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Making Misty a Murderer: Christina Ricci Was Told Not to Do TV, Then She Found the Perfectly Flawed Character

Variety logo Variety 8/8/2022 Emily Longeretta
© Dan Doperalski for Variety

When Christina Ricci read the “Yellowjackets” script for the first time, she was fascinated by one specific quality of Misty Quigley: Her pettiness.

At the start, she wasn’t told much about the character’s arc in the Showtime survival drama. She didn’t know that as a girl Misty was so desperate to be needed by her peers so after a plane crash, she chose to destroy the black box, which meant the girls were deserted for months. Ricci didn’t know that, as an adult, Misty would keep a reporter prisoner in her basement and eventually, poison her with her own cigarette.

All she knew was that Misty’s job was a hospice nurse and that she used that power to abuse the elderly — a concept that captivated Ricci.

“To play a whole human being and get to explore a person that’s capable of that, for me, was really interesting,” she says, adding that the character has sociopathic characteristics. “There is probably a clinical diagnosis for her, but I’m just not educated enough to make it.”

For Ricci, it wasn’t about relating to Misty; in fact, that’s not necessarily important when she takes on a role.

“I don’t believe that you need to relate to a person to find it interesting. I don’t believe that today’s audience needs to relate to the story and to be fascinated by the story,” she says. “As women we’ve had to relate to men, these male stories about maleness that I haven’t related to but somehow, I was able to figure it out.”

That said, Ricci became defensive of Misty in the beginning, especially when people mocked her.

“I hated when everyone was like, ‘She’s so funny!’ I hated it the whole time. When people laughed at her, it was always laughing at someone who’s not in on the joke,” she says. “So really, because there’s a blurry line between where I stopped and she stops, personally, I was making a decision as Misty and viewing it as being laughed at. It was really interesting. I couldn’t figure out why I was so uncomfortable with it.”

Still, there is a positive side to Misty; despite being incapable of connecting with others, she has some admirable qualities, Ricci explains, starting with her ability to just have a good time and “be somebody who’s completely autonomous.”

“Because nobody has ever been there for her, she has never learned to rely on anybody else for happiness and she makes her own fun. She doesn’t feel the same things the other girls feel; she’s not part of the group. And I personally really admire that. I don’t enjoy group thought. I don’t enjoy trends. I don’t enjoy that people have the same taste in things to be friends. I love people who do not require other human beings to be happy. I really respect that about her, that sort of strength. It’s a defensive strength, but I still think it’s valid.”

In fact, that’s the best part of playing the quirky character — how much fun she has. “She’s gotten past the point of being upset about how rejected and alone she is, and now she’s just like, ‘Oh yeah? This is my life, fuck all of you.’ She’s having a really good time.”

The show also chronicles Misty’s earlier life with her classmates; Samantha Hanratty portrays the young Misty, alongside Sophie Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Sophie Thatcher, who play the young Shauna, Taissa and Natalie, respectively. The adult actors, meanwhile, include Ricci, Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress and Juliette Lewis.

After the series premiered, Lynskey revealed that she was body-shamed on set, with Ricci, Cypress and Lewis coming to her defense and writing a letter in solidarity. To Ricci, the moment stands out — mostly because she recalls how supportive the younger stars were — and the confidence they each exude.

“They’re so great at being like, ‘These are my boundaries. This is what’s OK with me,’” she says. “They’re so smart and so strong in all that. I was so impressed by the young women on our show.”

Ricci, who has been acting since she was 9 years old and has never taken a break, reflects on “so many things” she’d go back and tell herself when she got started — one being to do more television.

“I wanted to do TV when I was very young, and I was told not to,” she says.

“I’d tell myself then, ‘No matter what, do the TV. Follow your instincts.’ I would tell myself to follow my instincts more and not be swayed as much. TV was my refuge.”

Although she appeared here and there on TV, starring in seven episodes of “Ally McBeal” in 2002 and being nominated for an Emmy for her guest role in “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2006, she didn’t jump fully in until 2011 when she landed “Pan Am,” the ABC drama that was canceled after one season. Mostly, her career was all in films, making her name for herself in “The Addams Family,” “Casper,” “Now and Then,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Monster,” among others.

The most surprising role people bring up to her, however, is Beth Easton, a young girl who moves to a small town with her recently widowed mother in the adventure film “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain.”

The 1995 movie, co-starring Anna Chlumsky, was “terrible,” she recalls, and it never stops shocking her any time it’s mentioned.

On the other hand, one of her most famous characters, Wednesday Addams, is being done again — this time in the form of a Netflix show directed by Tim Burton. While Jenna Ortega will play the teenage Wednesday, Ricci is part of the project in a secret role.

“I was really flattered to be asked and to be asked by Tim,” she says, staying mum on any other details. “It’s nice to be a part of this next iteration of that character. It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to see other people’s takes on things and what they put of themselves into something like that.”

For now, she’s focusing on “Yellowjackets,” as the show with seven Emmy noms is set to begin filming Season 2 soon. Though she knows nothing about where she’s headed, one thing fans should not expect is seeing Misty in a relationship — despite her going on a date in Season 1.

“I don’t think Misty actually believes she’ll ever find love or be in a relationship. The way that I viewed it was that this is something she does because she’s bored in her life. It’s like men when they go out with women,” she says. “Even if they know that a woman doesn’t want to have sex with them, if they can convince that woman to have sex with them, they want that. I feel that Misty, in a similarly, sort of game-ish, predatory way, is doing the same thing. Her way of tricking him into having sex with her will be a guilt trip. And he will hate himself the whole time. And she will have won. I mean, she’s bored!”

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