The 50-year-old actress also known for Married with children and Presenter was diagnosed with a disease of the central nervous system, which interrupts the flow of information within the brain as well as between the brain and the body, while in production on the Netflix show’s final season at the summer of 2021. The show took a five-month hiatus so it could begin treatment. She told the New York Times in a new interview that coming back and pushing through took a long time.
“I had an obligation” to finish telling the story, which earned him two Emmy nominations, Applegate said. “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.'”
Applegate had to bend to establish these terms as a seasoned actress since she was in kindergarten. Because the truth was, she couldn’t do what she had always done.
When they halted production, “There was the feeling of, ‘Well, let’s give her some medicine so she can get better,'” she said. “There’s no better. But it was good for me. I needed to come to terms with my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me. So I needed that time. Although it wasn’t don’t be like I’ve come to the other side, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m fine.'”
She was not accepted either. “No. I will never accept that. I’m pissed off,” she said.
When she returned to the dark comedy set, her mobility had diminished. She needed a wheelchair to get to the set. She had trouble climbing the steps of her trailer. Her body gave out during filming, especially in the heat. A sound technician had to raise her legs, out of reach of the camera, to take pictures. She could no longer film establishment shots showing her entering a room as she could not do so without assistance. She would have to open doors in scenes just to lean against them to keep her awake.
With the final season dropping on Netflix on November 17, Applegate said, “This is the first time anyone is going to see me for who I am. I’ve gained 40 pounds, I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to see me for who I am. know that I’m very aware of all of that.”
Mother-of-one Applegate isn’t sure she’ll ever watch the final season, saying it’s too painful. But she wanted to complete it for her co-star Linda Cardellini, who became close friends and took on the role of on-set lawyer, as well as show creator Liz Feldman.
“If people hate it, if people love it, if all they can focus on is, ‘Ooh, look at the cripple,’ that’s not for me to decide,” Applegate said. “I’m sure people are going to be, like, ‘I can’t live without it.’ Alright, don’t go over that then. But I hope people box pass it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to those two girls.”
Applegate and Cardellini became quick friends playing Jen and Judy, whose on-screen relationship is complicated — an unlikely connection between a widow and the woman who accidentally killed her husband. In an additional unfortunate twist, this season sees Applegate’s character dealing with illness, which makes her particularly difficult. The script was designed before his diagnosis and some scenes just “crushed” them to do.
Applegate praised Cardellini, calling her “my champion, my warrior, my voice” and a “mother bear” on set as she went through her lowest moments. For her part, Cardellini said she “just wanted the best for the person I love and love and have the honor to work with.”
On social media, Applegate this week shared photos of its new line of rods, which it called the new normal.
She told the NYT that looking back before his diagnosis, there were signs of the disease. She talked about being off balance while filming a dance scene, and her tennis game was off. She remembers being self-critical, thinking she just needed to work harder, a mindset she had throughout her life with a successful career spanning decades.
“I wish I had been careful,” she said. “But who was I to know?