"I want Ellie to pressure Joe and stress him out a little bit," the young actress says
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers from season 2 of Netflix’s You.
The second season of Netflix’s hit psychological thriller You ends with plenty of story yet to tell.
And one of the biggest loose ends is the fate of Ellie Alves (Jenna Ortega), serial killer Joe Goldberg’s young, headstrong neighbor.
In the final episodes of the season, Joe (Penn Badgley) sends Ellie off to Florida with a wad of cash to protect her from his latest love interest, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), who killed Joe’s other ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers) along with Ellie’s older sister and guardian, Delilah (Carmela Zumbado).
Delilah’s death is a harsh blow to Joe as he developed a close relationship with her and Ellie throughout the series.
Ellie’s sassy quips and social media tutorials with Joe offered some of the few moments of levity in a season of violence, murder and plot twists. “Ellie is the coolest girl,” Ortega, 17, tells PEOPLE. “She may come off a little strong, but I think people can learn a lot from her.”
Below, Ortega, a lively actress with lead credits in Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle and The CW’s Jane the Virgin, opens up about playing the underdog and what she really thinks of Joe.
PEOPLE: How do you feel about being Joe’s character foil and being the one to bring out his redeeming qualities?
ORTEGA: The writers have been so careful with the way they’ve handled the audience’s relationship with Joe. Ellie doesn’t exist in Caroline Kepnes’ books [on which You is based], so I do believe they added her in to show off his more humane features. You can’t have a lead in a show be somebody you hate, because who’s going to watch a show that follows someone who annoys you? The show needs a character like Ellie. By helping other people, Joe feels better about himself, and it justifies the terrible things he does. Ellie sees Joe as an older, smarter friend who shares her interests, but for Joe, I think the relationship subconsciously feeds his ego.
PEOPLE: By episode 10, what does Ellie really think of Joe? Does she trust him?
ORTEGA: By the last episode, she doesn’t know who Joe is and she definitely doesn’t trust him. Initially, Ellie is curious about Joe. She thinks she has a lot of power in the situation and almost wants to intimidate him. But by the end, she’s completely thrown for a loop, she’s lost.
PEOPLE: So what does Ellie really think happened to Delilah?
ORTEGA: Oh, man. Honestly, I think Ellie knows she’s been murdered. Especially after the conversation with Joe. I mean, she’s a smart girl, I think she’s picking up what he’s putting down. Maybe at first she thinks Delilah left her, because that’s what’s been her experience with so many people she cares about in her life. I wouldn’t say she immediately pins it on Joe — she doesn’t look at him like a killer. But she still thinks, “You’re the one who told me, you knew about this, you ruined my life, so I hate you anyway.”
PEOPLE: Ellie and Delilah share some emotional moments. What was it like shooting that powerful scene where they’re cutting up photos of Henderson’s assault victims and flushing them down the toilet?
ORTEGA: When we shot that scene, which is so sensitive and relevant to things happening today, I think everyone was in a fragile mindset. You could feel it on set. And Carmela [who plays Delilah] is great, so being able to do that scene with her was really nice. As females in the entertainment industry, we both understand what goes on and how common something like this [sexual assault] is. It’s a really important story to be told and I’m glad that I got to do that with her. I think it comes off in the right way.
PEOPLE: If there’s a You season 3, do you think Ellie would return? How can you see her further contributing to Joe’s story?
ORTEGA: If I were to come back, I don’t know if I would be in the first few episodes. I feel like I would have to be one of the [characters] like, “Oh, look who’s here, she just came up and now it’s another problem for Joe.” Ellie is already a powerful character, but I want her to come back even stronger after dealing with tragedy and it being Joe’s fault. I want her to pressure Joe and stress him out a little bit because he is such a terrible person! As much as people love him, he deserves that pressure, he deserves to feel in trouble.
Both seasons of You are available now to stream on Netflix.