Christina Ricci grown-up and ‘normal’

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CHRISTINA Ricci in the TV drama “Pan Am”

“I studied the 1960s quite heavily when I was younger in school,” said “Pan Am” star Christina Ricci during a recent phone interview with the Inquirer. “I’ve always had a fascination for it; it’s a really interesting period.”

Ricci, 31, as a popular child star in the early ’90s, appearing in the film “Mermaids” and two “Addams Family” installments. She smoothly transitioned into teen roles, appearing in “Casper” and “That Darn Cat.” She later received acclaim for playing older characters in “The Ice Storm” and “The Opposite of Sex.”

Prior to the retro TV drama “Pan Am,” she landed a recurring role on “Ally McBeal” and, years later, guest appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Saving Grace.”

“I’ve wanted to do TV for a very long time,” Ricci said. “I’ve never done a TV show from start to finish.”

She finds returning to the same character on a regular basis “easy” and not that different from her previous projects. “The ability to keep a continuity is comforting,” she revealed. “[In movies], you’re keeping continuity for three months at a time, so this is just extended.”

Set in the early ’60s, “Pan Am” focuses on a spirited group of flight attendants and crew members. “Our show is about women at a time when misogyny was rampant and perfectly acceptable,” Ricci said. “[They’re] playing the game and managing to live lives, see the world, and have freedom that a lot of men didn’t have at that time.”

As stewardess Maggie Ryan, Ricci now looks at the job differently. “I have a huge amount of empathy for them. Just hearing a lot of ex-stewardesses’ stories, the crises they faced … it has given me so much respect for them.”

“An antagonistic presence” is how the actress considers her character. “Maggie is fun to play, straight to the point and energetic,” she said, adding, “I’m more laid-back than Maggie. I’m not as ambitious as she is. She’s still trying to figure out who she is and what she wants in life.”

Ricci admitted that the role is far from hassle-free. “I’m a big klutz; I injure myself about every other day, either during rehearsal or during a take! I usually trip over something, and I end up skinning my knees while I’m trying to serve coffee. I’ll make a terrible stewardess!”

But she enjoys getting into the uniform and developing rapport with her female cast mates. “I find that we depend on each other quite a bit, especially if you get into rhythm with the other actresses,” she said. “You learn to rely on each other … to work as a team and understand each other’s strengths.”

Ricci acknowledged being “normal,” and emphasized the importance of identifying priorities: “I think you need a personal life that’s fulfilling and to see this industry as just your job, not your life.”

(“Pan Am” starts airing on Saturday, Feb. 11, 9:50 p.m. on AXN Beyond.)

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