May 10, 2015

By day she slaughtered her opponents with an axe, but by night, Christina Ricci found herself crying at the drop of an animal.

As a new mum, Ricci found almost anything would set her emotions awry – from animal welfare advertisements to sad news stories.

“It’s funny, everything changes when you have a child and you can’t really stomach the same stuff,” she says. “I would have full breakdowns when I used to watch like [RSPCA] commercials, and any story involving child abuse now I can’t handle it, or anything that’s too violent.”

And then she had to deal with going to work and playing the sociopathic Lizzie Borden, who bludgeons her parents to death, then spends her time terrorising small-town America? “When you’re filming it yourself it’s all plastic and fake blood and props that keep breaking, so it doesn’t seem real,” Ricci assures me. “So I was okay with that.”

What she wasn’t so okay with was people questioning her choice to return to work and film the show The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, two months after the birth of her son to husband James Heerdegen in August last year.

“I think most women understand you don’t actually have to make a decision, you can do both [work and be a mum.] But there was external pressure, from people who were like ‘I thought you were going to take a break at this point,’ and you have to ignore those people,” Ricci, 35, says.

While being a working mum has it’s difficulties, Ricci says she has tried to find a balance. Having a child is “absolutely wonderful,” and each mother will know what works best.

“I think when it comes to family, like having a baby, we are all incredibly vulnerable. It’s hard and it’s very stressful and there’s a lot of guilt involved, and I think ultimately you can tell when it’s not right.”

It’s been 25 years since Ricci first hit the big-time with film Mermaids, that classic 1990 comedy with Winona Ryder and Cher (if you haven’t seen it, please do so immediately.) In it she plays Cher’s kooky nine-year-old daughter Kate, a performance which saw her land the coveted role of Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family a year later.

The image of a stone-cold 11-year-old Ricci, staring daggers from beneath dark brows and a devil’s peak hairline, has since become iconic – serving as both inspiration for Halloween costumes worldwide, and as a reminder that your own child probably isn’t that bad.

Ricci went on to appear in several blockbuster Hollywood productions, including Now and Then (1995), where she played the younger version of Demi Moore’s character, Casper (1995) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), alongside Johnny Depp.

Since then, her career has been punctuated by various levels of independent film success, with her better-known roles as Chalize Theron’s serial killer girlfriend in Monster (2003) and as a captive nymphomaniac in 2006’s Black Snake Moan.

In recent years, following the industry trend, Ricci has begun to pick up more television roles. Her most recent is The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, a spin-off mini-series from last year’s made-for-TV film Lizzie Borden took an Ax, also starring Ricci.

“We first did a movie version about two years ago, they approached me and I thought it would be interesting to play,” Ricci says. “Lizzie has her own set of rules, her own moral compass and she very much operates in her own world, and it’s very fun to play someone like that who has no limitations.”

Those familiar with 19th century murder trials, or macabre nursery rhymes (“Lizzie Borden took an ax/And gave her mother forty whacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her father forty-one”) would know Borden was a real woman who was controversially acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1892.

While the film was loosely based on the events of the time, the series is a purely fictional account, Ricci says. With each episode the body count rises, placing Borden firmly in serial killer territory.

“We set out to make a series that was really fun, that revels in the dark and disturbing. They were people who were alive, but it is historical fiction. I think I see the challenge in playing someone like this.”

In fact, you could say Ricci has made her name playing offbeat characters. As well as characterising her as a “precocious, outspoken child-teen starlet of the 1990s,” her IMDB profile lists a litany of unconventional roles – from gothic princesses to werewolf victims.

Ricci, who denies that she always goes for dark roles (“I’m sure that when you look at the whole resume of my films, they are quite different”) also sounds frustrated when I mention she was described as precocious. “That would be left over from when I was like 13 years old. I hope I’ve changed since then. I don’t think any of us kind of stand behind who we were when we were 15, do you know what I mean.”

As for the outspoken part, Ricci is now more careful about what she says. “I think I had some growing pains with it when I was younger, and it’s just become something that I consider when I make decisions. There are a lot of things other people would not usually think about and realise.”

The most she will offer about social media is that it’s “interesting,” and, unlike many vocal celebrities, her Twitter profile is mostly filled with tweets about her work. However, Ricci has never considered a career change. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever known, I started working when I was seven years old, so for me it’s very natural.”

In the future, she plans to pursue more television work – saying she would love to have her own series – and focus on being a new mum.

“I think that probably in my heart I am more of a film actress, but TV is very close.” (Source)

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