Christina Ricci details her enthusiasm on taking on the role of icon Zelda Fitzgerald for Amazon’s Z: The Beginning of Everything.
Christina Ricci is an actress that we take for granted. We all know that she’s been steadily working since a very young age, and everyone holds their own experience of watching her on screen. She takes one of her most serious turns with Amazon’s Z: The Beginning of Everything where she takes on the role of beloved writer and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald. Even though it’s framed like a classic Hollywood biopic, Z spreads its wings with an extended running time, and Ricci can delve even further into this legendary figure.
Ricci relies on her natural charisma to paint Zelda as a complicated person. When we first see Ricci in the role, her Zelda is a fiery Southern Belle living in Montgomery, Alabama. She’s flirty and precocious when out on the town, and when she’s home she spars with her strict father, played by David Strathairn. When she first falls in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, however, Zelda’s real roller coaster begins.
An Incredible Story Becomes An Incredible Opportunity
Ricci read Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and was surprised that no one had already optioned it. While there have been numerous projects in the works about Zelda and F. Scott, Z manages to be first out of the gate. Ricci already makes her mark in the role. Some actresses may find the idea of taking such a larger than life character intimidating, but Ricci saw it as an opportunity.
“When I read the book, it was on some best-seller list, and I assumed someone had the rights to it. When I inquired about it, I found out that no one had them yet. It turns out that they were letting people take it out. Originally it was supposed to be a mini series. Amazon had the idea of turning it into a half hour drama. I think before we started it, I viewed it as an obstacle and the role of a lifetime. But now that I can do it, I believe the next role is my biggest obstacle. When I found the book, I thought right then that this could be the role of a lifetime. It could change my life. It could also change the way people see me.”
An Actor’s Dream
While Amazon could have developed its own Zelda Fitzgerald biopic, the studio opted to make it a half-hour drama series, a rarity in this Golden Age of Television landscape. A feature film would have probably hit the standard “birth to grave” landmarks, but Z gives a great task to its performers.
These characters are more layered and researched than what you see in the typical biopic. Ricci was not unaware of the opportunity she had before her.
“The second you hear that you’re going to be able to play a part like that, that’s a dream for an actor. Instead of doing it for 2 hours? That’s the most delicious thing. You can explore so many aspects and different phases of their life. Instead of exploring just parts of someone’s life, you can go back 10 years. That’s amazing. I’m in a different place from where I was 10 years ago. I don’t think I could’ve played this role without having been in the industry for this long. As artists, we have to be in touch with real life, and I was able to use my experiences as a former child actor to hone the performance.”
A Natural Chemistry
David Hoflin also holds the tricky task of portraying a famous figure. Since the love story between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald is a towering and very chronicled marriage, Ricci knew it had to be executed with care. She felt at ease with Hoflin on and off set.
“We connected because we are both former child actors, so our approach to the work is the same. Since we have both grown up in front of the camera, we are both very comfortable on the set and with each other. It allows us to really dive into the work and the scenes we have together. We are very comfortable with each other.”
At Ease with Heightened Emotions
As the marriage between Zelda and Scott begins to take a dark turn, Zelda’s parents show up at their Westport house just as they are having a raucous and booze-fueled party. Ricci has a great scene on the beach with Strathain where she wants reassurance that bad times will pass, but it doesn’t seem like her father has the answers.
In earlier episodes, Zelda sees slivers of Scott’s anger and frustration in unexpected bursts of high emotion.
“That beach scene was difficult because it was a very sunny day and there was a great, big light shining in my face. So, it was difficult from a physical standpoint. I didn’t have a hard time connecting with the emotions of that scene honestly. What was difficult was the scene where I’m running and prancing through the revolving door and Scott yells at Zelda. It was somewhat difficult to get to that place so quickly, but I don’t find it hard to be glib. It’s hard to see yourself as just charming.”
Ricci commented that the final episode of the season changed her dynamic with Horlin. They spend most of the episode driving, out of the confines of their home.
“That episode felt different. We were out on the road and Zelda and Scott were dealing with the aftermath of infidelity. They are both frozen and numb. I loved how they were both physically moving forward towards something while being stopped at this point in their marriage. And that’s how we end the season.”
The Real Mission
While a lot of people idolize and worship Zelda Fitzgerald, Ricci wants to give something back to her. She reminded me that while Zelda was famous and well-known, she was just a person who became a public figure.
Like most of us, Zelda dealt with real emotions and real problems that a lot of women face every day. Ricci’s perception of Zelda is very honest and lovely.
“I have a problem with how we dehumanize people. We dehumanize celebrities and politicians and neighbors. I wanted to give her back some of her character. She’s not a symbol or an emblem for people. We forget that she was a real person. Zelda had real problems and real emotions. It was important to me that we humanize this icon. That’s so important to me. I wanted to give that back to her.”
Zelda Fitzgerald herself would be delighted to hear that.
Z: The Beginning of Everything currently streams on Amazon.