Christina Applegate Gets Real About Her MS Diagnosis Ahead of 'Dead to Me' Finale

los angeles, california   january 19 christina applegate attends the 26th annual screen actors guild awards at the shrine auditorium on january 19, 2020 in los angeles, california 721430 photo by gregg deguiregetty images for turner
Christina Applegate Gets Real About MS DiagnosisGregg DeGuire - Getty Images

Christina Applegate is angry at what like 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 tells all on 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 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 recalls. "And there is no better."

The actress says 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 admits.

The next and final season of Dead to Me arrives on Netflix this November 17, and Applegate says she looks quite different.

"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."

When show producers realized 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 co-star and good friend, Linda Cardellini, to finish the series.

Applegate says filming those last episodes is 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 as or hard as she did before.

Not many tweaks had to be made to the script, she says, but she had to be taken to set in a wheelchair, 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 says.

Still, the actress praises her friend and co-star for helping her get though those last months of filming. "She was my champion, my warrior, my voice," she says 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 tells the Times.

Now that filming is done, Applegate 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 on screen—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 says.

"I’m sure that people are going to be, like, 'I can’t get past it.' Fine, don’t get past it, then," she continues. "But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls."

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