The 17-year-old actress plays Joe's spunky filmmaking neighbor in the psychological thriller's newest season on Netflix.
Advertisement
Jenna Ortega
Credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

As Joe Goldberg’s teenaged neighbor in You season 2, Jenna Ortega is poised to make herself comfortable in your living room.

The California native has already racked up several credits as a lively teenager — she previously starred in Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle as Harley Diaz, the engineering whiz in a family of seven kids, and as young Jane in The CW’s Jane the Virgin — but in You, Oretga’s character Ellie is a sharp-tongued high-schooler and wannabe filmmaker who ends up playing a critical role in Joe’s (Penn Badgley) adjustment to Los Angeles.

Ortega was actually a superfan of the show before joining the cast: “The day after I finished bingeing You, I got a call that they were looking for a girl around my age to be on this show that I had fallen in love with,” she tells PEOPLE. “I just remember looking at my mom and saying, ‘I have to book this part.’”

Here are five things to know about the 17-year-old actress:

1. She comes from a big, tight-knit family.

“I have five siblings — two brothers and three sisters. I’m the fourth kid. We all have scattered schedules and are kind of all over the place, but when we do get to spend time with each other we try to do that. We love to talk smack with one another and be goofy … but we’re all very supportive of each other.”

2. She grew up in Coachella Valley — and she’s a big fan of its namesake music and arts festival.

“Once you get to high school, it’s what all the “cool kids” do. Weekend 2 is locals’ weekend. I have seen some incredible acts that I feel like I would have never seen otherwise. One year I saw Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. There’s such a wide variety of music and there’s something new to appreciate every time we go. I don’t think I’ll ever be over the hype.”

One of her favorite performances was by R&B artist Daniel Caesar, who brought his powerhouse vocals and collaborator H.E.R. to an intimate set at the 2018 festival. “It was an amazing experience,” she tells PEOPLE.

3. Her You costars have given her advice about college.

“Education has always been a priority for me, and I’m considering applying to a 4-year-program at a cool school somewhere on the East Coast like Sarah Lawrence or New York University to get away [from California] and because I love New York so much. But I’m also considering community college.

“I don’t know if I want to go to school and study acting because I’m getting the best experience doing it now. But Victoria Pedretti [who plays Love on the show] was telling me that she had studied theatre, and it was helpful for her to learn more about the background of her craft and it helped her understand the life choices she made. Then there’s Penn, who disagrees with her, saying ‘Nah.’”

4. In her free time, she likes to unwind with a good book or play with her dog.

“When I’m working, I get very focused and don’t want to do anything else, so I have to push myself to relax and be social. But when I’m free I like to play with my dog Anna [a 7-year-old malti-shitszu] or read. I’m a huge reader. The book I’m reading right now is referenced in YouThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s pretty interesting, I can see why it is mentioned. But that’s all I’ll say [about it], I don’t want to give away any spoilers!”

5. You’ll see a lot more of her in 2020.

Ortega has roles in two Netflix films next year: The Babysitter 2, a horror-comedy sequel to the 2017 film starring Bella Thorne as a satanic cult leader, and Yes Day, a comedy about what happens when parents have to do whatever their children demand for one day of the year, also starring Jennifer Garner) and Édgar Ramirez.

“I’m just happy people get to see me in a different light, because as an actor, the last thing you want is to be pigeonholed into one category,” she tells PEOPLE of her new roles. “I’m excited for people to take me more seriously.”

You season 2 is available now on Netflix.