It's been nearly 20 years since Christina Ricci embodied macabre schoolgirl Wednesday Addams. And ever since, she's been known for her snark. "If anything sounds really ridiculous, I'm probably joking," prefaces the actor, now poised to make her Broadway debut in Time Stands Still (she's replacing Alicia Silverstone as Mandy, the bubbly event planner). Although she's landed major roles in films such as Monster, Prozac Nation and The Opposite of Sex, Ricci feels she hasn't changed much since her first star turn. "I look almost exactly the same, even in baby pictures," she says. "It's my face, on a big, bald baby head. And I still look pretty fucking weird." As she takes a crack at the stage, she brings an education accrued from working two decades in Hollywood, hanging with acting legends and watching a ton of Oprah.
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Are you ready for your Broadway debut?
It's been a really long time since I've walked into a situation and had no idea about anything. I don't even know how people usually learn their lines. I decided to approach it like the periodic table—I made flash cards.
Your first role was in a school play in elementary school. But you got it by instigating a fight, right?
Yeah, I'm not proud of it. It was in second-grade music class, and I remember thinking that I was so much better than the kid who'd been cast. I was like, "That's so unfair; it's just because he's a boy." I don't remember exactly how conscious my manipulation of him was, but I definitely got him to smack me, and then I immediately went to the teacher. I was like, "Nicky hit me, so...I'm not sure what you want to do about that."
And his punishment was that you got his role?
I don't know how I worked that out in my little brain. And I haven't done anything that evil since. My cattiest moment was at age seven.
At least you avoided being a Hollywood partyer as a teenager.
I had the normal growing pains. I was hugely into the supercool, elite clubs in New York and hanging out with rock stars and stuff. I did that till I was, like, 19, when I felt that I needed responsibility in my life.
Wow, that's very mature for 19.
Well, I've been in therapy since I was 14, and I've always been addicted to Oprah. She's all about bettering your life. Oprah saved me when I was six, by the way. I had a really bad head injury, and my mother let me go to sleep. My sister had been watching an Oprah show about childhood head injuries just that afternoon, and she was like, "Wake her up!" I was in the hospital for, like, nine hours, and they said, "Thank God you woke her up when you did."
I imagine you'll be pretty upset when Oprah goes off the air.
I cried when Dolly Parton sang "I Will Always Love You" on that episode [this past May]. Oh, my God, lost my shit. Not being sarcastic. But then I realized that Oprah's going to have her own show on her own network!
Plus, she's given us a lot of reruns.
My dream project: get the whole Oprah 20-year box set, and just veg out on the couch with my dogs.
Think of all the knowledge you'd acquire.
I have this theory: If you watch enough television, you can actually get a really good education. I'm obsessed with House right now. The things I'm learning! Like, yesterday I learned that if someone's coming off amphetamines and you think they might stroke out, give 'em a painkiller.
You could run a hospital.
I have so many fantasy jobs. Maybe I should go back for my nursing degree...
Could you deal with people's bodies?
I could. I'm not very squeamish. And I'm really good in an emergency situation.
Like if the set falls down or something?
I remember Raul Julia telling me that part of being a great actor was keeping the scene alive no matter what happens.
Are you ready to be someone else's mentor, pass on wisdom?
I think I may be a little bit of a know-it-all. I'll start telling someone something, then stop and go, "You know? That may not actually be true. You should google that."
Time Stands Still reopens Thu 7.