Christina Applegate Talks Her Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis


For me and so many people out there, Christina Applegate is a TV icon. From her starring roles in Married… With Children to Netflix’s Dead to Me, she has given us some of the most complex (and funniest) characters around.

Specifically with Dead to Me, Christina has given a career-defining performance playing Jen Harding, a widow who is trying to be a perfect mom and a great best friend, all while navigating her own grief and trauma. It was a perfect role that felt tailor-made for Christina’s brand of comedy as well as her emotional acting skills.

The final season of Dead to Me was just released on Netflix, and filming it was incredibly challenging in a number of ways. Namely, Christina was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the middle of shooting. Although production stopped for a little while, Christina ultimately elected to finish filming on what she has described as her “terms.”

She’s given a few print interviews recently in support of Dead to Me Season 3, but her public appearances have been rare, with the biggest being when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in early November. The ceremony marked her first public appearance since her MS diagnosis in 2021.

Christina just made her first TV appearance when she was a guest this week on The Kelly Clarkson Show, where she talked openly and candidly about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis and how challenging filming Dead to Me was because of it.

“To be honest, being diagnosed with MS last year and what had happened to my body, to my mind, to my spirit, to my everything, of course I didn’t want to be around anyone or talk about it,” Christina told Kelly Clarkson. “But I had to go to work. I was not forced to go to work, but I made sure we finished the show.”

She added, “We had to finish the show. That was a part of my family, Linda Cardellini and [creator] Liz Feldman. Everyone there is my family, and there’s a story we needed to finish. And I pushed as hard as I could through that. It was really incredibly difficult.”

Christina continued, saying, “Shooting the show was the hardest thing I had every done in my life because I was diagnosed during shooting. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t walk. They had to use a wheelchair to get me to set.”

Christina added, “I was freaking out until someone was like, ‘You need an MRI.’ I found out on a Monday after work that I had MS, a disease that I’m gonna have for the rest of my life. And then I started thinking about the last four years, and I had very small symptoms.”

Christina went on to explain how it has been to once again step into the public view while promoting Dead to Me Season 3 and now having a disability.

She said, “I went to sleep for a few months, and then all of a sudden now, I had to come out again and be this person. People had seen me as this other person for the last almost 40 years, and I’m different now. It’s incredibly hard. I don’t want to be the fish in the fish tank, but I’m going to do my best to just get through it, I suppose.”

As mentioned above, Christina’s first public appearance since her multiple sclerosis diagnosis was when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a day she described to Kelly as “weird” but also “beautiful,” considering it was “the first time [she] had to be somewhere with [her] disability.”

Dealing with very personal moments while also continuing to work is nothing new for Christina. Her big break came at the age of 16 in 1987, when she landed the role of Kelly Bundy on Married… With Children. And since then, she said, she’s been dealing with life and using acting as a place to escape.

“I have probably been going through grief and trauma my whole life, and acting was the place that I got to go to not feel it,” she began. “I went through many breakups during television shows. I went through trauma. I went through deaths. I went through cancer. I went through all this stuff, and I always had a place to go to not deal with it.”

However, while she’s used acting as a place to escape for years, Christina told Kelly that Dead to Me was different. It became a place where she faced some of her grief and trauma head-on, which was healing.

“The beauty of Dead to Me is that it gave me almost this weird platform of dealing with it, where I didn’t have to be on all the time. I didn’t have to make all the jokes,” she began. “I could fall apart in a scene and it was like me. It was my soul actually falling apart — unfortunately in front of the world, but it was cathartic in a beautiful way.”

When asked by Kelly if her sense of humor is something she uses to cope, Christina said that her “humor shield keeps [her] okay.”

“But of course,” she added, “down on the insides, you feel the things. I do it to kind of deflect, and then also to make people not be scared to be around me. When people see me now as a disabled person, I want them to feel comfortable that we can laugh about it.”

In true Christina fashion, she even ended this very important conversation about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis with a joke: “Can I say it sucked balls?”

Dead to Me is streaming now on Netflix.

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