Last night at the Hollywood Athletic Club, Amazon Studios pulled out all the stops in a presentation for their original series Z: The Beginning of Everything, screening two episodes of the series, followed by a panel discussion with the series’ stars, Christina Ricci and David Hoflin, and costume designer Tom Broecker moderated by Deadline’s Joe Utichi.
A thirty-minute period drama series created by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin (The Killing)—based on the novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler—Z: The Beginning of Everything presents a fictionalized look at the extraordinary life and times of American socialite and writer Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (Christina Ricci), one of the most iconic public personas of her era, alongside her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald (David Hoflin).
“I just happened to read Therese’s book, and I loved it, and I couldn’t believe that I had such misconceptions about Zelda Fitzgerald,” Ricci said, of the way in which she found her way to the project.” Assuming someone was already making a film about Zelda’s incredible life story, Ricci had her manager inquire about the rights to the novel, which she ultimately realized were still available.
The executive producer and star of the Amazon series, Ricci was inspired by the idea of taking a figure shrouded in mythology and bringing her to life in a new way. “I think that for me, what I really wanted was this idea of giving this woman who lives in myth—either adored or reviled—make her human, give her back her humanity,” the actress remarked.
When it came to preparations for their roles in the series, Ricci and Hoflin had very different methodologies, with Ricci pursuing a deeper dive into research, to do the part justice. “I did tons and tons of research about Zelda—I read two biographies, I read all of her writing that I could get my hands on, and I read all of [F. Scott Fitzgerald’s] writing,” she explained. “I read about that period of time in America—I pretty much covered all my bases, because it is very intimidating to play somebody who is kind of the stuff of legend. You don’t want to disappoint anyone, or embarrass yourself.”
Hoflin, on the other hand, found that indulging in too much research can become an all-consuming venture. “I think you can go crazy, doing so much research, because there’s so much stuff written about them, and then not only that, but we’ve got obviously scripts to read, and there’s an element of a storyline that Z’s telling,” he said. “It’s a person’s view on what happened, so I think there’s gotta be a limit, or at least there was for me. There’s a limit to doing research, and then trying to work out how that relates to the actual work that you’re doing.”
In approaching Z, Ricci was much more interested in examining who Zelda Fitzgerald really was away from the glamor, the Hollywood spotlight, and the persona the writer put on in public—though the actress admitted that Fitzgerald’s real and constructed personas did, at times, coincide.
“For me, it’s very much about playing a woman, about being very real, and human, and heartfelt,” Ricci explained. “It’s sort of like pulling back the curtain a little bit, so the celebrity aspect of it and the iconic kind of aspect of it was something I didn’t even think of at all, except for the way that celebrity affected her behavior, and how she felt about herself.”
Emmy-winning costumer Tom Broecker sparked to the idea of visually examining a fascinating moment in fashion and culture, generally, profiting in his process from visual resources and a “wealth of information” that are readily available to the public.
“The interesting part about this show, for me anyway, is that it is a really ugly period, until you actually get to know it, and then it’s a really spectacularly beautiful period, because it’s actually right before what we imagine as the most beautiful period in fashion, which is the later ‘20s,” Broecker said.
Bowing in January, Z‘s first season follows Zelda’s marriage to the author, and subsequent marital tensions stemming from both a raucous partying lifestyle, and F. Scott’s inability to take his wife on her own terms, recognizing her worth and innate ability as a writer.
With the announcement of a Season 2 renewal for the series coming just hours before the night’s panel, Ricci expressed her excitement at the prospect of a second season, discussing what it may mean for the show going forward.
“We’re truly thrilled. It’s such a rich history and their story is so fascinating. It should be a pretty exciting second season,” the actress said, while acknowledging that the story may continue to travel down some darker avenues. “Certainly, we’re going to get more into the complexities of their marriage, and what led to her (Zelda’s) breakdown.”
The Z panel last night and a final presentation at the Hollywood Athletic Club tonight mark the culmination of a two-week FYC event, in which Amazon set up ten rooms within the two levels of the Sunset Blvd. facility, each specifically designed for one of Amazon’s roster of television series. The series represented include The Man in the High Castle, Z: The Beginning of Everything, Goliath, Sneaky Pete, Patriot, Mozart in the Jungle, Catastrophe, Transparent, the yet-to-premiere I Love Dick, and two beloved children’s television programs, Just Add Magic and An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win.
To view Deadline’s conversation with Christina Ricci, David Hoflin and costume designer Tom Broecker for yourself, click above.