‘Dead to Me’ Star Christina Applegate on Why Female Writers Need to Tackle Women’s Friendships

TheWrap Emmy magazine: Emmy-nominated actress also says playing Jen Harding was “cathartic”

This story about Christina Applegate first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine. 

Christina Applegate’s character in Netflix’s “Dead to Me” is a lot of things — but mostly, Jen Harding is angry and in pain.

“I’ve had to go through my own grief and loss in my life, and it was messy, but I also was working and had to buck up and put it all away,” she said. “A lot of what Jen is going through was cathartic for me, to be able to go there and open up those doors again and examine that loss and pain that I’ve had to deal with in my life. I think all of us at the end of those three months [of shooting] were exhausted.”

Applegate, who was nominated for an Emmy for her role, added, “I’m not usually the first one that people come to for the rageful, grieving widow. That’s part of the reason I wanted to take it: Because I could see that I was going to have to go somewhere and it was a challenge but one that I felt confident that I could do.”

“Dead to Me,” created by Liz Feldman, follows Jen as she deals with her husband’s sudden death in a hit-and-run. She meets free-spirited and positive thinker Judy (Linda Cardellini) at a support group, and the two strike up a friendship — but Judy has a secret that could ruin it. The series delves into female friendships, grief and pain, and strives to shutter the use of the word “crazy” to define and discredit women.

“I think that was the whole point of the show,” Applegate said. “People say we’re crazy, and it’s so f—ing dismissive, something that society only does to women and to no one else. ‘You’re crazy, you’re hysterical, you’re making s— up in your head.'”

Applegate thinks she knows why her show was able to avoid that usual trap. “Because I think it was written by mostly women and directed by mostly women and produced by women, we were able to be unapologetic with the process that these two females were going through and not have to worry about whether or not they were likable,” she said.

The actress was quick to clarify. “I’m not poo-pooing on men, but they don’t write female relationships all that great,” she added. “They have their own perception of what a female relationship is, and it usually has some sort of competition, cattiness, something like that. But written by women, you really see what a true friendship is, and that it’s complicated and beautiful and incredibly supportive. We’re always being champions for each other.”

Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine. 

EmmyWrap Down to the Wire cover

EmmyWrap Down to the Wire cover