Christina Ricci discusses her first marriage, how motherhood helped her overcome a nihilistic streak, and why she attempted to avoid media focus on her beauty as she matured from a child star to a young woman.
“I didn’t enjoy that,” the actress, now 42, tells Sunday Times Style of the attention given to her changing body. “I never wore clothes to garner sexual attention, because I have always felt that kind of attention in a very threatening way.”
As she grew older, the Addams Family actor — who will participate in Netflix’s new Wednesday series — gravitated toward darker parts and a “feral and wild” lifestyle. Ricci views that time as a “reaction” to her “chaotic” childhood.
Though the Mermaids star has been divorced from her father since her adolescence, she tells the New York Times that she “grew up in a very chaotic home.”
She learned early on how to utilize her precociousness to her advantage as the youngest of four children. “My ability to be cute might help to calm situations or distract people,” she says.
Being “emotionally sensitive” as a child aided her profession. However, it became “exhausting” and so Ricci learned to tune out her feelings.
“I just felt no passion, no care,” she says. “I made a lot of important decisions completely dispassionately, which ended up being a problem later — so, note to anyone, don’t make important life decisions when you are going through periods of nihilism. But really it was a reaction. It was exhausting to be so upset and in pain all the time.”
The birth of her son Freddie eight years ago changed everything.
“My son’s birth really broke my nihilism and it was a pretty surprising change,” she says. “I thought I would really love him and feel a lot of emotions towards him. I didn’t realize that it is all or nothing.”
Ricci’s first husband, James Heerdegen, who she alleged of physical and emotional abuse when she filed a restraining order last year, is Freddie’s father. Though Ricci is cautious to discuss her marriage, she did speak about her struggle to see things for what they were.
“Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but it took me a long time to admit to myself what was going on, what it should be called,” says Ricci, who welcomed a daughter with second husband Mark Hampton last December. “Denial is very strong. Of course, you don’t want to accept that the worst possible thing is happening and that you put yourself in that situation. So it took me a really long time to realize that.”
Aside from the emotional toll, the breakup hurt Ricci’s finances, prompting her to sell some of the Chanel purses she’d amassed during her career.
“Certain traumas in life go along with financial traumas, extended court situations, custody situations, fighting restraining orders,” she says. “Having said that, I’m absolutely doing fine, there’s no issue. But I learned to use these investment pieces in different ways. I also had a Chanel Fine Jewelry collection that I put to good use.”
Ricci is looking ahead, not back, with a new spouse, a new baby, and an Emmy-nominated role on Yellowjackets.
“I think it is important to say that I don’t feel like a victim in any way,” she says. “I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t even feel like saying, ‘Well, it’s been a really hard road for me.’ Everybody has their personal issues and this has been mine, and it has been about finding my own self-worth and position and strength and power.
“I tell my story only because I know that having been in situations like the one I was in, I searched for success stories, stories of people who could get out, could get over it, and just be OK. And so the fact that now I am in this place where I am so much better than OK, that is my impetus for being honest about it.
Today I am not ready to talk about it in more depth, but I do think it is important that we have examples for other women — that, as scary as it is, changing your life and saving yourself is the only choice.”