Christina Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while filming the third and final season of the hit Netflix show, “Dead To Me,” last summer. Now the 50-year-old actress is opening up about how the diagnosis impacted the show and how she’s currently coping with the disease.
In an interview for the New York Times, Applegate says she received her diagnosis last summer, mid-production. The cast and crew took five months off so she could process her MS diagnosis and begin treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and central nervous system. When someone has MS, their immune system causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. While signs and symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person, as well as the amount of nerve damage and affected nerves. Some people with MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, and others can experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
Applegate tells the Times she now walks with a cane and, when filming resumed on her show, she didn’t try to hide how MS is affecting her. She says she “had an obligation” to finish the show, despite producers telling her she didn’t have to.
“The powers that be were like, ‘Let’s just stop. We don’t need to finish it. Let’s put a few episodes together [with previously recorded footage]. I said, ‘No. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it on my terms.'”
When she returned to set, her mobility was impacted by the disease. She needed a wheelchair to get to set and had trouble navigating steps—her body even gave out at one point while filming because it was so hot outside. She tells the Times she even had to be propped up—by crew members and props—in order to film.
She was determined to finish the show, however, exactly as she was.
“This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she says. “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.”
She credits her co-star, Linda Cardellini, with advocating for her on set when it was too hard to speak up for herself (despite the fact that she says she’s never had trouble establishing boundaries or advocate for herself). When Applegate hesitated to ask for a break or when her needs weren’t being met, Cardellini swooped in.
“She was my champion, my warrior, my voice,” she said. “It was like having a mama bear.”
Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, and underwent a double mastectomy as well as the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Her husband, Martyn LeNoble, has always been by her side. The two have a daughter, Sadie, who was born in 2011.
The third and final season of “Dead To Me” premieres on Netflix on Nov. 17.