Linda Cardellini says she and Christina Applegate “cried really big tears” when they shot the film Dead to me series finale.
The final season of the Netflix show, which is now streaming, was not typical of the seasoned actresses. Applegate’s real multiple sclerosis diagnosis threw in a big wrench. The pair had already developed a close friendship playing best friends with secrets on the show, only getting closer when Cardellini took on the role of a lawyer on the set for Applegate.
“I think what you see on the show is that Christina is absolutely as brilliant as she’s ever been, and she’s just an incredible actress,” Cardellini told the Hollywood reporter. “She really can do anything and I can’t wait for people to see how great she and the season are.”
Applegate has said that in January 2021 she began experiencing mild symptoms of MS – an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Four months later, then Dead to me began production in the final season, her symptoms had escalated dramatically, and she was yet to be diagnosed. Shortly after, she was told she had MS and the show went on hiatus for five months so she could begin treatment. Showrunner Liz Feldman gave Applegate the option not to return, but she insisted. She had to use a wheelchair on set, be physically supported in some scenes, and take naps to get through the long days at work.
“I just wanted her to do what was best for her,” said Cardellini, who plays Judy to Applegate’s Jen. “I said, ‘It doesn’t matter to the show. Do what’s best for you. Nothing else matters but you.’ Our health, our life, that’s the most important thing, jobs always come second. [We] have both been in this industry long enough to realize that such things can come and go.” However, Applegate “was really determined to want to do it.”
She said getting through together is “what friends do. I’ve definitely been helped through things and I just wanted to be a friend to my girlfriend. If she wants to work, I’ll help with that. If she wants to stay home, I’ll help with that Whatever it takes to be a good friend.”
That bond between the women on screen is one that’s even closer when the cameras aren’t rolling.
“Jen and Judy are friends, and you see them leaning on each other on the show,” the ER and Freaks and Geeks alum explained. “But Linda and Christina are friends too, and we leaned on each other. And as I would lean on her, I would hope she would lean on me. I just wanted to be the best support for whatever she needed. As I wanted “To be the season before, I wanted to be this season in the midst of extraordinary challenges. You just want the best for your friends, and you just want to love them. And we are both mothers who put up with each other. She would do the same for me.”
Filming their final scenes together was emotional for many reasons. Not only did the show and these friends’ story end, but they had been through it.
“There’s a line where I say, ‘I had the best time.’ And I think when we read that in the chart, it kind of discouraged me, because really we’ve all had some of the best times — some of the worst times and some of the best times — together,” Cardellini said. “It resonated really for all of us. When you see us crying, those are real tears from us, knowing we’re saying goodbye. We’ll be friends forever, but we won’t see each other on set every day. We sat on the bed and cried and there was nothing good about it – there’s snot and we both look broken – so we looked at each other and laughed.
Cardellini said it was a farewell to their day-to-day lives over the past three years, explaining: “We spent a lot of time together on set. Sometimes 12-hour days, five days a week. You go through years together and you see people’ changing lives in good and bad ways. And that’s really important, having the community that we can lean on when you’re going through some really extraordinary circumstances. We found it really hard to say goodbye. Jen and Judy, and Linda and Christina cried a few very big tears, but I think it was felt the whole time.”
Cardellini was able to pay tribute to her friend last week at Applegate’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony. It was Applegate’s first public appearance since her diagnosis. Prior to the event, the Married with children alum expressed nervousness about the world seeing her “disabled for the first time”. She now uses a cane and skips shoes for the event because MS can cause pain and numbness in the feet.
“Christina is a beautiful person inside and out” and a “champion for everyone she loves,” Cardellini said in her speech at the event. “She is exactly the person you want in your corner – a very loyal, honest and generous friend and person. If you are lucky enough to have her in your life, you know that you have infinite support and she will do anything in her power for you, and that no matter how dire the situation feels, she will always make you laugh too.”