Celebrity Spotlight - Christina Cox
Christina Cox chats about her career, her cat, and her affection for both
Vampire-smitten private detective and astronaut: Of the 50-some movie and television roles to her credit, these are a couple of Christina Cox’s most recent. In the fan-hit TV show Defying Gravity on ABC, Christina played an astrobiologist on a six-year space mission. She also sleuthed her way into audience’s hearts as Vicki Nelson, a detective who witnessed a supernatural murder on the Lifetime Original series and cult favorite Blood Ties. And she’s made recent appearances on shows including 24 and Dexter, not to mention a role in the 2004 blockbuster movie the Chronicles of Riddick.
But don’t let Christina’s mystery-solving, supernatural characters give you the wrong idea. She’s squarely grounded in reality, especially when it comes to her love of cats. “I’ve been obsessed with cats since I was little,” Christina says. Her current obsession is Zeus, a rescue cat who stumbled into her life more than 10 years ago.
The Story of Zeus
“I was going to buy my other rescue cat some food and litter,” Christina says. “I was at the store and one of the employees said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I was on my way to work going past some new construction in my subdivision when I heard kittens crying. I looked around the building and there were these three kittens wandering around.’”
The employee brought the kittens to work and was asking Christina if she could get them their shots and find them homes. That’s when Christina saw Zeus, who stood out from the 20 or so other kittens in the pet store.
“All these kittens were mosh-pitting over top of each other,” Christina says. “And Zeus was sort of sitting off to the side going, ‘I don’t know these people. I did not come with them. Please get me out of there.’ So he came home with me.”
She took Zeus to her veterinarian in Los Angeles to get him the kitten care he needed. And that was the start of a lasting relationship between Christina, Zeus, and the people working at the veterinary hospital. Christina knows the importance of regular veterinary visits for Zeus, and she’s grateful for the attention the veterinarian and her team members give Zeus when he boards with them while Christina is on the road for work.
A High-flying Feline
Zeus is not only used to being boarded at the veterinary clinic, but he also racks up frequent-flyer miles. “I travel a lot, and, depending on the location, Zeus comes with me,” Christina says. “He’s been to some pretty funky places and startled some housekeeping staff in some pretty fancy hotels.” Where else has the jet-setting cat been? To the Shore Club in Miami and the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans to name a few locations. He’s copacetic waiting in hotel rooms as long as he knows Christina is close by—and as long as he has bowls of food and water.
Christina flies Zeus to fun destinations in a bag approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The bag fits under the seat, and, because Zeus weighs less than 20 pounds, he fits in it comfortably with enough room to turn around.
A veteran traveler now, Zeus knows what the sight of a suitcase means. “When he sees my luggage come out, you can sort of see him go, ‘Man,’” Christina says. “But one of the reasons he’s been such an incredible companion is that if he’s where I am, he’s happy. He really goes with the flow.”
An Intuitive Soul
Perhaps Zeus’ calm demeanor reflects his regal roots. The owner of the Hollywood Pet Training Academy (HPTA), which trains animals for films and television, met Zeus and told Christina he looked like an American Bengal—with maybe a little something else mixed in. “I thought the odds of him being a full-blood American Bengal left under a house in Toronto was pretty slim,” Christina said. “But his markings are distinct.” The HPTA owner commented on Zeus’ spots, head shape, and ear placement. This got Christina curious. She researched different feline breed traits. Now Christina thinks he might be a California Spangled cat, which is similar to the American Bengal. “It’s my little fantasy that he’s a lost prince,” Christina says.
Stately pedigree or not, Zeus is definitely king in Christina’s world. “He’s born witness to more massive transformations and life changes than any other being in my life,” Christina says. “He has empathy when you’re not yourself, when you’re low, and when you’re incredibly sad. He knows.”
Case in point: When Christina and her boyfriend were breaking up, Zeus was sitting with them on the couch. “Zeus kept standing up between the two of us and putting one paw on me and then putting one paw on my boyfriend, and going back and forth meowing and purring,” Christina says. “Then he was lying on the ground, trying to be as cute as he possibly could. It was like he was putting on a show. That just busted us up.”
This is why Zeus is so special to Christina. “There’s nothing about him that creates falseness,” she says. “He’s completely without guile so what you see and what he gives you is absolute purity and truth.”
Being able to get into character is important for actors—and it can be tough. Christina Cox’s secret is music. “When I’m working, I usually pick a different style of music depending on the character.”
During her stint in Defying Gravity, Christina played Jen Crane, an astrobiologist who’s just married the love of her life. She and her husband believe they’ll be embarking on a six-year mission in space as a couple. Jen is devastated when she finds out her husband won’t be joining her on the ship. Depicting the correct emotion for the situation was tough for the actors.
“We had to shoot a very challenging zero gravity love scene,” Christina says. “My costar and husband on the show, Ty Olsson, and I were trying to figure out for weeks how to make it look right.” To help, the director, David Straiton, set up a stereo system and played Chasing Pavements by Adele. The music was just what Christina and her costar needed to film an amazing scene.
“So throughout any of the scenes where Ty and I had to try to maintain a marriage over a video conferencing screen, I just had my iPod set,” Christina says. “That song and the memory of that day with that intense scene was just a key right into that door.
“And I’ll find some song like that for every show. Maybe it’s because I started out as a dancer and music was so integral to that work—there was also a song directly tied to the emotional underpinning of the performance.”
Veterinary Hospital: Home Away from Home
Regular veterinary care for her cat, Zeus, is important to Christina Cox. Equally important is that Zeus stays happy and healthy while Christina is out of town for work. “When I can’t travel with Zeus—some airlines won’t let you bring pets in the cabin, and if he can’t go in the cabin, he doesn’t go in the belly of the plane—my veterinarian takes care of him,” Cox says. “While he’s boarding there, they play with him, take pictures of him, and make sure he’s OK. When I pick Zeus up, he’s happy.” And that means Christina is happy too.
An insider’s Look at Christina
One of the charities she supports: Best Friends Animal Society
Two- and four-legged friends: Liz Vassey, an actor on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has four cats and three dogs
Book she’s currently reading: Mercy
by Toni Morrison
Favorite musical artist: Keith Kenniff, aka Helios and Goldmund
Behind-the-scenes role: Stuntwoman on the 2004 hit movie Million Dollar Baby