Christina Applegate is angry at what life has thrown at her, and that's okay.
The Dead to Me star was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and in a new interview with The New York Times, she got candid about how she is learning to cope with her new reality despite her resistance to being treated as a 'cripple.'
Applegate, 50, said there have been signs for years that something was wrong—she would lose her balance, her extremities would tingle and become numb—but she didn't think they were anything to worry about, that is until last summer. While filming the final season of Dead to Me, the actress received her diagnosis: multiple sclerosis, a potentially disabling autoimmune disease that disrupts communication between the brain and the body.
Production for the show shut down for about five months as Applegate began treatment. 'There was the sense of, "Well, let's get her some medicine so she can get better,"' she recalled. 'And there is no better.'
The actress said the time off helped her 'process my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me,' but she is still nowhere near accepting her condition. 'Acceptance? No. I'm never going to accept this. I'm pissed,' she admitted.
The next and final season of Dead to Me arrives on Netflix this November 17, and Applegate said she looks quite different. 'This is the first time anyone's going to see me the way I am,' she said. '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.'
When show producers realised the seriousness of Applegate's condition, they suggested the last season be cut short and rearranged to put together a believable ending, but Applegate refused to stop.
The actress—who joined the Screen Actors Guild in kindergarten and has been acting since—told the Times that she had an obligation to her character, Jen Harding, and to her costar and good friend, Linda Cardellini, to finish the series.
Applegate said filming those last episodes was the hardest thing she's ever done, as she, who prides herself on self-sufficiency, had to accept that things had changed for her and she couldn't work as well or as hard as she did before.
Few tweaks had to be made to the script, she said, but she had to be taken to set in a wheelchair, and she struggled working in the heat and walking down the stairs of her trailer. During some scenes, she had to lean against doors, and in others, Mitch B. Cohn, a sound technician and her longtime friend, had to hold up her legs off camera. And some days, she simply couldn't show up to film.
In a dark coincidence, the last season introduces an illness, which was written into the plot long before Applegate's diagnosis. 'When Linda and I would do those scenes, it crushed us sometimes,' Applegate said.
Still, the actress praised her friend and costar for helping her get though those last months of filming. 'She was my champion, my warrior, my voice,"'she said of Cardellini, adding that when she hesitated to ask for a break, Cardellini would step in. 'It was like having a mama bear,' Applegate added.
'I just wanted the best for the person that I love and care about and have the honor to work with,' Cardellini told the Times.
Now that filming is done, Applegate said she is happy she gave her character and her story an ending, but even then, she doesn't think she'll ever be able to watch the season onscreen—it's too painful. 'If people hate it, if people love it, if all they can concentrate on is, "Ooh, look at the cripple," that's not up to me,' she said.
'I'm sure that people are going to be, like, "I can't get past it." Fine, don't get past it, then,' she continued. 'But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls.'
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