I'm in bed with Christina Applegate.
OK, that’s not technically accurate. I’m actually on bed with Christina Applegate, chilling in the only air-conditioned room at a Studio City house that’s been hijacked for the day and overrun with photographers, stylists, caterers, publicists, assistants and assistants to assistants, all here to produce The Hollywood Photo Shoot (watch our behind-scenes video). For hours, the actress has posed in blistering 97-degree heat without seeming to break a sweat, although you knew she was working very, very hard.
But she’s not too spent to spot the comedic opportunity in the “I’m in bed with Christina Applegate” line, and ripostes, “Don’t get too excited, that’s not exactly a very exclusive club . . . ”—a nod to a wild-oats past that’s far behind her now.
Finally finished with the designer outfits and towering shoes, Applegate lounges in yoga pants and a soft blouse, fingering a hair extension that moments before had added loft to her already fulsome head of blonde hair. “Forgive me if I’m slow right now,” she apologizes. “I’ve been up since three a.m. and I have a sinus thing going on . . . ”
In truth, she’s neither slow nor spacey, bringing to the conversation the same wit and warmth that have charmed audiences since her days as the louche Kelly Bundy on the long-running FOX series Married. . . with Children. What may not be apparent from her onscreen persona is the intense focus she maintains over all aspects of her life.
Applegate is always working very, very hard, whether it’s on television, where she just wrapped the short-lived but well-received NBC series Up All Night, or in film. She’ll reprise her role as super-ambitious newswoman Veronica Corningstone in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the sequel to the Will Ferrell/Paul Rudd/Steve Carell classic, due in theaters December 20.
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Then there’s her work in the nonprofit world, where her Right Action for Women foundation works to help women at high risk for breast cancer navigate the complicated path that such a risk entails (read more). Applegate herself is a survivor of the disease, but says she’s moved on and refuses to let it define her.
She recently signed on as a spokeswoman for fruitwater, the new no-cal sparkling water from The Coca-Cola Company and glacéau, and is a creative partner at FabKids, a website that offers monthly outfits for stylish tots. Applegate works with FabKids head designer Denise Kalinowski on outfits that are influenced by the “eclectic style” of Applegate’s daughter.
Here, we land on what’s really holding Applegate’s focus these days: her recent marriage to Dutch musician Martyn LeNoble, and their two-year-old daughter, Sadie Grace.
Most of the conversation this afternoon involves Sadie and parenting. Although Applegate just displayed a dazzling array of outfits during her photo shoot, she avers, “I don’t do fashion, really. But I do have a lot of different personalities, for sure. You know, one night I’m feeling like punk-rock girl, and then the next I’m really feeling like a hippie or maybe kind of boho, and then the next day I might want to do like a Roland Mouret amazing couture kind of thing.
“But Sadie’s outfits always have a focus. If she wants to be Minnie Mouse, for instance, then there will be something polka dot in her outfit. If she wants to be the Lollipop Guild, she’ll do striped leggings with jean shorts over it and some kind of awesome T‑shirt. This is how she picks her outfits, depending on who she wants to be that day. It’s pretty funny.”
Applegate describes her parenting style as part Laurel Canyon laid-back—her mother’s technique with her (“She said it was because I was a good kid, but I’m sure I wasn’t always one”)—and partly her own type A personality. “I’m incredibly structured and by the book about a lot of things.”
After watching her daughter’s confusion grow during long separations while Applegate worked, the actress decided to make a change.
“My goal after I finished Anchorman 2 this May was to take at least a year off,” she says. “So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I don’t go anywhere. I don’t do anything.”
And she’ll do that as long as she can, but it won’t be as long as she wants. “Once we start the press tour for Anchorman, I’m going to be gone to Europe. I’m going to be in New York. I’m going to be away from her, so, yeah, that’s going to be rough, considering I try not to be away from her for very long at all.”
Applegate, 41, tends to view the world these days through that maternal prism. When asked about her work on Anchorman 2, she extols the virtues of her castmates as comedians—and fathers.
“[Director] Adam McKay is just so hysterical, and Will is just the kindest person in the world and comes up with crazy things that are so out of left field,” she enthuses. “They’re an incredible group of people. I’m really, really grateful that they asked me back and that I was a part of it.
“Luckily for me, they’re not self-centered ‘comics.’ They’re not what you think; they’re incredible family men. We all relate to each other on that level. It’s like hanging out with a bunch of girls, because we just sit and talk about our kids. . . . I feel blessed that I got to work with these people. If you’re going to be a woman in a group of dudes, this is the only group of dudes I would ever do that with.”
When asked later about working with Applegate, McKay returns the compliment: “[Christina] is a gamer. She’s skilled, funny, smart and tough as nails. And to top it off she’s a sweetheart. I can't imagine anyone else playing Veronica Corningstone.”
As funny as she is, Applegate claims she didn’t start out that way—not by a long shot: “I was not a funny kid. I was incredibly solemn. I had a really hard upbringing—there are a lot of things I don’t plan to talk about until I write a book someday. My childhood was very rough and sad and really scary for a little kid.”
Some of it had to do with the fact that her parents, singer-actress Nancy Priddy and record executive Robert Applegate, divorced soon after she was born. However, the bottom line, she says, is that “I never thought of myself as funny. If you look back at the first season of Married, I was just playing a tough girl. It wasn’t until I realized what comedy was—how freeing it could be for all of your demons and how healing it can be to hear laughter and to laugh—that’s when it all really clicked for me.”
Now, she says, “I love making people laugh, and although I’m not an ‘on’ person, I definitely have my moments.” Those moments have produced award-winning work on TV shows such as Samantha Who? and Jesse, and in films such as Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, as well as hilarious turns on Saturday Night Live, her latest one just last fall.
And while she’s loving her time with Sadie Grace, she confesses that she misses work. “I love being an actress, and, to be honest, I miss it right now and I’m starting to itch a little bit, you know, to be on a set.” She pauses, adding, “I miss it for a minute, and then I’m right back into Sadie, but that’s not to say I don’t want to go back. And that’s not to say that if something really incredible came up this year—of course, I’m going to consider it.”
Applegate says what's different about her approach to work these days is, “I don’t look at it in terms of goals; now it’s all about process for me. Is this going to be incredibly enjoyable, and are the people that I’m going to be working with going to inspire me as a human being? That’s all I care about now.”
She would love to work with “anyone from Glenn Close and Meryl Streep to Zach Galifianakis. There’s a whole mess of people out there who inspire me.”
Plus, “I’m in the middle of trying to develop a show—in the very, very early stages of ideas and meeting with people and conceptualizing, and everything that I’m thinking is darker than anyone’s ever seen.”
So we’re talking premium cable?
“Yes, I’d love to do something that’s a cross between Veep and Breaking Bad. If you could put those two vibes together, it would be perfect.”
It would be hard work, but Christina Applegate is up to it. //
Video // Behind-the-Scenes with Christina Applegate
Spotify // Christina Applegate's Favorites
Spotlight // Right Action for Women