Collider Ladies Night is all about revisiting lessons learned and discussing how they’ve influenced the current path a creator is on. In Christina Ricci’s case, her decade’s worth of experience has led her straight to an Emmy nomination for playing a character who seems to well reflect her greatest ambitions as an artist. Yes, an artist.
Ricci is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her work playing Misty Quigley in Showtime’s Yellowjackets. If you’re not caught up on the show, what are you waiting for? Yellowjackets is one of the most enthralling, enigmatic new series to hit screens in recent series, and it also features some of the best ensemble casting of all time.
Just in case you need the basics, the title Yellowjackets refers to the name of a 1996 New Jersey high school soccer team gearing up to play in a national tournament. However, on the way there, their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere, forcing the girls to go to the extreme in order to survive. In addition to covering the events of 1996, the show also cuts to 2021 where we find the survivors of the incident trying to live normal lives. That includes Ricci’s Misty, a former soccer team equipment manager turned care facility nurse. Misty is all about connection and caring for others, but she’s certainly made a habit of going about achieving those things in all the wrong ways.
During our 40-minute Collider Ladies Night conversation, we went back to the beginning of Ricci’s career which includes quite a few formative titles for a number of 90s kids, yours truly included. There was Casper, Now and Then, and then some. However, even though Ricci was delivering work that made a big impression, there was still a pretty stark line between focusing on delivering successful work and working as an artist.
“I think that at that time, child actors were not granted the title of artist, so I had no feeling that I had any art or that there was any art to protect or any of that. I did what I was told would be films that were good for my career and I was lucky to be here, basically is kind of the vibe that we had at that time.”
While retracing her steps during those earlier years, Ricci explained how her goals evolved as she went from child to teen actor:
“As a child in this industry, I didn’t have a ton of agency or choice. I sort of just auditioned for what was open and took what I could get and then, when I had a little bit more standing, for me, when I was younger, because this industry was such a refuge for me, it was all about, what would make me the most successful? What could keep my career going as long as possible? And then, of course, when I became a young adult, I then only wanted to do things that satisfied my emotional and artistic needs.”
Fortunately for Ricci, by the time she hit the point when she developed those creative itches she needed to scratch, she had had an on-set experience that proved to her that she had the desire and the drive to make acting her career. Here’s what Ricci said when asked for the moment she realized that she wanted to be an actor and nothing else:
“I had been acting for a while, I think I was 12 or 13, and I was doing the second Addams Family and we’d spent like seven months on the Paramount lot, and it was just such an incredible experience every day. At that time, when you were a child actor, everybody knew that when you were 13 you basically had to stop acting because they cast adults to play teenagers, so you had no career after that. So I had always kind of been like, ‘Well, you know, I’ll ride this out and then I’ll get a real job. I’ll be a lawyer,’ whatever. And I was walking through the lot and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m gonna really try to make this go past 13. I think this is really cool and if I could do this the rest of my life, I think that’d be really great.’ I remember specifically walking through the lot and being like, ‘Yeah, I know we’re all supposed to fail at 13, but I’m gonna try!’”
Not only did Ricci try, but she succeeded. What was the key to that success? I think it’s abundantly clear that innate talent and drive were in the mix there, but Ricci also highlighted how the rise of independent filmmaking changed the game for teen actors:
“I think for me it was really timing. I really got lucky, at the time that I was sort of aging out of family fare, independent film became really successful and popular, and those filmmakers wanted to cast teenagers to play teenagers. So all of a sudden, all of that casting changed. It just became a little less cool to cast adults to play teenagers and I benefited from that definitely.”
It wasn’t long after films like Casper, Now and Then, and That Darn Cat that Ricci booked a role that well represented the work she’d like to do moving forward, playing 16-year-old runaway Dedee Truitt in Don Roos’ The Opposite of Sex.
“I think a movie that really sort of encapsulated the kind of characters I wanted to play is this movie I did called Opposite of Sex. It was done in 1997 and I was a teenager at the time, I could not have intellectualized why I wanted to play that part or why I would always lean towards things like that moving forward, but it really is for me a great summation, or just a very succinct example of what I look for in characters, and perhaps what I used to look for in humanity but don’t do it anymore. [Laughs] That character, she’s somebody who is, on the surface, completely aggressive and unpleasant and hostile and conniving, but she is a 16-year-old girl, and through the movie, without it being trite or winky in any way, you do get to love this character even though she’s incredibly unpleasant and understand that she really is just a child. And I think that’s always what I’ve sort of wanted to do is present the most extreme characters and then allow the audience the journey of finding whatever that tiny thing is that makes you empathize.”
However, even after that and dozens of other projects, applying the word “artist” to her work still didn’t feel quite right.
“I was really ashamed to call myself an artist for a really long time. I think just in the past five years I finally can use it without cringing. I really kind of took in everything I needed to take in in order to be the best at what I was doing at the time and didn’t realize how it was not so great maybe for my wellbeing later.” Full Review
What exactly happened in the last five years that changed how Ricci felt about dubbing herself an artist? While one may assume an Emmy nomination and being part of a show that amassed a wildly enthusiastic fanbase in a flash is all the validation one could need, Ricci explained that it was more about the emotional growth that was happening off set. “I guess as you grow old, the things that you internalized when you were younger, hopefully, dissipate and fade and go away.” She added, “So I think it was more of a natural progression.”