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It's pretty standard for creators to get notes from the networks or studios where they're making their TV shows and movies. Those big companies usually want to make sure the property that they gave the greenlight to is rolling along as they expected it would. And, it's also pretty standard for said creators to not be so cool with at least some of those notes.
Such was the case with Dead to Me creator Liz Feldman, who has revealed the one note from Netflix that really pissed her off. And, it turns out that it actually had to do with one of the most prominent aspects of the dramedy.
Really, the only thing we got pushback on was Jen's anger. There was a genuine fear that it made her unlikable. . . . [G]etting the ‘Jen's too angry’ note did something very surprising, and meta, to me. It pissed me the fuck off. For the first time in my life, I got confrontational. I was angry that there was fear around her anger. In my mind, Jen had every right to be enraged. She lost her husband in an unsolved hit-and-run, leaving her to parent two boys alone, surrounded by people who don't know how to deal with her version of grief. How could she not be irate? And why isn't angry likable? It's a basic human emotion! It's one of our primary colors! It's just not a look we're used to seeing on a woman, which makes it all the more interesting to explore. Those were a few of my more publishable sentiments, peppered with some F-bombs, served with a sharp tone in my voice I didn't even recognize.
As Liz Feldman noted in the piece she wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, Jen (Christina Applegate) has many reasons to be angry. Before we meet her in Dead to Me, her husband of many years has been killed in a, still unsolved, hit and run accident and Jen is now trying to deal with her grief while parenting her two sons alone. While Jen does a fair bit of crying in Dead to Me, the main way in which her grief comes out is through blistering, undeniable and oftentimes hilarious outbursts of intense anger.
Since Jen is one of two main characters (with Linda Cardellini playing her new grief group friend, Judy) a major portion of the series is dedicated to exploring how grief can be expressed through anger. Jen is angry with the unknown hit and run driver; the cops who have failed to solve the case; herself; her late husband and a whole host of people who have just managed to come across her at a really bad time in her life.
Considering that a lot of the focus of Dead to Me is on Jen's anger, it makes total sense that Liz Feldman would get "pissed the fuck off" and "confrontational" about Netflix's notes to her about the character. Aside from the fact that changing Jen's anger would have meant changing one of the points of the character, Feldman was put off by the idea that Jen didn't have a right to be angry and that we see angry male characters as leads quite frequently without there being any doubt that they can still be likable.
So, how did Feldman and her team of writers deal with this poorly thought out note from Netflix? If you were thinking they just ignored it, you'd be wrong:
I didn't take the note that we should soften Jen and dull her sharp edges. If anything, the writers and I doubled down. We leaned into her anger; we let it drive the character and possibly even ruin her. It never felt like a risk; it felt like a duty. And it seems to have worked. Christina Applegate playing a justifiably angry widow turned out to be pretty fucking likable. Dead to Me was just picked up for a second season. And I promise, Jen's anger is only picking up too.
Oooh, I like the sound of that! Right now there's no word on when Season 2 of Dead to Me will hit Netflix aside from confirmation that it will debut at some point in 2020, but it sounds like all of Jen's righteous anger will be back and maybe even turned up to 12 (if you've seen the show, you'll know that her anger is already at an 11).
Be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more on Dead to Me Season 2, and all the wonderful shows coming our way in the meantime!