Christina Ricci talks 'Monstrous,' 'Yellowjackets' Emmy buzz and a role fueled by 'absolute fury'

Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

There’s a bit of a Ricci-sance upon us, and Christina Ricci’s feeling pretty good about it.

She was a child star who began her career in 1990’s “Mermaids” and became a household name with the “Addams Family” franchise, “Sleepy Hollow” and other films. At 42, she’s now garnering Emmy talk for her fan-favorite role in Showtime’s hit “Yellowjackets" and embracing the confidence of “the pure person I was when I was younger,” Ricci says.

“Sometimes through your life, you diverge from who you are and try to change and adapt or try to be what you think you need to be and all these things. I definitely went on that journey and came back around and now I feel more like the person I was at 11 or 12, which is not a bad thing for me.” 

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Christina Ricci plays the unhinged adult Misty Quigley in Showtime's hit psychological drama "Yellowjackets."

In her new 1950s-set horror film “Monstrous” (in theaters and on demand Friday), Ricci plays a single mom who flees with her 7-year-old son from an abusive ex but is haunted by a spooky creature at their new lakehouse sanctuary. The actress, who appeared in last year's "The Matrix Resurrections," also has a role later this year in Tim Burton’s “Wednesday” series for Netflix, which stars Jenna Ortega as a teenage version of Ricci’s iconic character. “I can only say that I do not play Wednesday,” she quips.

By end of summer, she hopes to be back filming the second season of “Yellowjackets.” In the psychological survival drama told over two timelines, Samantha Hanratty plays teenage Misty Quigley, the nerdy equipment manager for a girls soccer team that crash-lands in the wilderness, and Ricci is the grown-up Misty 25 years later “born of decades of rejection and learning to gain power.”

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Christina Ricci stars as a mom haunted by a spooky creature who wants her son in the 1950s-set horror film "Monstrous."

Ricci talks with USA TODAY about her “Yellowjackets” role, working with kids and her cool vintage ride:

Question: There’s a lot of retro flavor in “Monstrous,” including a classic 1950s Chevrolet your character owns. Did they actually let you drive it?

Christina Ricci: Everyone was really concerned that I wouldn't be able to drive it. But I did, no problem. Those older cars are just a lot looser in terms of steering and braking and all of those things. I drove it out in the desert. It's pretty fun.

Q: When you’re interacting with your onscreen “Monstrous” son or younger “Yellowjackets” castmates, do you understand them better in a way because you were a child star?

Ricci: I remember being a child actor and wanting to feel like I had a place professionally on set, and I wasn't necessarily just this visiting kid that didn't belong there. So, I always just try to be respectful. I don't condescend. People ask me if I give other child actors advice and the answer's no because I just feel like it's so much more important to just treat your co-workers, even if they're children, with respect at all times.

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Christina Ricci starred as goth kid Wednesday Addams in 1991's "The Addams Family."

Q: For ’90s kids, you will always be Wednesday Addams. What was it like to have a role in her Netflix reboot?

Ricci: I love that world, I love the character, and I love Tim Burton. Jenna is fabulous and her Wednesday is a really great modern take and I think people will love it. It is nice to be included in the reimagining of a character that I'm so famous for playing.

Q: When you were filming the first “Yellowjackets” season, did you feel that Misty had potential as a breakout character?

Ricci: Not really. You're so desperate to just make sure you get it right and do a great job, but for me, I sometimes don't necessarily think about the fact that people will react to it or not. But she was always definitely the comic relief of the show. So I was aware that she would be seen in a slightly different way than the others.

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Christina Ricci, left, ) with "Yellowjackets" co-stars Samantha Hanratty and Liv Hewson at the GLAAD Media Awards in April.

Q: What's your favorite aspect of her?

Ricci: I really enjoy playing a different sort of rage. That is what adult Misty is powered by, this deep rage at not being able to have the things that she wants in life. And she expresses it in this very passive-aggressive manner. I love passive aggressiveness and I love seeing that as a manifestation of absolute fury.

Q: Is this career resurgence by design or are you just getting better projects coming your way these days?

Ricci: Definitely “Yellowjackets” was better than a lot of the things that I had been working on in the past couple of years. You always want to do well, and I never stopped working. I never took like a break. I guess this sort of success is always the goal. So it is by design in terms of anyone would want this to happen. (Laughs.) But it's really great and gratifying that it's sort of happening now and surprising at the same time. You keep plodding along and working and then all of a sudden you're like, “OK! This time, it hit.”