If you came of age in the 90s, odds are, Christina Ricci was on your screen. She first garnered attention playing Cher’s daughter in Mermaids, and then swiftly moved on to capturing one of the most memorable portrayals of Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family films. She followed that up with seminal childhood films Casper, Now and Then, and spread her wings in films like The Ice Storm and The Opposite of Sex.
The actress flourished, transitioning to more adult roles, and didn’t feel the growing pains of growing up before audiences’ eyes.”I was very lucky early on in my career that just as I was stuck playing in family films… right at that time, independent films became popular, and they wanted teenagers to play teenagers.”
Recently, there’s been talk of a Christina Ricci renaissance after viewers have fallen in love with horror series’ like Lifetime’s The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, and Showtime’s Yellowjackets, but in all fairness, Christina Ricci has never left. However, given the natural ebbs and flows of a three-decade career, the overnight love for Yellowjackets and her character Misty Quigley isn’t lost on her. “I do get that when things don’t hit a certain level of success, they can for lack of a better word, go unnoticed,” said Ricci. “So, I get why it seems like I wasn’t around, but also, this does feel special to me.”
Her latest horror project is the small-budget film Monstrous. In the 1950s period piece, she plays Laura, a single mother to 7-year-old Cody. Laura is leaving her past, including her abusive ex-husband, in the rearview. With a new job, and change of location, it feels like a new start for Laura, but things soon turn sinister when Cody is haunted by a lady in the pond. Soon, Laura realizes she can’t run away from her trauma that transpired a year ago.
Christina Ricci spoke to Awards Radar about her new project Monstrous, the success of Yellowjackets, and the upcoming Netflix series Wednesday.
Niki Cruz: It seems like you feel at home in the horror genre. What is it about this genre that you gravitate towards? Or, on the flip side, has it always just found you?
Christina Ricci: I had to really think about this because people ask me, and I always say, “I don’t know,” but the answer is, I like an interesting concept in a film. I like a twist. I like when things aren’t exactly what you think and when the audience is tricked. You mainly find those types of things in this genre or science fiction, so that’s probably why I respond to those kinds of scripts more than basic character-driven films.
NC: The horror genre does suffer from the trope of the hysterical woman but what I appreciated about this film is Laura is so strong for her son, yet she’s vulnerable in the state she’s in.
CR: Yeah, I like that, too. I like that one of her strengths is so strong that it’s tricking her. Her mind is protecting her from pain in such a way that she believes it’s another reality – that’s a strength, but it’s like what you said, a kind of weakness. I sometimes think in life that when we’re afraid, we believe in irrational things and that sometimes comes from anxiety — it can be the manifestation of emotional trauma. I like that the movie is about all of this horror [being] her inability to let go and grieve.
NC: Given that you’re a mom, how does it feel to channel that vulnerability?
CR: It feels really awful. I said, “When you’re performing losing your son, do not picture losing your own son.” I kept on saying that to myself because I don’t know if we manifest things [Laughs] and I don’t know why I’m laughing because these are horrible thoughts, but it was one of those times where I was like, “How do I navigate this?” Because it was terrifying to me, but I needed to make it authentic.
NC: Did you develop a backstory for her, or was it all there on the page?
CR: It was really all out there on the page. I knew what the backstory was, obviously but [since] this character is escaping the past and only living in the present in this reality; I felt it was important to [picture it] as someone living in the front of her mind.
NC: It has this old school horror film aesthetic in terms of focusing on the “creature” in the pond — the special effects don’t feel super over the top — as audiences, I think we’ve gotten used to that, so seeing that was nice.
CR: Yeah, I think [director] Chris Sivertson is so smart in terms of how he executed the monster because it does lean heavily into the 1950s horror aesthetic but in such a way that it’s not laughable — he found some creative ways to shoot this on a very small budget.
NC: I have to bring up Yellowjackets — what a phenomenal group of actresses; the writing is so strong, and now there’s talk you might get your second Emmy nomination. Do you pay attention to that kind of chatter?
CR: We’re actively doing the FYC events, so it’s hard not to at least be aware of it, but I always think it’s nice to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised [Laughs]
NC: When you were reading the scripts, did you have an inkling?
CR: In doing the show, I’m always focused on getting it right. It’s a personal challenge to do the absolute best, most interesting performance that I can, but I wasn’t thinking about the results from that. We viewed it as a horror show, so in my sort of simple mind, I never really thought that horror was an award winning genre. Again, that’s the amazing thing about the show, it’s overcome the limitations of the genre.
NC: I always hear from actresses that they’re typically around actors on a set and very rarely get to share the screen with women. On Yellowjackets, how was it to be with these women?
CR: It’s true. In any scene where there’s a man involved, the energy does change. I loved working with all the women — I think I had one scene with all four of us this season, but I loved working with them, and I love being on a set when I’m working with women.
NC: With the success of the show and hearing about the experience on set, it really does sound like the best case scenario.
CR: Absolutely. The four of us older actresses are all connected on various social media platforms. We text about trying to go out to dinner. We come to each other with problems we have on the show [and] get advice from each other, and that’s something I haven’t experienced in any other project.
NC: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Netflix show Wednesday, which I’m sure you have been asked about ad nauseam.
CR: [Laughs] I think people do understand the parameters that I can talk about it, so it hasn’t been too bad.
NC: You haven’t been grilled about it.
CR: No, not too bad. There’s nothing I can say about it besides I was excited to be involved, and I really appreciated being involved. I was excited to work with Tim [Burton] again, Gwendoline Christie was amazing, and Jenna [Ortega] is incredible; her Wednesday is so wonderful, charming, funny, dignified — it’s a great modern take on the character. I think people are really going to love her as Wednesday.
Monstrous is currently in theaters and On Demand.