How Netflix's Dead To Me Landed That Awesome Guest Star As Judy's Mom

dead to me season 2 jen speaking at city council
(Image credit: netflix press)

Spoilers below for Dead to Me Season 2, so be warned!

To be expected, the grief-filled Netflix dramedy Dead to Me featured quite a few emotional and hair-raising twists during its second season. But arguably the biggest surprise of all was the previously undisclosed guest star Katey Sagal, who was brought in to portray Judy's incarcerated mother Eleanor for the final pair of Season 2 installments. Sagal had previously played an outlaw mom in Sons of Anarchy, of course, but her appearances in Dead to Me definitely hearken back to her Married with Children days, where Christina Applegate was her TV daughter.

It was an important trip for Linda Cardellini's Judy to visit her mother, whose fate was previously a light mystery to Dead to Me fans. Katey Sagal's reveal was a spectacular one, obviously, though Judy and Eleanor weren't exactly on the same emotional wavelength. According to showrunner Liz Feldman, Judy's mother was added far earlier in the Season 2 writing process, and they were trying to find an actress who both had a passing resemblance to Cardellini and could also deliver a performance with equal parts comedy and grit.

Liz Feldman was apparently quite tickled whenever Katey Sagal's name came up in contention for the role of Judy's mom, considering the actress' long history with Dead to Me's star and executive producer Christina Applegate. Here's what Feldman told TVLine about the casting decision.

I was like, ‘Oh my God that’s insane and… I love it.’ It was just wonderfully ironic. . . . [Christina Applegate] immediately put in a call to Katey to encourage her to come on board. They’re very close. She was absolutely thrilled. Christina adores Katey. She really is like a mother to her.

Christina Applegate and Katey Sagal starred on Married with Children together for eleven seasons, with the Fox sitcom ending in 1997. The actresses have remained close friends in the many years since, though they haven't often shared the screen again during that span. Unfortunately, they didn't get to appear in any scenes together in Dead to Me Season 2, either, but it was worth the sacrifice to see Sagal playing such a shifty and fairly unlikable character in the face of Judy's inherent brightness and optimism.

Have faith, though! Even though Judy appears to cut ties with Eleanor after her second prison visit, and even though Netflix hasn't officially made a decision about Dead to Me Season 3 yet, showrunner Liz Feldman is keeping the door open for the possibility that Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate could very well share a scene together in the show's future. In her words:

At the very least I want to give you hope.

Judy's issues with Eleanor's abandonment came to the forefront during their scenes together, but let's not forget that Jen also shed some tear-filled light on her own mother's fate after her big confession to Perez. In fact, it was partially their bonding over missing mothers that convinced Perez to let Jen return to her life so that her own children wouldn't have to say goodbye to their own mom.

If Katey Sagal does cross paths with Jen in Season 3, I certainly hope Christina Applegate's character gets to put Eleanor in her place, as opposed to developing a relationship with her behind Judy's back. Obviously the latter approach would create the most drama, but Judy doesn't deserve all that!

Katey Sagal has been keeping busy as a recurring star on ABC's The Conners, and she has an in-development project going with Grey's Anatomy's showrunner Krista Vernoff, so it remains to be seen how much time the actress will have to take on roles in any other shows. Let us know in the comments what you hope will happen.

Dead to Me Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix, as is the acclaimed first season. For those in need of more to watch after that pulse-bounding binge, check out our rundown of Netflix's May standouts, and bookmark our Summer 2020 TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.