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Christina Ricci has been entrancing audiences with her delightfully dark performances for over 30 years. Here, the star of such edgy classics as The Addams Family, Yellowjackets, and the new reboot, Wednesday, opens up about fame, her new family, and emerging from a year that “was way more disturbing than anything written in a tabloid.”

Years of interviewing celebrities will teach you that most of them really are just like us. Yet it is extremely difficult not to get starstruck by Christina Ricci, even over the phone. This is Wednesday freaking Addams, after all. For women of a certain age, her ’90s output alone encompasses a full range of sleepover mainstays: Mermaids, Casper, Now and Then, and—if you were feeling risqué and had an older sibling to help you out at Blockbuster—Buffalo ’66 and 200 Cigarettes. There was no one cooler or more envy-inducing: she got to kiss Devon Sawa!


Within a few minutes, however, it becomes clear that Ricci, 42, is very chill. She’s willing to indulge questions about the nostalgia-heavy coverage of her turn on Showtime’s runaway hit Yellowjackets, but she isn’t particularly interested in pondering the so-called “comeback” of her career and those of the other ’90s stars who anchor the series: Juliette Lewis, Melanie Lynskey, and Tawny Cypress. “It feels a little gimmicky to be like, ‘Yeah, the ’90s have returned,’ but at the same time, I get it,” she says. “I’ve sat back and watched this happen to other people about other decades. So I get how this occurs in pop culture. It’s great. I would be dumb to not be on board.”

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In reality, Ricci and her costars never stopped working since their alleged ’90s heydays. But Yellowjackets is arguably the biggest and most visible hit any of them have had in years. The show, which premiered in November 2021, follows a girls’ high school soccer team in the aftermath of a plane crash that leaves them stranded in the wilderness, where they survive for 19 months by resorting to extreme measures (including unconfirmed but heavily implied cannibalism). As adult versions of some of the surviving teens, Ricci, Lewis, Lynskey, and Cypress form an uneasy alliance as they try to figure out who’s blackmailing them in the present day while coping with the trauma of whatever happened out in the woods. “I’m happy that this show has had such success. It’s definitely good for me,” Ricci says. “But I do wish some of my past stuff had gotten more recognition. It’s OK because, you know, here we are now. But I can want it all.”

Born in Santa Monica, CA, Ricci started acting at age seven after her family relocated to New Jersey. One year later, she was discovered by a local theater critic while starring in a school play adapted from the holiday tune “The 12 Days of Christmas.” At nine, she shot her first movie—Mermaids (1990), with Cher and Winona Ryder—and by 1991, she was a star. That year, she made her debut as Wednesday Addams in Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation of The Addams Family, starring alongside Hollywood veterans Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, and Christopher Lloyd. She was only 11 when the movie hit theaters, but her pitch-perfect portrayal of the deadpan Wednesday (reprised in 1993’s Addams Family Values) established early on that she was a good person to call if you were looking for—as her Wikipedia bio drolly puts it—“unusual characters with a dark edge.”

“But I do wish some of my past stuff had gotten more recognition. It’s OK because, you know, here we are now. But I can want it all.”

That reputation as a goth-adjacent “weird” girl followed her for years, even as she tried her hand at serious family dramas (Bastard Out of Carolina, The Ice Storm) and quirky rom-coms (Anything Else). In 2003, she appeared in the Oscar-winning Monster, but that didn’t lead to the mega-stardom that quickly found her costar Charlize Theron. While Ricci worked steadily for the next decade in film and on TV, nothing hit quite like those ’90s successes (though her performance as Lizzie Borden in Lifetime’s 2014 TV movie and subsequent series remains a classic). “I would say that I do tend to play slightly off-center characters, because that is what’s most interesting to me,” Ricci says, noting that she came of age in a Hollywood that had difficulty conceiving of “brunette” as an acceptable hair color for leading ladies. “I didn’t really have as many options as I do today,” she says. “Now, there are usually one or two options for me.”

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Ricci doesn’t think she’s fully escaped her “dark” reputation, but the industry has caught up with her ability to portray a different, more complex kind of womanhood. “I just think that what I do is less difficult for people now,” she explains. “And there are places for me to fit now, whereas there weren’t that many places before.”

Yellowjackets, it would seem, is the perfect fit. Ricci plays Misty Quigley, who in high school was the misfit-y equipment manager for the soccer team. In the present day, she’s a ruthless eldercare nurse who has no qualms about kidnapping potential enemies and disposing of bodies. It’s all very dark, yes, but also wickedly funny, and a massive success—Season One was Showtime’s second-most-watched series in the network’s history. In addition to the nostalgia-inspiring cast, the show boasted a killer soundtrack that was basically catnip for Gen Xers and millennials, featuring Hole, Liz Phair, the Cranberries, Throwing Muses, and more. It also spawned innumerable fan theories about who survived, who got eaten, and who’s behind the mysterious occurrences in the present day. The show scored seven nominations at the 2022 Emmys, which aired in September, including a supporting actress nod for Ricci, but it came away empty-handed. “I don’t know that any of us really thought we were gonna win. It’s our first season, so there are so many opportunities ahead,” says Ricci. “I was just so excited to be at the Emmys. I was a total goofball nerd the entire night, hugging people.”

She also received a very sweet surprise when she got home from the ceremony: her eight-year-old son, Freddie, and her baby daughter Cleo, then nine months, were waiting for her under a handmade sign that read, “Congrats on Best Mom.” Freddie is still too young to watch most of her work, but he was absolutely thrilled to see her on the red carpet with his stepdad—Ricci’s husband, hairstylist Mark Hampton, whom she wed in 2021. “He was really excited to see us live on the Emmys,” Ricci says. “Like, for him, that meant more than any TV show or movie I’ve ever been in. Our nanny was just like, ‘Yeah, he got so excited to see you and Mark on TV.’ I wouldn’t have expected that, but it was cute.”

“I don’t know that any of us really thought we were gonna win. It’s our first season, so there are so many opportunities ahead. I was just so excited to be at the Emmys. I was a total goofball nerd the entire night, hugging people.”

Ricci is in the midst of filming Yellowjackets Season Two when we speak, but all details are, of course, shrouded in secrecy. Even the cast is out of the loop until the writers decide the time is right, though they do have a group chat to discuss their own personal theories. “We have dinners and we talk about what we think is gonna happen and what we hope is gonna happen and what we’re afraid is gonna happen,” she says of her girl gang of costars. “All that stuff.” But while the writers may be feeling some pressure to get the new episodes exactly right after the fanfare surrounding Season One, Ricci says she and the rest of the cast are just happy to be back. “Every script that comes out is better than the last one,” she teases. “They’re really good, and I think we’re all feeling really excited more than anything else.”

In the months before Season Two drops, though, Ricci has had her hands full with yet another hotly anticipated project: Wednesday, a new Netflix series about Morticia and Gomez’s only daughter that premiered November 23. In this Addams Family reboot, Jenna Ortega is putting on the pigtail braids and Catherine Zeta-Jones is playing the glamorous Addams matriarch, but Ricci’s role was still a mystery when we spoke. Later, a teaser dropped at New York Comic-Con that revealed Ricci in the role of Marilyn Thornhill, a teacher at Wednesday’s school. (The clip’s editors clearly had some fun with the unveiling, saving it for the last few seconds after Wednesday intones, “I know the suspense is killing you.”)


Wednesday is being executive produced by Tim Burton, who personally asked Ricci to appear in the series. She previously worked with Burton—who also directed four episodes of the series—on 1999’s Sleepy Hollow, in which she played Katrina van Tassel, love interest of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp). She hadn’t kept in touch with the director over the years, but she was thrilled by the prospect of reuniting with him as an older, more seasoned performer, since she was only 18 when she made Sleepy Hollow.  “I was very much an immature 18-year-old, so the working dynamic this time was different because I wasn’t, like, this teenager working with this established genius,” she explains. “I’m an adult now. I’m at a more mature working level, and it was really nice.”

It is somewhat shocking to realize Ricci was so young in Sleepy Hollow, given that she’d already been working for nearly a decade. On paper, she avoided the proverbial curse of the child star: she kept landing jobs, she didn’t have a public breakdown, she didn’t develop a drug addiction. Early fame, however, still took its toll. She has been open in multiple past interviews about battling anorexia as a teen, and though she later got healthy, she admitted in 2006 that she still wondered how her fluctuating weight had affected her career. She has also been open about struggling with anxiety, which she tells me is less about just “getting through the day” than it is about her work. “Usually, [anxiety] makes me wake up at around 5:00 a.m. every day and I spend that time just doing this—it’s not really a meditation—but it’s something someone taught me a long time ago where I basically walk myself through the day, and I decide in advance how I’m going to manage any situation that could happen. How I’m gonna feel, how I’m gonna react. By doing that and then going through my whole day, it actually makes me feel more able to get up and go.”

Even her latest “comeback” has been marred, in the press at least, by turmoil in her personal life. Ricci filed for divorce from her first husband and Freddie’s father, James Heerdegen, in July 2020, after more than six years of marriage. The couple were not exactly tabloid fixtures, so the breakup might have passed out of the public eye unnoticed if not for what happened next. In January 2021, Ricci got a restraining order against Heerdegen after alleging that he physically and emotionally abused her during their marriage, sometimes in front of their son. Heerdegen then sought (and was denied) his own restraining order, hurling his own allegations about Ricci in court filings covered in lurid detail by the Daily Mail and others. The duo ultimately settled their divorce in July 2022, and the restraining order against Heerdegen was dropped.

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Ricci is understandably not eager to discuss the end of her marriage, saying only that early 2020 was “not great.” But she tells me that the public’s sudden interest in her imploding personal life didn’t bother her. “When I was younger, there used to be paparazzi everywhere and, you know, websites like Perez Hilton. I’m sure that still exists, but it was really popular at the time,” she says. “[The attention from the tabloids] wasn’t shocking. What happened in reality was way more disturbing than anything that could have been written in a tabloid. Like, I was actually dealing with real things. So, anything that someone wrote in a tabloid was, for me, almost inconsequential.”

She is seemingly much happier in her second marriage to Hampton. Two months after she announced their union, in October 2021, they welcomed baby Cleo (short for Cleopatra), who, along with Freddie, occupies most of Ricci’s nonworking hours. “My free time is pretty much just taking over for the nanny,” she says. “Honestly, my biggest hobby right now is creating delicious soft foods for my baby. I’m just like, ‘Oh my God, I can make savory French toast.’ That’s what I do now in my downtime: experiment with making extremely soft but palatable finger foods for my baby.”

“[The attention from the tabloids] wasn’t shocking. What happened in reality was way more disturbing than anything that could have been written in a tabloid. Like, I was actually dealing with real things. So, anything that someone wrote in a tabloid was, for me, almost inconsequential.”

Freddie, meanwhile, is thriving as a big brother and occasional trainee babysitter. “He loves Cleo so much. It’s really, really adorable,” Ricci explains with a smile in her voice. “When he was off from school, he would go with the baby and our nanny to Cleo’s baby classes and, like, help with all the babies. He helps with her so much. He helps me when I bathe her and he always has to see her when she wakes up in the morning and then he always has to kiss her goodnight when she goes down. And I’ll pay him to watch her for, like, 20 minutes at a time.”

While Freddie is allowed to watch some of his mom’s more family-friendly fare—Casper, for example—Ricci doesn’t want him getting any ideas about becoming a child actor himself. In 2023, he’ll be nine, the same age that his mom was when she first appeared on the big screen. “I think there’s a lot of benefit to children just being children and not having any of the pressures of a workplace or a career,” she explains. “I probably would want them to be more mature if they wanted to start acting. I would tell them that I would find them a great acting program, but that I didn’t feel that they should be professionals yet.”

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That maternal instinct also comes through in the way she talks about her younger Yellowjackets costars, though she says they’re too savvy to need much advice from their older counterparts. Sammi Hanratty, who plays young Misty, was herself a child star, landing her first few roles at 10. “I would say that I talk more with Samantha about my experiences as an older actress,” Ricci says of Hanratty, 27. “And my experiences that I had when I was her age, and the ages she’s going to be. She’s already had that experience of being a child actor, so [it’s] more sharing experiences about what she’s about to go through.”

“I think there’s a lot of benefit to children just being children and not having any of the pressures of a workplace or a career.” 

If Yellowjackets Season Two is another hit, then what Hanratty and the other young stars are about to experience is a high level of fame—perhaps the same kind that Ricci experienced before she was even old enough to vote. When that happens, though, they’ll have Ricci in their corner, cheering them on while she mixes up gourmet baby food. “We consider ourselves very lucky to have a group of women like this,” she says, reflecting on how her posse of ’90s icons regards its up-and-coming counterparts. “That is something we’re really proud of.”

Photographed by Emily Shur

Styling by Turner/Makeup by Allan Avendano/Hair by Brian Fisher/Nails by Jolene Brodeur

Top photo fashion credits: Rodarte dress; Pamela Love bracelet and rings; Le Vian green stone ring; Gold band ring: Ricci's own

This article originally appeared in BUST’s Winter 2023 Print Edition. Subscribe today!