Why Z: The Beginning Of Everything Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald's Worst Nightmare (It's Not What You Think)

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Prime.
F. Scott Fitzgerald has an Australian accent.

Well, kind of. More accurately, David Hoflin, who plays the literary legend in Amazon's latest binge-worthy drama, Z:The Beginning of Everything, has an Australian accent. Which surprised me, because there's absolutely no trace of it in the actor's performance.

Unlike the vast majority of the great author's works, Z actually isn't all about him. Rather, the show recounts the rise and fall of the Jazz Age "It Couple" from the perspective of Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, played by Christina Ricci.

Their famous romance is often portrayed as the iconic marriage of an author and his muse. But in reality, things weren't so simple. Casual Fitzgerald fans might be surprised at how much material the celebrated novelist drew from Zelda's own writing. That Daisy Buchanan line from The Great Gatsby you had to study in 9th grade? (Come on, you remember: "I hope it's beautiful and a fool — a beautiful little fool.") Zelda said it first, to her own child.

In fact, in a review of The Beautiful and the Damned that she wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, Zelda said: “It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”

We sat down with David Hoflin (in the wrong chair, as it turns out — but more on that below) to chat about what it's like to play a legend on screen, 1920s home decor, and how Scott would feel about Zelda's newfound success.
Hi, nice to meet you!
“Hi Anne, how’re you doing? I’m David. It’s interesting to see which chair people choose.”

Oh really, did I pick the wrong one?
“You picked the totally wrong one, you picked the only one that was wrong.”

I failed already.
“Yeah, now you’ve been demoted two minutes. It’s weird because I was sitting in that one before, it will be interesting to see how your eyes go. I’m just gonna, we’ll talk about that at the end. I’ll tell you, I was there to begin with and I was just looking at that.” [By "that" he means the strangely hypnotic headboard on the other side of the room.]

It is quite mesmerizing.
“I thought after the first interview I was getting dizzy and I thought, Why am I so dizzy? and I thought, I think it’s because that thing is just — if you look at it too long you start seeing faces.”

If I go off topic, you’ll know why.
“You’ll fall off the chair!"

How do you prepare to play F. Scott Fitzgerald?
“Yeah, it’s a tough one. I did a lot of reading. I read up to the point in time where we finished episode 10. I didn’t read anything beyond that of his books, because I didn’t want to kind of get ahead of myself and contemplate things that happened way in the future. So, I just read a lot of his stuff that he had already published at that point in time.

"The first thing I read was This Side of Paradise. The main character in that, Amory Blaine, was pretty much [Scott] and how he viewed himself, and that was important. More important than reading opinions of what he was like, because this is what he thought he was like, so that was the important part for me. So, preparation-wise it was a lot to do with that, and then also trying to find out where his history was, where he grew up, what inspired him to be someone different. From what I gather he had such a passion to be successful, and being a writer, I think, was just something that he was not only passionate about, but I think he saw that as an avenue to get to the higher echelons of society.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Prime.
Yeah he’s definitely a little bit insecure about it.
“Definitely. That’s not a contentious point. I think he would be the first one to admit that he wants to be rich and famous, but I also think there’s a part of him that was very romantic, and his romantic notions of the way that a man and a woman should be together, and the romance that he wanted was a massive part in his success and his demise at the same time. You know he fell head over heels in love with Zelda, and she was definitely his muse. You know you could argue that even if he didn’t take words from her diary, or he didn’t use her words in his books, he probably would not have been successful without having met her because she was such a huge inspiration to him.”

Do you think this is Scott's worst nightmare? A show about his wife that includes him but focuses on her?
“That’s a good question! I mean I don’t want to speak for F. Scott — I don’t know him — but from my opinion, he probably would have a few problems with it. I’d say there was no doubt that he liked the attention and he certainly got to a place that he wanted to be, so I would think that the fact that it’s called Z [and not] F may be a little bit annoying to him.”

I find it very interesting that Zelda and Scott are the poster couple for that era, because it occurred to me as I was watching the show that maybe they would have been better off today, or in a more modern time.
“I think ultimately what catapulted them into success, but also their demise, was their relationship. I don’t know if that is indicative of the time, I think that kind of transcends time. In a way if they were around at this point they probably would have been kings and queens of social media. But I also feel like their relationship was so tumultuous that it didn’t matter what time period they were in, [they] probably would have ended up the same way. As long as there’s alcohol and drugs around..."

Did you learn anything really wacky about the time period?
“They had a lot of stuff in the 1920s. If we were doing an interview back then, I have a feeling there would be like different things to facilitate stupid stuff. I’d have a big cast iron thing so I could put my cigarette, and then there’d be a holder. When we went into the sets, I didn’t know what [some of that stuff] was or what it could be used for — and they were very elaborate. Really, a lot of rich mahogany and leather-bound books. There was a lot of wealth that was really interesting to see when we filmed in New York. There’s just a lot of craftsmanship that you don’t get these days. You can really sense the history in a lot of places that we shot. Luckily in New York there are so many of those places that haven’t been changed."

Did I pass the test and not get mesmerized?

“I don’t know, I gotta ask you. Can you see Jesus in there?"

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