When Liz Feldman walked into the pitch meeting that led to the creation of “Dead to Me,” Netflix’s new dark comedy series starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, she had nothing to contribute — or so she thought.
“I had just turned 40, and on my 40th birthday, very unexpectedly and sadly, my cousin passed away. He was not much older than me. So I was in a weird, dark place. I was, at that point, on my 5th or 6th year of trying to get pregnant, and I was on fertility hormones. I was grieving,” Feldman told TheWrap. “And here I am now at this pitch meeting, and they’re asking me if I have anything for two women, and I just — something just kind of popped into my brain,” she says.
Then came a “Eureka!” moment.
“I was like, ‘One of them is a widow, and she meets the other one in a grief support group — only the other one isn’t exactly who she says she is,” she recalls.
And thus, “Dead to Me” was born. The 10-episode half-hour comedy, produced by Cardellini and hailing from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gloria Sanchez Productions, follows Jen (Applegate), a devoted mother and freshly-minted widow with a short-fuse, and Judy (Cardellini), her well-intentioned but sometimes overzealous new best friend with a heart full of secrets. James Marsden also stars as Judy’s impossibly charming and somewhat estranged ex-fiancé, Steve.
While Feldman maintains that the story is completely fictional and in no way autobiographical, the emotional trauma their characters go through was very much inspired by what she herself was going through at the time.
Serving as the show’s creator, showrunner and writer, Feldman is best known for “2 Broke Girls.” She’s also written for “The Great Indoors,” “One Big Happy,” and The Academy Awards, and was a producer for “Hot in Cleveland.”
But, as Feldman can attest, someone who looks perfect and successful on the outside doesn’t always feel like that on the inside.
“Life can be pretty relentless, even when you have a good life,” she says, and remembers thinking, “What if I wrote a show about grief, and about loss, and about not getting what you want, and things aren’t happening on the timeline you thought they would?”
The show’s many plot twists are meant to mirror real life.
“My life had a lot of twists and turns in that moment,” Feldman says, describing how over the course of one week, she had her milestone birthday, learned of her cousin’s death, found out her best friend is pregnant, went to her cousin’s funeral, found out her other best friend is pregnant, and then learned the very next day that she was, once again, not pregnant.
“Sometimes things happen in life and I’m like, if I wrote that, nobody would believe it,” she says.
Decide for yourself — “Dead to Me” is out now on Netflix.