Christina Ricci has been a staple of edgy movies for some time, but she’s now ready to take flight with a weekly television role.
“Monster” and “Black Snake Moan” are among the testaments to Ricci’s knack for unconventional characters, and if she’s going to play a more traditional one, at least it jets back about 50 years. The ABC series “Pan Am” premieres Sunday (Sept. 25) with Ricci as a stewardess in the early 1960s, when international air travel still was a new adventure — though Pan American World Airways would meet its demise in 1991.
“When it’s you, you don’t have the objectivity to step back and say whether it’s a big deal or not,” the still-petite Ricci tells Zap2it about making her full-time move to the home screen. “I love television, and I feel like some of the best talent is working in TV right now, from acting to writing and directing. For a while, I’ve been wanting to be on a show.”
Ricci has dipped a toe into that pool on occasion, with extended guest runs on “Ally McBeal” and “Saving Grace.” She notes, “I’ve wanted the experience of being with one character for a long time. I always wondered what that would be like. I’m one of those people who likes to experience a lot of different things, so I think it must be kind of amazing to have a sense of who someone you’re playing really is.”
“Pan Am” executive producer Jack Orman has given Ricci confidence that she’s going in the right direction. “He called me and said, ‘Just from the dailies, I can see Maggie coming out and who she’s going to be. It’s so exciting to see her evolving.’ I really wanted that, to feel that person changing. As a TV watcher, I’ve seen that, and I thought it would just be so much fun as an actress.”
The full-scale airplane mockup being used for “Pan Am” is a big help in putting the cast in the right mindset. “You have to have that sense of excitement every time,” Ricci reflects. “I always remind myself that the passengers are excited, and you’re excited because they are. There are great meals, fresh flowers, the silver is real … it’s a job for the stewardesses, but at the same time, it’s meant to be beautiful.”
Having flown often, Ricci knows firsthand when travel can lose some of its beauty. “Because I can look really young, I was told one time to get out of first class and use the bathroom in the back of coach,” she recalls. “Then I came back to sit down in my seat in first class and they were like, ‘What are you doing? We told you to go back to coach.’
“They didn’t believe me. I had to show them my ticket, which I luckily could find, because I often throw it away once I’m on the plane. And they still were like, ‘What?’ Once I showed them my ID, they recognized my name and said, ‘Oh.’ After that, I kept getting apologies for hours.”
Not that Ricci could forgive completely: “One of the same stewardesses kept saying, ‘Will you sign an autograph for my daughter?’ And I was like, ‘Really??'”