Many are familiar with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s tragic, yet passionate love story. The glamorous parties and literary successes; the alcoholism and mental illness. But the lesser told story comes from Zelda’s perspective. A new Amazon series, “Z: The Beginning of Everything” starring Christina Ricci as the vivacious Southern belle with a creative streak, shows us the infamous couple through Zelda’s eyes.
Ricci, who also executive produces, says she was inspired to portray Zelda after reading “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler, a fictionalized account of the Fitzgeralds that positions Zelda as the narrator.
“I didn’t really know anything about [Zelda] except for the common misconceptions that other people have,” says the 36-year-old actress. “It struck me the same way Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ kind of struck me; it’s a way into a really inaccessible world, and to see that world from the inside out, it’s fascinating.”
Ricci talks with us about debunking the mythos of Zelda, the bunk notion of the “hysterical woman” and how she couldn’t get enough of that “black velvet and diamonds.”
You mention the common misconceptions many of us have about Zelda. What can viewers learn about her from watching the show?
So many things. She was not an alcoholic; she just partied. [Scott] was the alcoholic. When you go back and read the biographies, she was always helping him through these periods of being sober. I didn’t realize how much of his writing was hers; I had no idea. I also thought that she was schizophrenic — [but there’s] no evidence of schizophrenia whatsoever.
How much of her diagnosis was due to the sexism of the time; the notion of women being hysterical?
Well, one thing I’ve always found fascinating is a lot of the women you read about in history all had nervous breakdowns, or had to be hospitalized. You’re like, really? You see, they were just really angry. And the husband was like, “You must be insane to be this mad at me.” [Laughs]
You’ve done a number of dark roles throughout your career. Is this one any different?
I’ve always said, can you define “dark” for me? To me, these are just people. But honest human behavior, flawed as it may be. I think it’s great that we’re in a time now that it’s not really considered that dark. And we all know so much these days, we’re all so therapized. With all the information we have, I think we’re starting to judge people a little less. That’s what allows you to have the environment that’s right for this story.
What new insight will we get into Scott and Zelda’s relationship?
I think it’s a very honest approach to the relationship. They had a great passion, they loved each other’s ambition. Yes, it’s a great love affair, but there’s a lot of pragmatism involved in these love affairs. You can love someone and hate them at the same time. And someone can torture you and you still are obsessed with them. Who’s to say that any of those things are not real love?
We read that in one episode you wear 24 different outfits. Any favorite ‘20s looks?
I loved all the clothes, but I like the clothes after she becomes the “it” girl, where she gets really dramatic. Those are my favorite dresses. More New York-y. I was always like, “Can we get some black velvet in here?” [Laughs] I like black velvet and diamonds. That was my jam.