Christina Ricci: 'One good thing about a conservative regime is there's something to rebel against'

The former child star appears as Zelda Fitzgerald in a brand new Amazon TV series 

Jacob Stolworthy@Jacob_Stol
Thursday 26 January 2017 14:29
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Christina Ricci is concerned.

“Kids aren’t rebelling anymore,” the ever-candid actor tells me, eyebrows raised, perched on the edge of a sofa in a London hotel. “It doesn’t seem like there’s any loudness going on in Hollywood. Miley [Cyrus] was not that wild.”

Ricci ought to know; the child star of nineties family favourites (The Addams Family, Casper) and indie gems (The Ice Storm, Buffalo ’66) rose to prominence at the age of nine acting opposite Cher in Mermaids, 27 years ago; not your typical story. Ricci, now 36, rode the wunderkind wave to remain a constant, if casual, Hollywood presence, refusing to tumble off the rails like so many of her contemporaries.

In any other case, her reputation for assertiveness could have cost the actor and yet the world became enamoured, not so much with the straight-talking youth’s controversial musings on existentialism and incest, than with her age-belying gall. To Ricci, this response to fame was understandable.

“When you’re young in Hollywood, you don’t know what the rails are,” she reasons. “I think it’s interesting to ask a child to go into a completely unnatural experience and then expect them to behave naturally later on. I knew at the time it was really crazy. I think that’s why I lashed out so much; I was in the middle of it – what was I supposed to do?”

Perhaps Ricci’s success lies in her refusal to embrace mass appeal. Sure enough, the film roles have flowed in (The Opposite of Sex, Monster, Speed Racer, Penelope) but it’s the small screen where she’s found herself lured to continually (Grey’s Anatomy, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, the criminally short-lived Pan Am). "I feel like television is like independent cinema was in the 90s," she muses, solidifying her latest career venture. This month, Ricci returns to the medium she believes is the cultural world’s most prominent – with Amazon’s Z: The Beginning of Everything, a lively adaptation of Therese Anne Fowler’s novel focused on Zelda Fitzgerald. Interestingly, the project, following the scintillatingly extroverted and under-appreciated 1920s socialite, marks a first for the actor – one she’s steered creatively.

“I keep saying it’s like my baby because the whole thing started with me reading this book and finding out who was making it and now it ends with me doing all the press for it and getting sick in the stomach about it failing. I guess it qualifies as a passion project. I finally committed to caring about something – I get why I didn’t do it before.”

Ricci as Zelda Fitzgerald in Z: The Beginning of Everything

It’s almost habitual for Ricci to induct a figure like Fitzgerald – a person who very much existed out of time – to be added to her catalogue of characters. Take, for instance, little adult Wednesday Addams, a creation who clearly resonates with her fanbase the most. “It makes me feel like I did something right in my life if people still love it,” she tells me, enhancing the humility when talk turns to another such role; the accomplice of murderess Aileen Wuornos (an Oscar-winning Charlize Theron) in the aforementioned drama Monster (2003).

“I felt very much when I was making that movie that I was support for Charlize,” Ricci recalls. “It was her project, it was a big deal and I always knew I was there as a supporting actor.” It’s almost as if she’s cast the fact Theron referred to her as the film’s “unsung hero” during her Oscar acceptance speech from her mind.

Ricci starred alongside Charlize Theron in 2005 drama Monster

Ricci, like most people, has ambitions. She’d love to audition for Sir Ridley Scott, for example. Lower down the list is a Wednesday Addams reprisal – despairingly not too unlikely considering the influx of sequels and reboots infesting cinemas. That’s not what bothers the pragmatic Ricci.

“I think it’s funny when people get angry with remakes because they have been in this industry since I was nine. It’s been going on since the beginning.”

But, would she return?

“Yeah, but I think it’d be weird; I’d be an adult,” she says, sinking into the oversized sofa mischievously for the first time since the interview began. “It’d have to be a new family – it’d be bad if the children were still living at home.”

Her earlier points make one wonder who could possibly play Wednesday if a remake should be greenlit. Perhaps Hollywood’s lack of rebelliousness is cause for concern after all. This could soon change; one day after we speak, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the next President of the United States of America. Fortunately for Ricci, the self-confessed Pollyanna’s stint as a child star appears to have gifted her a rare optimism most actors are increasingly reticent to express.

“I think you’ve got to accept what happened and move on and make the best of it,” she states. “Stop whingeing about everything and do the best that you can with the situation you’re given. One thing that’s good about a conservative regime is that it’s great for sub-culture – when everything’s very liberal there’s nothing to rebel against.”

It seems like there’s hope for the Hollywood kids just yet.

Z: The Beginning of Everything is available to watch on Amazon Prime from 27 January

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