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Christina Applegate says she was adamant about returning to finish the final season of Dead to Me after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but that the experience was both a learning process for her and the show.
In a New York Times interview published Tuesday, the actress opened up about the Netflix series’ five-month hiatus following her diagnosis (which she announced in August 2021) as well as her desire to be open about the changes in her physical appearance and in elements of the show as a result of her body.
“This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she told the Times about promoting the show’s final season. “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.”
While she expressed a desire to have “paid attention” more to the signs in the years before her official diagnosis, after the show returned from its hiatus, she did pay attention and had the production follow her lead.
“I had an obligation to Liz and to Linda, to our story,” she said of her decision to finish out the series. “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.’”
Figuring out those terms meant discovering and navigating new boundaries and limits around how hard or long she could work, in the elements like heat but also just within the basic infrastructure of the set.
The stairs on her trailer created complications, and she shifted to using a wheelchair to take her to set. For some scenes, sound technician and longtime friend Mitch B. Cohn held up her legs as she filmed, and in others, she entered rooms with doors onscreen first, so she could lean on them to help her stand.
Another support she had on set was co-star and friend Linda Cardellini, who Applegate said “was my champion, my warrior, my voice,” backing her and stepping in to speak up on Applegate’s behalf.
The hiatus itself was also key in preparing Applegate for her return to the series. “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,” she explained. “So I needed that time.”
As for what fans will see on screen, the Dead to Me star says whether people choose to focus on her condition is up to them. She just wanted the opportunity to send off these characters.
“I’m sure that people are going to be, like, ‘I can’t get past it,'” she told the outlet. “Fine, don’t get past it, then. But hopefully, people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls.”
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