring as she became a child star on "The Addams Family." Her death must have been quite a blow to the young actor.

A year prior to her mother's death, Loring married her childhood sweetheart, Farrell Foumberg, according to The Hollywood Reporter. By the time her mother died, Loring and Foumberg were headed for divorce (via People). In the years that followed, Loring continued her acting career, securing sporadic roles in television series and films.

Lisa Loring returned to the Addams Family world in 1977

In 1977, Lisa Loring had the chance to return to her iconic "Addams Family" role some 11 years after the original series came to an end. This was by way of a TV movie titled "Halloween With the New Addams Family." At the time, she was 19 years old. Prior to reprising her role as Wednesday in the full-color film, Loring appeared in one episode of "The Phyllis Diller Show" and one episode of "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."

The iconic made-for-TV movie, which featured most of the original cast of 'The Addams Family," saw Loring playing a teenage Wednesday (via The Hollywood Reporter). As one reviewer noted, the performance showed just how much Loring had grown up since the original show. "She brought a surly new monotone to Wednesday, while still making her innately lovable," wrote critic Leila Latif for The Guardian

She starred in As the World Turns in the '80s

Lisa Loring landed her second big role of he career in the 1980s soap opera "As the World Turns" as the recurring character Cricket Montgomery. The role, which lasted for three years, helped Loring rediscover her love of acting, according to People.

The strong-willed, independent Cricket was a movie production assistant. She had a son named Billy, and she eventually married Ernie Ross, who was played by J. Marshall Watson. Later, the couple had another child named Suzie. Of course, as the show was a soap opera, she also had a few other flirtations (via Soap Central).

After playing Wednesday Addams and Cricket Montgomery, Loring's career began slowing down. She had a series of guest roles in shows, like "Fantasy Island" and "Barnaby Jones," and she appeared in a few dark horror movies that included "Blood Frenzy" (as the hilarious Dory), "Savage Harbor," and "Iced" (via IMDb).

Lisa Loring married four times and had two daughters

After marrying her first husband at the young age of 15, Lisa Loring went on to marry three more times and have two children. She had her first daughter, Vanessa, with her first husband, Farrell Foumberg, whom she divorced in 1974 (via People). In 1981, Loring married Doug Stevenson, a fellow actor. With Stevenson, she had her second child, Marianne. However, the couple parted ways after just two years in 1983, according to People

Her third marriage to adult film star Jerry Butler in 1987 was her most tumultuous. The pair divorced in 1992. Loring later told the Sydney Morning Herald that it was "the biggest mistake of [her] life."

In 2003, Loring tied the knot for a final time with Graham Rich. The pair split in 2008, and their divorce was finalized in 2014. According to TMZ, Loring cited irreconcilable differences and requested that Rich be denied spousal support.

She worked as a make-up artist on an adult film

As acting roles became fewer and farther between for Lisa Loring, the actor turned to some behind-the-scenes work, occasionally working as a make-up artist on adult films under the pseudonym Maxine Factor, according to Variety. While working behind the scenes on the film "Traci's Big Trick," the actor met and fell in love with the adult film star Jerry Butler who would later become her third husband (via The Telegraph). 

Loring married Butler after he promised to quit the adult film industry. However, she soon found out that Butler was still secretly involved in the pornography business. "I would not be involved with someone who did that ... he was going behind my back and lying to me: that was it," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. Loring and Butler even appeared on an episode of the talk show "Geraldo" to open up about their fraught marriage. "We had an agreement that he would not, absolutely not, continue doing porno movies," she said.

Lisa Loring developed a drug addiction and struggled to get back into showbiz

During her complicated marriage to Jerry Butler, Lisa Loring's life took a tragic turn. She developed an addiction to heroin after she discovered the body of her friend, Kelly Van Dyke, who'd died by suicide. As Loring explained on "Geraldo," she had met Van Dyke through her husband, and the pair bonded over their similar backgrounds as child stars and daughters of alcoholic mothers. Loring was understandably traumatized by the incident. She later told People, "I was disillusioned about my adult life." She, too, attempted suicide by overdosing. However, in 1992, the same year she and Butler divorced, Loring went to rehab and managed to stop using heroin for good.

In the late '90s, Loring's life began to look more positive. She had gotten overcome her drug addiction after going to rehab and she was on the hunt for new projects. "I'm trying, but I'm afraid of the rejection," she told People in 1995. "I will not do any schlock. But I'd love to do a Quentin Tarantino film." With the exception of a few roles in the 2010s, however, Loring's on-screen career came to an end.

In place of acting, Loring spent some time working at an interior design company in Santa Monica (via Daily Mail). As time went on, she settled into a more quiet life. "I do a lot of these shows and then I take care of my family, my dogs, my animals, and that's about it," she said at a 2017 convention.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

She showed her appreciation for fans

Throughout the 2010s, Lisa Loring became a fixture at fan conventions around the United States, where she spoke about her time as the original Wednesday Addams and met fans of the iconic show. "I do autograph shows all over the USA," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's a very different life." Fans undoubtedly loved that Loring embraced her status as a pop culture icon and met some of the people who fell in love with her childhood performance. 

She even embraced the second Wednesday Addams, Christina Ricci. In the '90s, "The Addams Family" sprung back into popularity with a new film starring Ricci as Wednesday Addams. Even though she had originated the role, Lisa Loring wasn't asked to be involved in the project. As Loring said during a TV reunion with her "Addams Family" co-star Ken Weatherwax, she wasn't offended. "It didn't bother me at all," she said. "I got enough 'Addams Family' to last me three lifetimes," she added with a laugh.

Loring also complimented Ricci on her performance in past interviews, calling her "a perfect Wednesday" in one chat with People. During a 2018 convention, Loring finally got to meet Ricci. Afterward, Loring gushed, "She was very sweet, really nice" (via Reality Check TV).

Lisa Loring died at 64 in 2023

On January 30, 2023, Laurie Jacobson, Lisa Loring's long-time friend, announced on Facebook that her friend had died after a "massive stroke brought on by smoking and high blood pressure." "She had been on life support for 3 days," wrote Jacobson. "Yesterday, her family made the difficult decision to remove it and she passed last night. She is embedded in the tapestry that is pop culture and in our hearts always as Wednesday Addams."

Loring's oldest daughter, Vanessa, also made a statement to Variety, saying, "She went peacefully with both her daughters holding her hands." Many of Loring's colleagues and fans posted tributes to the actor after her death. Jenna Ortega, star of Netflix's "Wednesday," wrote in an Instagram Story, "Absolutely devastated. Thank you for everything" (via Digital Spy). Christina Ricci also took to Instagram Stories. She shared a screenshot of The Hollywood Reporter's article about Loring's death along with a broken heart emoji (via People).

Fan and actor Barbara Crampton took to Twitter, writing, "Delightful in the role of the youngest member of The Addams Family, your iconic presence as the original Wednesday will forever be remembered."