Lifelong actor Christina Applegate received her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in the middle of shooting the third season of Netflix’s Dead To Me. In response to her condition, production for the final season shut down for five months, giving the actor time to begin treatment for the autoimmune disease.
“There was the sense of, ‘Well, let’s get her some medicine so she can get better,’” Applegate says in a new interview with The New York Times. “And there is no better. But it was good for me. I needed to process my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me. So I needed that time.”
“Although it’s not like I came on the other side of it, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m totally fine,’” she adds. “Acceptance? No. I’m never going to accept this. I’m pissed.”
Applegate eventually returned to the set, embarking on what she describes as the hardest thing she’s ever done.
“I had an obligation to Liz and to Linda, to our story,” she says. “The powers that be were like, ‘Let’s just stop. We don’t need to finish it. Let’s put a few episodes together.’ I said, ‘No. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it on my terms.’”
Some changes to scenes were made during filming to accommodate Applegate’s needs. Viewers will see her character Jen opening doors in scenes to allow her to lean on them. In general, there are fewer establishing shots that feature Jen walking into a room. Off-screen, Applegate used a wheelchair on set, struggled to maneuver the stairs at her trailer, and, some days, was too ill to film at all.
Akin to their deep and fierce on-screen friendship in Dead To Me, Applegate and co-star Linda Cardellini offered support to one another, with Cardellini often stepping in as her friend’s advocate on set.
“She was my champion, my warrior, my voice,” Applegate says. “It was like having a mama bear.”
“I just wanted the best for the person that I love and care about and have the honor to work with,” Cardellini says of her role.
As Applegate enters the public eye for the first time since her diagnosis, she wants everyone to know that she’s well aware of the physical changes that have occurred over the last year and a half.
“This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she says. “I put on 40 pounds; I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that.”
However, when it comes to the changes made on and off-screen to make Dead To Me’s sign-off, Applegate says, “Hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls.”
Season three of Dead To Me premieres on Netflix on November 17.