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Madeline Zima On Playing Gay With Selma Blair in ‘The Family Tree’

Madeline Zima On Playing Gay With Selma Blair in ‘The Family Tree’

The star of the new indie talks about playing lesbian character, Mitzi, making out with Selma Blair, and her time on Heroes with Hayden Panettiere.

Madeline Zima, star of the new indie The Family Tree, which sees her having a passionate fling with her female teacher, played by Selma Blair, probably looks familiar.

You might have noticed Zima’s nuanced performances on Californication, as Claire the cheerleader’s lesbian love interest/ college roommate on Heroes, or even her early work in the Hand That Rocks The Cradle and a lengthy stint under Fran Drescher's care on The Nanny.’s Daniel Schweiger talked to the actress about playing the lesbian character, Mitzi, and making out with Selma Blair in Family Tree, and her time on Heroes.

“Initially I was going to play her as just tough and butch,” Zima says of preparing to play Mitzi, a lesbian student in love with her tracher. “I thought my hair would be curly and that I’d be wearing these big baggie clothes. I imagined everything about her screaming, “I don’t care!” But Vivi had a totally different vision for Mitzi. She saw her as wearing these short dresses, because wearing tights with the leg brace looks like a feat in itself. I was just so shocked by the wardrobe, but it’s beautiful. While those new clothes didn’t really affect my performance that much, I internally had to make some adjustments to tone some things down about the way I was going to play Mitzi.”

When it came time for the passionate scenes, Zima leaned on her co-star Blair’s experience in crafting infamous on-screen lesbian kisses.


“She was so great,” Zima tells Buzzline. “Kind, sweet, and very funny. Selma shared this very iconic kiss with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions. That made me very nervous because this was the first time I’d ever had a female kiss on screen. But when the time came, Selma made it very comfortable. I think she may have ended up being more nervous than I was, actually, because it’s always uncomfortable to do a kissing scene with anybody, let alone doing it with two heterosexual women.”

Zima also recounts how she came to be cast as Gretchen, Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) college friend and potential love interest on Heroes.I auditioned for the role a couple of times,” she explains. “The second time, I had a chemistry read with Hayden Panettiere. I was like, “Why am I doing a chemistry read with another girl?  Why does that matter?” But then I realized, “Hmmm. They’re going to make my character a lesbian.” I had never watched the show, but I knew it had a huge following. It was fun working on it, particularly when I got to go to Comic-Con with the show. Hayden was lovely to work with and just so supportive to run lines with.  She’s such a professional. I knew we would get along when we had the chemistry read, because we’ve both been acting since we were children. I’m convinced that the whole child actor into adult career takes a special breed of human being. We all seem to have humility toward each other and get along. It’s so rare to be on such a successful television show where the people aren’t all crazy egomaniacs on the set. Heroes wasn’t like that. It was like being part of a family, which is so rare for any show. I wish it could have gone on longer.

And if it had continued, diehard Heroes fans will be happy to know, she imagine Gretchen and Claire continuing their friendship. “I wanted her to have a super power,” Zima says of her character, “which Gretchen originally was supposed to as a double agent for the carnival. But the producers changed their minds and made me human so I could be in Claire’s life longer, which was kind of cool. So I guess they liked me well enough to keep me on the show. I was only supposed to do five episodes and I ended up doing something like 14 shows... Even if they had a relationship or not, she and Claire would definitely have been able to remain friends.”

Read the complete interview with Zima on now.

Entertainment One's The Family Tree opens on August 26, 2011 and co-stars Christina Hendricks, Jane Seymour, Dermot Mulroney, Rachael Leigh cook, and Hope Davis.

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Lily Shavick