Christina Ricci: ‘There’s an expectation that you’ll give up even the smallest amount of privacy’

Hollywood veteran Christina Ricci is no stranger to edgy roles, but says her latest incarnation as Jazz Age icon Zelda Fitzgerald is her most nerve-racking venture yet. Here, she talks to Lucy Pavia about full-frontals, industry politics and keeping it real

If you don’t know much about 20s icon and the ‘first American flapper’ Zelda Fitzgerald, you soon will. Not only are there two Hollywood biopics about the Jazz Age writer and socialite in the pipeline, but Christina Ricci is bringing Zelda’s turbulent life story to the small screen, too.

Ricci got the idea for her new series Z: The Beginning Of Everything, which she both executive produces and stars in as Zelda, after reading a biography that sheds fresh light on the woman so often referred to as ‘the wife of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald’. The book indicates Fitzgerald may have pinched some of Zelda’s writing without credit and calls into question whether she was mentally ill. Ricci, who has been acting for over a quarter of a century, says she’s never felt this nervous about a project. ‘I’ve never really cared,’ she says from her home in New York, ‘but I’m so invested. This [show] means the most to me.’

Being in front of a camera has been the norm for Ricci since she was ten years old. Her breakout role, aged 11, as Wednesday Addams made her a 90s Gothic heroine. She went on to star in Now And Then and Casper, then successfully transitioned to smart indie roles, scoring a Golden Globe nomination in 1999 for The Opposite Of Sex. More recently she’s taken Emmy-nominated guest spots on TV (Grey’s Anatomy), as well as starring in the short-lived air hostess drama Pan Am, where she met and fell in love with camera technician James Heerdegen. They’re now married and live in New York with their two-year-old son Freddie, who briefly interrupts our interview when he wakes up early from a nap…

Christina Ricci Z: The Beginning Of Everything

Christina Ricci dazzles on set as Zelda in Z: The Beginning Of Everything. Photo by Zelig Shaul/ACE Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

Why the sudden interest in Zelda Fitzgerald? ‘Zelda has a particular mix of things that are very appealing to an actress. Dramatically [her story is] extremely rich, but in a way it’s also quite glam. And there’s the question of whether she was, in fact, mentally ill at all. People referred to her as having an odd way of speaking and having ideas that tripped over each other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she was mentally ill. I would be mentally ill if that was the case!’

We weren’t expecting the full-frontal scene in episode four. ‘I was just saying to someone, “Well at least they included full-frontal nudity – thank god that’s in there!” It wasn’t such a big deal to me because I had a merkin on. It just feels like wearing underwear… fur underwear!’

You’ve been in the industry for over 25 years. What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed? ‘It really is constantly evolving. The politics and rules of it change, and if you don’t work in movies for a couple of years you come back and it does feel like, “Wow – things are completely different.” That is the thing that’s been most frightening for me in terms of my career.’

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to come of age now? ‘Yeah, I have. I think it’s remarkable how poised many of the young people are managing to be. There’s this expectation to willingly give up even the smallest amount of privacy. It’s interesting, it is probably easier for them because it seems to be something that is true to their generation, but I can’t imagine what it feels like to be part of that.’

What do you like about living in New York instead of LA? ‘I feel more connected to the real world here. I have a more normal day-to-day experience than I would in Los Angeles. I like that a lot, because I think as an artist it’s really important to have real-life experiences to draw on, otherwise you don’t grow and change. I like being exposed to things that, you know, might be a little unpleasant but are also a reality check.’

Do you come to the UK a lot? ‘I do. Besides the States it’s the place I’ve worked the most. I love London, and I’ve been to the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man, which are beautiful.’

How is being a mum? ‘It’s great. The best thing ever. I can’t get enough!’

Has your son Freddie recognised you on screen yet? ‘Yeah, he has. I don’t know what he thinks is going on in that situation! I told him that Mummy “pretends” for a living and he just accepts it.’

For the full interview, buy the March copy of Marie Claire UK. For more on the Amazon Original series, Z: The Beginning Of Everything, visit amazon.co.uk/primevideo

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