Christina Applegate Says Filming "Dead to Me" With MS Was the "Hardest Thing" She's Done
Christina Applegate continues to shed light on her life with multiple sclerosis. In an appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" on Dec. 8, the actor spoke about the warning signs that led to her eventual diagnosis, as well as what it was like to film "Dead to Me" while dealing with her symptoms. "Shooting the show was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life because I was diagnosed during shooting," she said. "I didn't know what was happening to me."
Applegate clarified that there are four different kinds of MS: "Not everyone is the same. Everyone's symptoms are different. Everyone's experience with it is different. Every day is different." For her, however, the condition initially made walking challenging, to the point where she had to use a wheelchair to get around the set of the Netflix series. Applegate asked Clarkson with her characteristic sense of humor, "Can I say it sucked balls?"
Applegate spoke about her experience in a November interview with The New York Times ahead of the final and third "Dead to Me" season, which was released over a year after she first publicly shared her diagnosis. "This is the first time anyone's going to see me the way I am," Applegate 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."
Applegate said she first felt something was off during the filming of season one. Over the next few years, some of those early symptoms, which included tingling and numbness, progressed until she was diagnosed in the summer of 2021 while filming season three. Production was delayed for five months, but Applegate insisted on resuming filming, saying she had an "obligation" to creator Liz Feldman, her costar Linda Cardellini, and their story.
Applegate shared her diagnosis not long after in August 2021 via a short statement on Twitter. "A few months ago I was diagnosed with MS. It's been a strange journey. But I have been so supported by people that I know who also have this condition," Applegate said at the time, adding, "It's been a tough road. But as we all know, the road keeps going. Unless some assh*le blocks it."
Looking back on it, Applegate said the pause in production was less about improving and more about coping. "There was the sense of, 'Well, let's get her some medicine so she can get better,'" she told the 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."
When filming resumed, the autoimmune disease presented remarkable challenges. Applegate's hours were reduced, blocking changed, and on occasion, a sound technician, who also happens to be her friend, would help hold up her legs. The season's plot also deals with illness, which was hard: "When Linda and I would do those scenes, it crushed us sometimes."
Applegate acknowledged that some viewers may be unable to watch the season without being distracted by her condition. To that, she said, "Fine, don't get past it." Applegate added, "But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls."
As for her own journey, Applegate candidly said, "It's not like I came on the other side of it, like, 'Woohoo, I'm totally fine' . . . Acceptance? No. I'm never going to accept this. I'm pissed."
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the central nervous system, thereby obstructing transmissions between the brain and body. There are four identified types of MS, and according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly one million people in the United States live with the disease, and most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure.
Selma Blair, whom Applegate worked with in 2002's "The Sweetest Thing," also has MS. She came forward with her diagnosis in 2018 and went on to do an interview with "Good Morning America" to shed light on the realities of living with the condition. After experiencing symptoms like exhaustion, Blair said she was relieved to finally attain answers. "I cried. I had tears," she said. "They weren't tears of panic — they were tears of knowing I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control."