She may be slight of build, but Christina Ricci's talent is as big and well-rounded as her hazel eyes. Now onstage, she plays a fair maiden spouting Shakespearean verse.
With her diminutive stature (she’s only 5 feet 1 inch tall) and doe eyes, Christina Ricci, a showbiz veteran since age 9, rose to Hollywood fame playing precocious children and teens riddled by angst. Now all grown up and glamorous, the 32-year-old movie and television star is thrilled to take her first stab at Shakespeare, as she rehearses the role of the imperious Hermia in the Classic Stage Company’s Off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (begins in April).
“I always look at a job as a great learning experience and a chance to take me out of my comfort zone,” says Ricci. “My mother took me to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of this play when I was about 10, and it was so beautiful and amazing, I just fell in love with it. Plus, because Hermia is kind of spoiled, I think she’s a fun character. I really enjoy playing her indignation when the other characters fall in love with her friend Helena, instead of her.”
Still, going from screen to stage—and performing in front of a live audience—is a little scary, admits Ricci, who made her Broadway debut in Time Stands Still (2010). That show “really helped me build my belief in myself and gain more confidence as an actress,” she says, “but there were nights when I would actually have a panic attack onstage. I overcame them by sheer use of my muscle memory.” She also found strength from co-star Laura Linney. “She was so generous. Sometimes she would sit down on the floor with me and talk about everything and anything,” recalls Ricci.
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., on Feb. 12, 1980, Ricci grew up in Montclair, N.J. Proximity to New York City enabled her to audition for television commercials and attend the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan. “I began auditioning when I was a kid, in part, because acting helped me build up a sense of self-worth and purpose,” she says. “My mother, who had been a model, told me early on not to take rejection personally, because I was going to be rejected a million times for a million reasons before I got the right role.” But in actuality, she didn’t have to wait long for the right roles to come along. Cast in the movie Mermaids (1990) at 10, Ricci went on to play a macabre adolescent in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), a sexually curious teen in The Ice Storm (1997) and deeply troubled, vulnerable young women in Buffalo 66 (1998), The Opposite of Sex (1998), Prozac Nation (2001) and Monster (2003). On television, a recurrent role on Ally McBeal (FOX, 2002) was most recently followed by freethinking 1960s stewardess Maggie Ryan on the New York City-set series Pan Am (ABC, 2011). “It was great to film all over the city,” says Ricci, who lives in Brooklyn. “No matter where we were, people came out to talk to us on the street. They’d tell us they had been on flight crews like the ones on the show or share anecdotes about flying during that era.” Was all that fan interaction a distraction? “I’ve always felt that if someone wants to talk to me, it’s important to make it a good experience for them, no matter what. Because that person may never forget that moment.”
One month before Ricci bows onstage, fans can see the star on the big screen in Bel Ami (release date: Mar. 2), a Paris-set period drama in which she’s one of the many love interests of serial-seducer Robert Pattinson. She recently finished filming Civil War movie War Flowers (release date unknown), and, although the network has yet to green-light Pan Am for a second season, Ricci remains confident. “I plan to be an actress for the rest of my life,” she declares. “I don’t have a plan B or any idea what else I would do if I didn’t act. I just hope I can keep working on the best material and take advantage of the best opportunities that are presented to me. Hopefully, it will all work out.”"