Christina Applegate Talks Challenges With Making Dead To Me After MS Diagnosis, Including A Crew Member Holding Her Legs For Scenes

christina applegate on dead to me
(Image credit: Netflix)

Those with Netflix subscriptions who enjoy a twisty dark comedy got quite a treat when Dead to Me arrived in early May 2019. The show about an angry, grieving widow trying to put her life back together as she finds a new friend with a sunny disposition who’s hiding some major secrets took the streamer by storm, so when it was announced that Season 3 would be its last, viewers were undeniably bummed. That final season is nearly upon us, but star Christina Applegate’s 2021 multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis made filming the last set of episodes very difficult, and she’s now opened up about the many challenges of making the series.

What Did Christina Applegate Say About Working On Dead To Me Following Her MS Diagnosis?

The actress, who became a star as a teen when she helped Married…with Children become a bonafide TV hit with her role as dim-witted hottie Kelly Bundy, has been a recognizable presence on the small and big screen since the late 1980s. And while she’s certainly played a number of intriguing characters during the many decades of her career, Dead to Me’s caustic and frequently openly hostile grieving widow and mother of two, Jen Harding, might be one of her most complex. 

Unfortunately, the talent was presented with a very large challenge as they tied up the story with Season 3, when her MS symptoms (which began in January 2021) became a serious hurdle. As she recently told Variety:

I got diagnosed while we were working, and I had to call everybody and be like, ‘I have multiple sclerosis, guys. Like, what the fuck!’ And then it was about kind of learning — all of us learning — what I was going to be capable of doing. It had to be cold, because heat is our kryptonite. Can’t work those 18-hour days, you know? It was impossible. They were so loving: If I called them in the morning, and was like, ‘Guys, I can’t get down the stairs,' they were like, 'OK! We won’t do today. We’ll do other stuff.’ Netflix even let us take a break for a couple of months so that I could mourn, and find treatment. They actually were looking at the dailies, going, ‘OK, we need we need to let her go, and take care of this right now.’ Because you can see the struggle, and you can see it through the whole season. You can see that I’m in pain.

She noted that she had to begin using a cane whenever possible, and also had to be taken to and from set in a wheelchair if she was too far away, because numbness in her feet made long walks impossible. The Samantha Who? star also noted that she would have to take breaks just to sleep, but that she kept going despite the “torture” of the pain (and others involved in the show considering pulling the plug because of seeing how difficult it was for her) because it was “too important to our hearts” and “souls” to finish the darkly comedic tale, and she knew fans were counting on a conclusion.

While it’s already pretty clear that everyone who worked on the show was both incredibly supportive of changes that needed to be made so that she could continue filming the aftermath of that reveal-heavy Season 2 ending, and worried about the new challenges she was facing, she also revealed that the crew sometimes went through extremes to make sure she could keep working:

But you don’t see behind the scenes that if I’m standing in the doorway at the front door, usually Mitch [Cohn, from the show’s sound department] would be laying on the floor holding my legs. There was a ballet and a dance that was going on to make sure that I didn’t fall. The only thing we did change is blocking. They’d go, ‘What do you think, can you walk from here to here?’ And I’d be like, ‘Nope!’ And they were like, ‘OK! Then we’ll have you already seated.’ That’s how it all went down.

The series clearly means a lot to the people who’ve spent several years now working on it, and the Anchorman star was able to tap into her sense of humor to ease the emotional load of working with MS for herself and those she worked with:

We laughed a lot, too. It was all of us together, enjoying our last months together, and making the most out of my shit situation that I used humor to kind of keep my wall up. I had people laughing about it all the time. I was in a wheelchair, but I’d also have my cane. So they would push me to set, and I’d hit everyone with my cane! And I’d go, 'Corner! Corner!' And then you’d hear someone from the other side of the set go, 'Corner!' We made fun of it.

Though she admitted that she doesn’t know if she will be able to continue her acting career full time with her diagnosis just yet, it definitely sounds like fans will continue to see one hell of a performance from Christina Applegate as one of the best new characters from the past several years in Dead to Me Season 3, which hits Netflix on November 17. 

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.