Italia Ricci

Italia Ricci, photo by Brent Weber

by MARIA SCALA

Richmond Hill native Italia Ricci says she’s learned a lot from the cast and crew of Designated Survivor. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the family around me on the show that I do. Everyone is so talented and has such an amazing work ethic that it really forced me to step up and get on their level both in front of and behind the cameras. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

When the third season of the political thriller went on air, fans have certainly noted some changes, especially with Ricci’s character, Emily Rhodes. “The tone is quite different because we’re on Netflix now. We can curse, there’s a little untidiness and the show overall just feels more grown-up. Emily resigned as chief of staff at the end of season two. So we find her in Florida staying with her mom and follow what happens to get her back to D.C.”

For Ricci, the best thing about filming the show in Toronto was being near her family and in-laws. Ricci is married to actor Robbie Amell, who played Fred Jones in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins and Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster movies. “It’s really nice to be able to be home for most of the year instead of just visiting once or twice for a week or so. I got to jump into Woodbridge for my nonna’s pasta whenever I had a day off and I will miss that the most when back in LA. My waistline might be thankful, though.”

The 32-year-old calls growing up Italian-Canadian “the best of both worlds” since she was surrounded by “close family and extended family, great food and all of the Canadian manners.” Her maternal grandparents are from Letino (Campania), and her paternal ones are from Pisterzo (Lazio). “I spent some time in Italy when I was very young but I don’t remember much. I shot the finale of Chasing Life in 2015 in Rome and fell in love with it so much that I made my husband take me back there and then to Positano for our honeymoon. ”

Portraying April Carver, an ambitious young woman facing leukemia in Chasing Life, is one of Ricci’s standout roles. She also played villain Silver Banshee in Supergirl. Ricci notes, “They’ve each had their challenges, but I think the hardest to actually play was Silver Banshee, mostly because the majority of what happens on the screen wasn’t actually happening as we filmed it. So you had to use so much of your imagination. I give so much credit to all the actors on the shows with that much VFX [visual effects]. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.”

In her formative years, Ricci’s heroes were wide-ranging. “I was very impressionable growing up, so I think my heroes were whoever was the latest badass character to do something amazing on whatever show or movie I was watching. I remember watching movies like Center Stage and thinking I had to be a dancer; Girlfight and being convinced I was meant to box; and Ally McBeal totally had me wanting to go into law.”

Ricci is making her own impact volunteering with Stand Up to Cancer, the American Cancer Society, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Stupid Cancer. “I was able to get involved with some of these charities as I was filming Chasing Life. I was lucky enough to be a voice for some of the communities that they help. I felt so guilty that I could kind of turn the cancer off when I finished filming so I wanted to do more to help the people that didn’t get to do that. And now the show is over, but they’ve stuck with me.”

Ricci’s next role might be her most challenging and rewarding one yet. This spring, shortly after returning from filming Rome in Love in Italy for Hallmark Channel USA, she and Amell announced they are expecting their first child. “It’s still sinking in, but we’re very excited.”

Italia Ricci and Robbie Amell became parents last September.