Madeline Zima was born in Connecticut, but spent a sizable chunk of her upbringing in New York. A talent agent saw a future for her in television commercials and modeling and, in 1992, she had a small role in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Another film role in Mr. Nanny and a guest appearance on Law & Order followed.
From 1993 to 1999, Madeline Zima starred as the youngest of three siblings on Fran Drescher’s hit comedy series The Nanny. Now grown up, she’s a regular on Showtime’s Californication series. Madeline Zima also filmed three movies recently, including 2009’s Driving Lessons starring Dermot Mulroney and Selma Blair.
Here’s the talented and thoughtful Madeline Zima speaking with us about her career, the ultimate first date and sharing an on-screen kiss with Selma Blair.
What’s the one quality that you look for in a man?
Madeline Zima: Kindness is at the top of the [list] — looks are somewhere near the bottom, to be quite honest… kind people are more likely to stay with you longer and put up with whatever craziness that you’re going through, and they’re more likely to take care of you and be good partners. If you’re not kind, then you won’t be attractive to me personally because that spirit shines through and makes people attractive.
Who would you say is your ultimate man’s man? Why?
MZ: Sean Connery. Well, he’s a classic — he’s the original James Bond. He was like Mr. Universe, and also I think he only has like a sixth grade education, but it doesn’t matter — he’s Sean Connery! And he seems like he’d be a nice guy for some reason. You know, some guys I’m not quite sure about — I don’t want to say who obviously, but there’s some manly men… they seem like they’d be a little too manly.
So where should a man take a woman on a first date? What would make for the ultimate first date for you?
MZ: I think a great first date would be something different… not like movies or going to dinner… going rock climbing together… doing an activity and then going to dinner, so that you guys share an experience and then you have something to talk about and it’s not the same old thing. We’ve all had dates before where you go out to dinner and you talk. It could be a lovely time, but there’s nothing that interesting that goes on — maybe because it’s just the same old status quo date. So I think something that’s a little out of the ordinary is a good idea for a first date because you’ll share an experience that’s different for both of you and it’ll be a nice jumping-off point to start a conversation and a connection.
What’s something about you people would be surprised to know?
MZ: I’m very spiritual. I meditate every day. I don’t know if that’s surprising or not, but I’ve been doing that since I was 16 every day, so that’s like kind of my thing. I’m really a hippie-chick at heart.
an image Madeline Zima was considered for the lead role in 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
How do you feel about lists that rate women based on their desirability and sexiness?
MZ: It sounds pretty awful, to be honest with you, but then we have to go back to the idea that everyone does that, whether it’s written on a website where people read it or not. I mean, people definitely compare and contrast women all the time, and men [do] too.
I suppose it sounds worse than it really is because it is something that as humans we do naturally. Like when you look at someone, you rate them instantly based on just the way they appear, so why wouldn’t you do it on a website, especially if it’s based on people’s opinions? You can’t really debate that.
In your experience, is trading in your private life the price of fame to you? Is that how it feels?
MZ: The thing is that right now, I haven’t had to do that and I haven’t really gone after that kind of publicity that’s [discussing] my personal life or who I’ve been dating or this or that. I have a very secure personal life that’s totally separate from my professional life, which I’m really grateful for. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when it comes down to it, if I have the choice between a great role and seeing a new guy, I would probably go for the great role because I figure if the guy’s really that great that he’ll be around once I’m done with the movie.
The beautiful Madeline Zima answers more of our questions…
If you were in a situation where you did have to make more of those choices, as far as trading privacy for fame, does that sound worth it to you?
Madeline Zima: I don’t know that anything is really worth messing up a beautiful day outside, you know? I don’t think any amount of fame or anything is worth screwing up a nice walk in the sunshine. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but that’s really how I feel.
You make a living based on your image — are you afraid of losing that image?
MZ: I’m not really afraid of anything as far as image is concerned because it changes all the time and [you’re] always re-creating yourself in the public eye, I suppose. But I think that the most important thing to me is just really being honest and true. All the other crap is going to do whatever it does. You can’t be too concerned about what other people think or you’ll never have any peace. There’s always [going to be] someone who’s more attractive than you. You’ve gotta live with yourself at the end of the day, so what matters most to me is just being happy with what I am — that doesn’t always mean how I look, but being happy with who I am on the inside is really what counts.
Californication — what can we expect from your character, Mia, on the new season?
MZ: Well Mia is still around even though it would seem as though the Moody family is getting back together. Mia’s father’s gone and she wants to maintain her connection to Hank, and to Karen and Becca as well because they’re the closest thing she has to a family. She sort of latches herself onto them and deems herself like their adopted other child when no one has really adopted her.
Karen feels bad for her, so she invites her over, not knowingly inviting someone over that has slept with her ex, so it’s still a little weird. It’s still a little wrong, but I’m around. I don’t go that easily into the night.
It makes Mia more interesting that way, right?
MZ: Yes, I think so. Definitely an interesting character, so I always just have to find ways of justifying the things that she ends up doing.
How much would you say that you have in common with Mia?
MZ: Well, I mean at first glance and on the surface, practically nothing because she’s so manipulative and devious and all those things, but if I put myself in her position of not having a mom and not having really a father either, and feeling really all alone in the world, you do whatever you have to do to make yourself feel safe and feel cared for, and getting attention. I can understand where Mia’s coming from — I have done some stupid things in my day to get the attention of a boy. Not in the same vein at all, but I have been there and know what it’s like to be in a desperate place. And do whatever you can think of to get that person to notice you because you’re just crazy about them.
You were a child actress on The Nanny and as a former child star, what was your biggest challenge while you were growing up on TV?
MZ: I think working when you’re very young, when you’re a child and you work with mostly adults, it’s very hard to find anyone who you can relate to or who can understand. Just being a child, you have a different perspective on certain events. They seem much larger than they really are and certain things are life and death that to adults seem very unimportant. One of the challenges was just not having other kids around to relate to, so I was forced to sort of grow up. It’s funny because I feel like I’m more child-like now than I was when I was 11. I have to rediscover my youth.
What can you tell us about Driving Lessons, your upcoming movie with Dermot Mulroney, Selma Blair and Hope Davis?
MZ: Well, in that, I share an on-screen kiss with Selma Blair. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing — not the actual kiss itself, but it was just amazing to work with such wonderful actors. Selma was really lovely to work with. I know it’s not her first time kissing a girl on-screen, but it was my first time and she was very gentle with me.
As far as the future goes, what types of roles would you like to play? When you go to a movie, are there movies that you see where you think, “Wow, I would love to play a role like that”?
MZ: Yeah — I would love to play a role [in a classic movie] like Annie Hall. It’s just one of those great films of all-time. And I really liked Bugsy — I would love to play a sort of fast-talking dame from the ’40s. I’d love to do any period piece, whether it be like the turn of the century or the ’60s because I feel like I was born in the wrong era. So it would be really nice to play something that reflects more of the ideas that I think about — to get to live in a different time for a little while, even if it’s just make-believe, would be really fun.