Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini on Breaking "Catty" Female Stereotypes in 'Dead to Me'

The premiere for the new Netflix dark comedy also included star James Marsden and executive producers Will Ferrell and Liz Feldman.
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From left: James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Will Ferrell, Linda Cardellini and Liz Feldman

Dead to Me, the new Netflix comedy about two women who become friends after meeting in a grief counseling group, tackles some hard-hitting topics, from death to infertility to cancer. More than anything, though, the comedy from Liz Feldman and executive producer Will Ferrell is a love letter about female friendship, the cast revealed Thursday at its premiere. 

Christina Applegate, who returned to TV after a seven-year hiatus to play a mother struggling to reclaim her life after her husband is killed in a hit-and-run accident, said she was drawn to the dark comedy because of the honest and emotional portrayal of women. 

"I think a lot of times, unfortunately, when people write female relationships, it's very skewed in the sense that they make them seem catty or competitive, but really at the heart of female relationships there's such a support there and there's such a groundedness there and a forgiveness," the star told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "These two unlikely women come together because they have this one thing that they share which is grief and pain."  

Linda Cardellini, who plays a free spirit dealing with her own loss, said she was attracted to the opportunity to "go between drama and comedy and trauma," and the way that a largely women-led team was telling the story.

"Our staff was so heavily female, and our directors, so I feel like it's a really intimate exploration of what it's like to have a female friendship and how much you rely on somebody," said the actress. "They get a little codependent at times and of course their relationship is a little skewed and strange compared to others, but I think at the heart of it, people just want to be seen."

Added Cardellini, "We can be messy with each other and pull it together the next minute, and I think that's something women know about each other." 

Feldman — who created the show and exec produced alongside Applegate, Will Ferrell and his former Gary Sanchez Productions producing partner Adam McKay — said she was inspired to write it after experiencing her own loss and fertility struggles and saw a void in those stories being told from a female perspective. As a comedy writer (2 Broke Girls, Ellen), Feldman said she wanted to also incorporate lighter moments and present those hard topics in "a really palatable way." 

For the basis of the friendship between Applegate and Cardellini's characters, Feldman again referenced her own life and the women who have supported her. 

"I really wanted to tell a story that was an ode to my friends and how they've gotten me through some of the more difficult things that I've been through," she said. "I think there's something unique about female friendship in that way because we can sort of be there for each other and commiserate in such a profound way, especially as you get older."

Continued Feldman, "Those women are my rocks and I wanted to create a friendship that other women either aspire to or are like, 'Oh, my God, that reminds me of my friendship, that reminds me of my girl.'"

The premiere, held at Broad Stage in Santa Monica, also welcomed Dead to Me castmembers James Marsden, Brandon Scott, Max Jenkins, Diana Maria Riva and exec producer Ferrell. Ahead of the screening, Feldman told the audience that the premiere was "by far the most incredible thing, other than the day I got married, that has ever happened to me." 

Dead to Me is now streaming on Netflix.