Like the rest of the world, we fell in love with Christina Ricci at age 11 as the spider-loving, ballet-dancing, sometimes sadistic Addams Family daughter, Wednesday. Her affinity for strong, complicated female characters—tomboy Roberta Martin in Now and Then, pregnant teen runaway Dedee Truitt in The Opposite of Sex, and who could forget Selby Wall, the girlfriend of a serial killer in Monster?—has kept us watching.
Her latest role—as executive producer and star of Amazon Prime’s bio-series Z: The Beginning of Everything, on the life and tumultuous relationship of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald—shows her continuing to examine the complexities of a strong-willed Southern girl who bucks tradition to become the face of the flapper movement. Yes, she blows up sexual and societal norms, but she’s also the wife and muse to—and even plagiarized by—her more famous writer husband.
Here the 37-year-old actress, producer, and mom to two-year-old Freddie, shares with us her thoughts on complicated female characters, the current state of the women’s movement, and controlling our own destiny.
Glamour: F. Scott Fitzgerald is a classic American writer, but did you know much about Zelda before you started working on the series?
Christina Ricci: I didn’t really. The only thing I knew was the common misconception about Zelda that she was this crazy alcoholic woman who ruined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life. I was really struck by how unfair her reputation was. Nothing’s ever that simple. She wasn’t an alcoholic; she wasn’t crazy. She stayed with him so his life wouldn’t be destroyed by her leaving, which is what she was told would happen. She was responsible for him and ended up being blamed for his demise anyway.
Glamour: As an actress and someone in the public eye, do you feel like you have to deal with an unfair reputation? Do you ever feel misunderstood?
CR: Yeah, I’ve done and said a lot of things when I was younger that I don’t know if I even understood what I was doing or why I was doing it. There’s a lot of compassion in understanding what people go through and even in trying to understand why a person would act the way they do. I was a very reactive person, and I did things that were just really bizarre; I don’t think people understood it at all.
Glamour: You’re a producer of Z: The Beginning of Everything, and you’ve said you may not have been given this role otherwise. Do you think we need more women producers to create strong female characters on TV?
CR: I think we need great artists making great work—women, men, whoever. I think what’s great about TV now is there are so many different platforms that you can make really specific, specialized content. I wouldn’t have gotten this part because I’m not really considered a “traditional romantic lead,” so I created it for myself.
Glamour: Is there a similarity between you creating what you want in life and Zelda going against traditional Southern society and her father’s wishes for her in order to create her own life?
CR: Yeah, but there is a difference between being calculated, well-informed, and strategic and being rebellious as a reaction. I can relate to both. I don’t think Zelda ever got the chance to become somebody who was a little bit more mature and strategic. She was just like I was when I was younger—very reactive and didn’t have a lot of self-control and made a lot of choices out of emotion that weren’t necessarily in her best interest.
In a weird way, she was a product of her environment. She did go the traditional route of relying on her looks and getting what she wanted through marrying a man. She was a very intelligent person. She could have been an amazing student, but she was lazy and spoiled. She’s the first person to say that she wasn’t a feminist, and I think she’s one of these people who just assumed that everything would be OK and didn’t have the maturity required to extrapolate or have any forethought.
Glamour: What do you think Zelda would have thought of the women’s marches last month?
CR: I’m sure she would have been there. Everybody was there! I was in Europe promoting the show, but as a feminist, what I like about this show is that it is a chance for us to look at—certainly with Zelda, she very much made her own bed. Yes, it was a difficult time for women [in the 1920s], but she had counterparts among her peers who chose different paths and were able to have the lives they wanted. As women, we are half the population. For this to still be an issue, I think that we need to look at ourselves and look at the way women perpetuate misogyny. Because at a certain point you can’t blame other people for things in your life. I’ve felt that most of the misogyny I’ve witnessed in my life—a lot of it, yes, it comes from men, but most of it professionally has come from other women.
Glamour: How do you think we change that?
CR: In our own lives, we need to be cognizant of things that perpetuate misogyny and cognizant of the everyday messages we get and then regurgitate. It can seem really innocuous, but over time they create a culture that is misogynistic. Even the fact that we’ve gotten rid of every other slur, but “bitch” is still completely acceptable, I find that shocking.
Glamour: In addition to being aware and hoping that helps to curb antifeminist sentiment, what else do you think we can do?
CR: I think everybody who really wants to change things has to allow themselves to be angry in a constructive way, and you have to fully understand the thing you’re trying to change. We really need to get serious about this now; there needs to be real, effective programs. I think there needs to be a little bit more strategy involved and a little more realism, to be pragmatic and realistic, looking at the way we as women [contribute to the problem]. Once the second half of the population stops doing it, it’s going to end.
When I talk about feminism and what I think the women’s movement needs more of, it’s not to detract from anything going on—I think everything going on is fantastic—but there’s this missing element. I think we could learn from our detractors a little bit because I feel like they have a plan, a better understanding of things than we necessarily do. You can’t change things if you don’t understand the other people involved. And if you don’t understand yourself, you’ll never change.
Glamour: Maybe that’s the next step, trying to understand each other better.
CR: We can use the romantic relationship as a microcosmic example. Until you really understand the other person and where they’re coming from and you understand yourself and how you contribute to things, you can never make that relationship better. And I think sometimes people don’t understand how much these things are related.