The Emmy-nominated actress discusses her new film, Bel Ami, and outlines her acting career and her work with young women who are victims of sexual assault.
Actress Christina Ricci
Tavis: Pleased to welcome Christina Ricci to this program. The star of so many notable films and TV projects is also a long-time activist on behalf of rape and abuse victims in this country. More on that, of course, in a moment.
Her latest project is the new film “Bel Ami,” which opens in select cities this weekend. And so here now a scene from “Bel Ami.”
Tavis: I was asking you whether or not the accent came easy or hard for you?
Christina Ricci: I find it hard. I find it really intimidating, and that’s the hardest part.
Ricci: Yeah, I find it very nerve-wracking, and I think that’s the hardest part of doing any accent, is kind of getting past the fear.
Tavis: What’s your – I’m always curious – what’s your process for learning the accent?
Ricci: Well, hopefully on any project they hire a great accent coach. (Laughter) Then that person sort of walks you through learning the accent, and then usually they’re on set every day to sort of listen to every take and coach you through it. So that’s always a great relief.
Tavis: I’m going to ask you to tell me about the film in just a second, but I can’t sit here any longer without looking down at your shoes.
Ricci: Oh. (Laughs)
Tavis: Hey, Michael, can you get these shoes? Can you get – yeah. Cool.
Ricci: Thank you. (Laughter) Thank you.
Tavis: Kisses. I love the lips. Those are nice shoes. So now that I got that out the way, I can move on. Tell me about “Bel Ami.”
Ricci: Well, it’s based on the book by Guy de Maupassant and it takes place in Victorian Paris, and it’s about George Duroy, who Robert Pattinson plays, and it’s basically his story of ambition and greed and lust and how he sort of rises to a position of power by kind of exploiting three women and the affairs he has with them.
Tavis: Your character, specifically?
Ricci: My character, Clotilde, is one of the first women he gets – or the first woman he gets involved with, and they keep coming back to each other, even though Clotilde keeps discovering – she sort of slowly starts to see what he is really like and how incapable he is, really, of love.
But they keep coming back to each other because he – it was always sort of discussed, and we had already always discussed this idea that if he really was capable of love and if love was enough for this character, that he would probably end up with Clotilde, that that would be the woman that he loved. So they come back together all the time.
Tavis: How do you – I’m always curious about this for every actor but especially and particularly for those who have such a broad palette over the course of their careers.
There’s certain actors – not calling any names here – but play the same character over and over and over again. So your palette is pretty broad. The range of stuff you’ve played in your young career – your young life, I should say. You’ve been at this for a long time.
Tavis: But the range of characters is so diverse. What specifically draws you to a character like this?
Ricci: Well, this character I thought was so interesting because she’s sort of one of those rare people who probably has never really known a day of pain in her life, emotional pain, and when you meet her in the movie she’s just very content and happy and upbeat, and just wants to have fun.
The first time she really experiences heartache or angst is in front of us. It’s in the course of the story. To me that was so interesting, because usually you’re playing people with an emotional history of baggage, and that’s what makes them who they are.
To play someone who is who they are because of the happiness and contentedness that they’ve known in their life is interesting because of sort of how banal it is.
Tavis: Yeah. To your point about how banal it is – that’s the perfect word – how does one whose experience has been so foreign to that, obviously it has something to do with your acting chops, but how does one who has led a life that is so foreign to that play a character that hasn’t had any emotional tumult in her –
Ricci: Everything, I think, about acting is based on imagination.
Tavis: That’s fair, I’ll take that.
Ricci: I think that it’s just like any other part; you just really have to just put yourself in that position. Imagine. Sometimes you can boil it down to a feeling at one moment and say, well, what if I had this feeling all the time? What if this was the main thing I felt my whole life?
You just sort of try to color every scene, every experience, with that kind of feeling.
Tavis: I offered a moment ago, Christina, my assessment, which doesn’t mean diddly, but offered my assessment of the kinds of characters and roles that I’ve seen you play. What’s your assessment of your career as a thespian? You’ve been at this since you were a child.
At this point, you’re 32 now, what’s your assessment of your career to date in terms of the trajectory and the characters you’ve played over the course of this journey so far?
Ricci: Well, I think I’ve had a fairly meandering career. Because I did start so young, I think that I’ve always chosen my parts based on what’s interesting to me and what I think would be challenging or fun, or someone I’ve always wanted to work with or a place I’ve always wanted to work in or a topic.
There’s so many different, for me, there’s so many different reasons why I pick something, and most of it has to do with just I want so many different experiences, and I feel like this career lends itself to so many different experiences that I just don’t want to miss out on anything.
Tavis: Every child actor, it seems to me, in this town, if you stay in the business long enough, has ups and downs, not unlike the rest of us who are not actors, ups and downs in our lives as well.
So I won’t get into that tonight because you’ve talked about that and that’s well documented. The question I do want to ask, though, is how you have kept yourself all these years from being burnt out by the business, and maybe you have been, and thought about quitting, wanted to get out. You tell me how you have stayed in the business all this time.
Ricci: Well, I’ve never thought about not doing this. It’s just always been something that I thought I would do forever. Maybe when I was younger I kind of thought oh, I’ll do something else when I’m an adult, but I think when you view something as something that makes up – I don’t know, it’s just always been part of my identity, I think, so it never seemed like something I wouldn’t do.
Tavis: Do you appreciate the business now, or were you turned on by it more when you were a younger actor?
Ricci: I think that I romanticized it more when I was younger, but I still really love it. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a set, on a film set. You won’t see me in a better mood than 4:00 in the morning on my way to work.
People are always like, “You’re so obnoxious. Will you stop talking?” (Laughter) I had an assistant once who was like, “I have never heard you talk so much except for before the sun comes up at 4:00 in the morning when we’re on our way to work.” I love it.
Tavis: Yeah, that’s cool. (Laughs) Are you still – segue here though – you’re still doing your activist work around –
Ricci: Yeah, as much as I can.
Tavis: How’d that start for you?
Ricci: I actually become involved at, like, 16. Not directly and not in a hands-on way, but I had read an article about Tori Amos, and she helped found RAIN. I had just read this article about Tori and that’s where she talked about RAIN, and I did something, like an event or something, and they said that they would donate money to the charity of my choice, and so I named RAIN.
Then after that I just always named RAIN as my charity, and then when I did “Black Snake Moan,” which is about a survivor of childhood rape and incest, I became directly involved with them. Contacted them and became involved with them.
Tavis: I saw Samuel, I saw Sammy the other day in New York, I think, and I mentioned this to him the other day. I think for as long as I live, of all the trailers that I’ve seen, I will never get that trailer out of my head.
Ricci: Oh, really?
Tavis: That was the most (laughter) arresting and scary – the trailer itself was just so –
Ricci: Is that the one where you, like, slowly see the chain moving or something?
Ricci: I think I remember that. Yeah, it was – yeah, it was kind of odd, the way they marketed that film.
Tavis: Odd’s a good word. (Laughter) Exit question here – what’s the take-away for you from doing the work with these young women and girls?
Ricci: Well, I think that everyone has to find their corner of the world to sort of care about and clean up, and their cause. But for me, it’s just – it’s something that I just feel like there’s so much injustice around this topic.
There are children that are left completely unprotected and with no means of getting out of the horrible situations, and RAIN provides that through their online hotlines and their phone hotlines and everything.
Also, just we’re so far behind in the criminal justice that is provided for rape victims, and we’re trying really hard to catch up.
Tavis: Well, thank you for the work that you’re doing on that.
Ricci: Thank you.
Tavis: And thank you for your work as a thespian, all these years later.
Ricci: Oh, thanks.
Tavis: The new project is called “Bel Ami,” starring one Christina Ricci and Robert Pattinson. Great project. Good to have you on.
Ricci: Thank you.
Tavis: It’s my pleasure. That’s our show for tonight. Until next time, keep the faith.
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