One might not consider the story of 19th century ax murderess Lizzie Borden anything to laugh at, but it’s the seriocomic treatment of the subject in the limited series “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” that drew respected film actresses Christina Ricci and Clea DuVall into the fold.
The hourlong eight-part series, which premieres Sunday (April 5), on Lifetime, presents a fictionalized look at the events and people surrounding Lizzie’s (Ricci) life following her acquittal of the horrific murders of her father and stepmother in 1892. Now famous, Lizzie finds herself living the life of a celebrity, complete with scandalous love affairs. When several people close to her turn up dead in strange and brutal circumstances, suspicion falls on you-know-who.
The series is a continuation of the 2014 Lifetime telepic “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax.”
“It’s a very fun, kind of outrageous show,” Ricci tells Zap2it of the new offering, “where you’re rooting for two antiheroes the whole time and kind of delighting in the macabre. It’s mostly macabre and kind of campy and fun. Above all, it’s just supposed to be a really fun show.”
The most fun part in playing an unbalanced character such as Lizzie, according to Ricci, is that anything goes.
“The only rules,” she says, “are kind of the rules you establish for yourself and for the character because it’s somebody who doesn’t really adhere to the rules of society.”
“I think a lot of the character is based on the action, sort of,” Ricci continues, “[which] imply who she is, really. Somebody who is able to take human life like this and actually derive pleasure from it is going to be a certain type of character. We definitely decided that she was sociopathic, that she either played at the emotions of a normal functioning person but that she probably didn’t have them for herself.”
One who was on the receiving end of Lizzie’s manipulations was sister Emma, whom the actress who portrays her, DuVall, describes as Lizzie’s enabler.
“In the very beginning,” DuVall explains, “she really took a back seat to Lizzie and really just served as her caretaker. And as the story evolved, she starts to get her own life and evolve into her own person and really has the opportunity to branch out from just being Lizzie’s sister. … She develops relationships outside of Lizzie, which she never had before, and finally taking the steps toward creating her own life and getting married and cutting the cord.”
“She feels threatened,” DuVall says of Lizzie, “and she feels scared because ultimately she is like a little girl who kind of learned to cope in not the best way.”