Christina Ricci describes the eye-opening conversation she had with Johnny Depp as a child

Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp have been in each other’s lives for more than three decades. As actors, Ricci and Depp have worked together on several occasions, the first dating back to 1998 when they worked together on Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Filmed in 1997, then 17-year-old Ricci only had a small role but reunited with Depp just a year later to film Tim Burton’s gothic horror Sleepy Hollow.

This time, Ricci shared the lead role with Depp, allowing the actors to deepen their bond. Shortly thereafter, Ricci landed her third feature film with Depp. Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried also marked the first time the old friends had to engage in love scenes, an experience she described as “strange” during a 2012 appearance on “The Jonathan Ross Show” (via Metro).

Actors are trained to put their personal lives aside when it comes to developing on-screen chemistry. But Ricci had a pretty good reason to be uncomfortable getting intimate with Depp. Ricci was just 9 years old when she first met the star, who was then in her mid-20s, Depp told The Guardian. While the two first worked together in 1997, they had met on the set of Ricci’s very first project, Mermaids, the 1990 comedy-drama starring Cher and Winona Ryder. Since Ryder was Depp’s girlfriend at the time, he often showed up to visit her locally. During this time, Ricci learned a significant lesson from Depp.

Johnny Depp declared homosexuality to Christina Ricci

Child stars are mostly surrounded by adults. As such, they are often exposed to adult issues that they may not fully understand. That’s what happened to Christina Ricci while filming Mermaids in 1989. “Something was going on on set and someone wasn’t being nice to someone else,” she said on SiriusXM’s “Radio Andy” Aug. 4. The problem seemed to involve discrimination based on a person’s sexual identity, something Ricci couldn’t possibly begin to fathom. “They said, ‘Oh, he might be homophobic,'” she explained.

But she wanted to understand what was going on. So Ricci, who was in Winona Ryder’s trailer, asked her co-star to explain what homophobia and homosexuality meant. Ryder immediately got nervous. “She said, ‘I don’t know how…’ So she called me Johnny [Depp]’ said Ricci. Depp faced his mission head on. In small words, Depp explained to young Ricci what it means to be gay. “He said, ‘It’s when a man wants to have sex with a man. And when a woman wants to have sex with a woman, I’m like, ‘Ah, okay,'” Ricci said.

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Given their history, it’s unsurprising that Ricci and Depp were uncomfortable developing a relationship outside of their fraternal bond. “If you have to think of that person you met when you were nine as a love interest, it’s a little disconcerting,” he told The Guardian in 2000, addressing criticism that it was their business in Sleepy Hollow chemistry was missing.