'Dead to Me' Stars Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini on the "Effective" Intersection of Grief and Comedy
The actresses open up to The Hollywood Reporter about their new Netflix "traumedy" — which explores the aftermath of death through humor — and how the show can hopefully serve as a tool for healing.
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini don’t think death is funny. But then again, they also don't see anything wrong with laughing in the face of grief.
The two star in Netflix's new series, Dead to Me, a "traumedy" that explores the complicated aftermath of losing a loved one. Onscreen, Applegate and Cardellini — who play Orange County residents Jen and Judy, respectively — meet in a support group for the bereaved and, after sharing equally heartbreaking stories, become unlikely best friends.
Even though Jen and Judy's recently formed bond is tested as dark truths come to light, the portrayal of their friendship is laced with humor and the stars' sharp comic timing. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter In Studio, Applegate and Cardellini shared why they believe comedy is the best way to approach heavy subject matters like death and grief.
"It's an effective way to release the tension of going through grief. I've been through a lot of grief and loss in my life and humor always comes through. You have to [laugh]. Otherwise, it's melodrama, you know what I mean? There has to be moments of repose in this life," said Applegate. "We have to not take everything so seriously, but at the same time honor the pain that you're feeling."
Speaking directly to her character — a tightly wound real estate agent forced to pick up the pieces after the sudden death of her husband — Applegate added, "With Jen, it seems to her that her world is trying to get her to stop her process and that makes her the way that she is because it's like everyone just wants her to get on with it. The kids want her to get on with it, the mother-in-law wants to get her going. Everybody wants her to stop what she's doing, and she can't and it makes her even more frustrated and angry."
For her part, Cardellini — who portrays a free spirit with a shocking secret in Judy — is hopeful that Dead to Me can serve as a tool for healing, especially for those who have recently experienced grief.
"The whole thing is that you're not alone. The one thing that I've noticed in times when there's been something traumatic and grief hits you and it comes at a shocking time, you end up bonding with people that you normally wouldn't because it's a shared experience," the actress explained. "Some of the grief that we show on air has come from real places, and I think that if people can relate to that and know that you're not alone and that you can get through, that's something wonderful."
Cardellini also noted that "it's OK to laugh." She elaborated, "It's OK to have those moments where everything seems dire but you can laugh at something inappropriate at the same time and not be a bad person."
Dead to Me is now available to stream on Netflix. For more from Applegate and Cardellini — including their thoughts on extending Jen and Judy's story into a second season — watch the video above.