'Rosemary's Baby': Zoe Saldana Shares 11 Things to Know About the NBC Miniseries
The actress-producer told reporters of moving the classic horror tale to Paris, learning how to play pregnant and not cutting her hair like Mia Farrow.
NBC's Rosemary's Baby is a retelling of Ira Levin's novel, not a remake of Roman Polanski's 1968 feature, according to Zoe Saldana.
"He did it so well, and it should never be duplicated," the actress and producer told a handful of reporters on Wednesday of the four-hour miniseries from Lionsgate TV. Scott Abbott and James Wong wrote the project and Agnieszka Holland directed.
Over tea, sandwiches and macarons on Wednesday at The Plaza Hotel's Palm Court in New York City, Saldana shared more about what to expect from Rosemary's Baby:
1. Paris plays a part. Filmed on location, the miniseries shifts the setting from New York to Paris to create distance from Polanski's classic while also serving the story. "It is the epicenter of sophistication and elegance but also of darkness, because of its aesthetics and history," she said. (Saldana also noted that filming in Paris was inherently a much better experience because more wine was involved.)
2. Fashion does not. Saldana commented that she never entertained the idea of shaving her head, not only because of her other projects and beauty campaigns, but also because she didn't want to imitate Mia Farrow's hairdo, which is now a major style moment. "I didn't want it to be about a fashion trend -- what Mia did was a very bold decision, and I'm pretty sure she was following her character's trajectory," she said of the "quick conversation" with Holland about strategizing the haircut. Instead, Saldana said she played to her character's worries while pregnant: "She's losing weight, she's very sick, she's losing hair, let's cut it. Let me try to look beautiful for my husband."
3. Rosemary is more realistic. "Having a female director -- and a very opinionated New Yorker and artist -- is that we were going to bring to life what we felt was a more realistic woman, that is less subservient, kind, light-spirited, innocent but not a slave to a marriage or a man," Saldana noted of empowering her title character. "She loves her husband and is very committed to her marriage, but she will raise concerns … I would need months of preparation to play a subservient woman!"
4. Mia Farrow has been MIA. Saldana told reporters that she hasn't been in contact with the Rosemary Woodhouse of Polanski's 1968 film -- not even on Twitter. "I know that she is aware of it, and I just hope that she likes it when she sees it," she said of Farrow.
5. Expect the blood and sex. Just because the miniseries is airing on NBC -- and on Mothers' Day -- doesn't mean the dark tale will be lighthearted. "That was a risk they were already taking, so we knew they were going to give us a certain amount of freedom," said Saldana of working with the network, who told the director that they'll pull back in postproduction. "She was very surprised that they only made her do minor changes, nothing severe. When I saw it, I was like, 'Are you kidding me? All this blood? All this sex? This is awesome.' "
6. Guy gets his spotlight. Rosemary's husband, Guy Woodhouse (Patrick J. Adams), has more screen time in the expanded retelling, as Holland made sure to focus on his distinct relationship with the neighbors, the Castevets, that is detailed in the 1967 novel. "There was a very interesting relationship between Roman Castevet and Guy Woodhouse that Agnieszka was able to showcase more."
7. Adams' age was an attractive factor. "I was very adamant about us casting an actor that would be of my age to play my husband -- I did not want an actor that would be older than me," she said of playing opposite Adams. "That is not a message I endorse; I don't like old men. I wasn't gonna play Rosemary to do that, and I felt that if Rosemary was married to a professor that was much, much older, it would probably give you the idea that it wasn't his first marriage -- it was definitely her first -- and that it would be easier to sell her out. As opposed to having them be this young, vibrant, starry-eyed couple together, coming into an ancient world of lust and malice, it was going to be a much more enticing scenario."
8. Rosemary's race was never an issue. Saldana said that the retelling did not have an explicit intention to lead with a woman of color, as the other actresses considered for the role were Caucasian. "It felt right to me that we weren't making it an affirmative, active decision," she said.
9. Playing pregnant entailed research. While Saldana said that her character's makeup helped her play an expectant mother, she also listened to many mothers tell their stories of pregnancies. "I became an active blog reader of parenting websites! It was easy for me to sympathize with what I had heard and the symptoms I had read," she said of her preparation. On set, she found herself slowing down -- literally -- since Holland and others had to keep reminding her that a pregnant woman wouldn't be running as fast as she was in a scene.
10. The cat got friendly. Though the cat who appears in the series was cooperative and only scratched the cast and crew by accident, Saldana laughed that "she was in heat for like three months. It was the horniest cat I had ever met! She would make the weirdest sounds, you would think from a distance that it was a woman or a child!"
11. She's ready for the backlash. "Of course you're going to be a little afraid, but once you realize that, overall, every time you remake something or redo something or retell something, it's never going to be accepted by everybody, you just remove that pressure off the table," she said of receiving a negative response for taking the classic to the silver screen. "If you don't like the new, just respect the fact that it was a bold decision; it took a great amount of wit and 'cajones,' and go back to your classic. It's OK! You're not being disloyal. You're just watching new things."
Rosemary's Baby begins Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC.