Christina Ricci is sharing her legacy with her young son.
The actress, 38, opens up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue about raising 3½-year-old Freddie and answering his burgeoning questions about her career of choice.
“He’s come home from preschool and been out in the world and said to me, ‘Mama, are you a movie actress?’ ” the mother of one says. “And I didn’t say that to him. People mention it to him, clearly. I have to then explain to him what it is, and we’ve shown him movies.”
Ricci shares her son with husband James Heerdegen, a camera grip. And some of the movies they’ve shown little Freddie have included Ricci’s earliest forays into acting.
“In the beginning, he didn’t want to see anything where Mommy looked different and then he started actually requesting [films],” says the star. “So we showed him Casper and then we realized he hadn’t developed that ability to discern reality from fiction.”
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Showing him the 1995 family film in which Ricci’s character makes a ghostly friend ended up generating even more questions from her little boy.
“He started asking me about my childhood with my best friend, the ghost,” she says, laughing. “And we were like, ‘Oh! Too soon.’ For a while, he was asking me a lot about ghosts and living alone with my dad and being a ghost and we were just like, ‘Oh no!’ ”
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Ricci — who is currently starring in the thriller Distorted alongside John Cusack — wouldn’t be opposed to her son pursuing a career in the arts, either, although she’s cautious about letting him start early.
“I think when he’s an adult, he can do anything he wants and if it’s an artistic path he wants to pursue, then he’s going to learn everything about that art form and he’s going to view it as an art and not as something to get famous,” she says.
Adds the longtime actress, “There’s nothing emptier than being famous and not knowing why.”
Distorted is out now.
For more from Christina Ricci, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.