Christina Ricci On Playing Zelda Fitzgerald

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
When I think Zelda Fitzgerald, I think flapper style, long cigarette holders, and dark red lips. But mostly, I think about F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda's husband and author of such classics as The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise. That's because, like many sassy and influential women, Zelda has been forgotten by history. The image we have of her is coloured by her husband's characters — high-strung, vivacious manic pixie dream girls, with a melancholy streak à la Daisy Buchanan. In a way, this makes sense: Zelda was his muse. The two were madly in love — with each other, and with fame — reality stars before their time. The media loved building them up, and enjoyed tearing them down even more. But it makes you wonder, what was this woman like in real life? What if she had control over her own story? Enter Z: The Beginning of Everything, which premieres January 27 on Amazon. The new series, starring Christina Ricci as Zelda and David Hoflin as Scott, is loosely based on Theresa Ann Fowler's novel Z, which recounts the couple's rise and fall through Zelda's perspective. And while it has everything you'd hope to see from a show set in the Jazz Age (booze, speakeasies, gorgeous costumes, and wild parties), the show gives us a rare glimpse into a creative, more pensive Zelda; one who revelled in her own artistic abilities even as she guided and supported her husband. (Fun fact: F. Scott Fitzgerald liked to pull some of his best lines from her journals.) In a way, the series F. Scott Fitzgerald's worst nightmare: a story about his wife in which he is a supporting character.
We talked to Christina Ricci about playing an It Girl, Zelda's relationship with fame, and the actress' Jazz Age merkin. What drew you to the role of Zelda?
“I just found it really fascinating. I really love biographies, I love like examining what created that myth, that legend. Like, ‘Oh this was the behaviour,’ but how did that happen?... I just was really fascinated by this book and by her personality, and I love the idea of taking a world that for me felt very inaccessible, this sort of literati, that world, and finding a way in. And your way in is this woman who’s in the middle of it and is just like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’”
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
One of the things that really struck me while watching is that Zelda so iconic of that era, but I kept wondering, "Would she have been better off today?"
“Yeah, she was definitely born at the wrong time — she would have been way better off today. You’re allowed to make mistakes today, you’re allowed to make a major life decision like marriage or moving, and change your mind. And I think that’s something — at that time, she made a very big strong choice very young, and then she had to live with it.” I noticed that the executive producers and writers are mostly women — was that important to you going in?
"I don’t think equal is really equal until it’s not a factor, do you know what I mean? Certainly when you’re hiring writers, or when you’re hiring people to work in an artistic way, you want them to have some reference for it. So yeah, hiring women in terms of being able to relate to the story is important, but we didn’t go out of our way to do that, it just kind of naturally happened.”
I have to ask, in that scene where you’re naked in the honeymoon suite, were you wearing a merkin?
“Oh yes, I don’t think I’m capable of that. After 20 years of waxing, I don’t think I can grow that much hair.”

What were the discussions around that like?
"Yeah, it ended up being too big and I wanted them to digitally reduce it, but I guess they didn’t do as much because I’ve heard from people that it remains extremely large."

"After 20 years of waxing, I don’t think I can grow that much hair."

Christina Ricci
It’s pretty large.
“Yeah it was really big when they put it on me. I was like ‘I think this is too big guys.’” Why do you think people are still so fascinated with Zelda today?
“Well, I think because she was a person completely out of place, and I think because she was ahead of her time, it’s taken some time for us as a society to catch up to understanding her, you know? I think we’re finally in a place where women see themselves in her, and I think before it was just sort of this woman and her behaviour is a mystery.” She was kind of like the first "It Girl," and they were the first real celebrity couple. Do you think fame has changed at all between then and now?
“Well, I think at the time, they were kind of like the first rock stars. This kind of fame is reserved for royalty you know, and it’s that big change that happened after World War I where it was no longer about royalty and all that stuff, and the class system changed so much. Because the class system changed, it sort of allowed for this sort of celebrity to happen, and so I think it’s different now just because we’re used to this happening to people, but at the time it was like insane.” They would be like the reality stars of today.
“They would have been — I try not to say that because people are like: ‘She would have been the first Kardashian.' And I’m like, ‘No because she was an incredibly great writer, painter.’ I think she would have been more like a Madonna type of person. Just maybe without the singing, although she was a very good singer.”
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Did you learn anything about Zelda that you didn’t know before?
"When I first read [the book by Therese Anne Fowler], I didn’t know anything about her except for she was this crazy drunk that ruined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life. That’s all I knew, and I had her confused with another writer’s wife who was supposed to be crazy, but I can’t remember who it was. She just fell into this category for me, and then reading it, I learned everything — it’s so fascinating. Who they were, what the country was like at the time, her background, she’s from like one of the first American families. All of it is so interesting."
What’s your favourite thing about her?
“I think her sense of humour; she was really funny, and if you read about her, she was a very good person. We were just talking about Hemingway’s first wife; she was somebody who would see people in pain and reach out to them. She took that woman on. Her daughter always said, no matter what was happening, her mother made it seem like it was the most fun they’d ever had, and I like that kind of spite. Somebody who isn’t putting her head in the oven. Someone who’s just like, ‘You know what, let’s make the best of it, let’s have a good fucking time.’”

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