Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)

Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)

Christina Applegate has garnered critical praise for her strength and versatility as an actress in theater, film and television. She has appeared in a string of successful movies including The Sweetest Thing, Wonderland, Surviving Christmas and Anchorman. However, it’s her role as Samantha Newly in the hit comedy Samantha Who? that has returned Christina to the spotlight.

Here, the actress reveals her thoughts on the second season of the show and her character. She also talks about being an inspiration to women around the world after her battle with breast cancer…

SHAKEFIRE: Is it fun to play a mean girl like Samantha Newly?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: It definitely is fun to play a mean girl. Samantha gets away with so much because of her confidence and the way she looks. I get very exhausted playing her because she has so many different sides to her character, but it's also very fun. I really enjoy working on the show.

SF: How are things changing for Samantha in the second season?
CA: The first season explored the idea of someone trying to find out who she really was. We take our past, our history and our experiences with us wherever we go, but this character didn’t know anything about her life before the accident. She had a lot of exploring to do in the first season – but now she's two years old. She's had enough experiences to see what her interests are on the surface level, but we delve a little deeper in season two.

SF: What does Samantha discover in season two?
CA: We look into how she feels about love. We also look into what kind of friendships and career she wants. There are also parts of her that are now becoming a little jaded, too. It’s a very interesting and fun season.

SF: What happens to Samantha’s love life?
CA: During the second season, her love life is going in many different directions – but that's part of her trying to figure out who she is. She is trying to work out which person she wants and not which person is best for her because of what someone else says. Who’s that person? I don’t know. Todd is always there. There's so much comfort in her relationship with Todd, but I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

SF: Is there any time for improvisation on set or do you always stick to the script?
CA: This depends on the writer of the episode we’re working on and how finicky they are. There's a lot more freedom to improvise when [creator and writer] Don Todd is there. Not that the others don't let you improvise – but you don't want to step on their toes because that's their work. We usually stick to the script for a couple of takes and then they allow us to do what we want to do. But in the end edit, some of our improvisations make it in, but some just don’t work.

SF: The show is very funny… How often do you crack up and laugh in the middle of a scene?
CA: I try not to laugh. I try to stay as professional as I possibly can – but sometimes you can't help it. Melissa McCarthy [who plays Dena on the show] is a very funny person and there are things that she does that tickle me, so I've definitely been known to lose it and ruin her takes. I try not to, though.

SF: Do you have a favorite episode?
CA: The show that was the most enjoyable for me was the episode where everything was told in a flashback. We got to see that Samantha’s not all bad, which was interesting. There was part of her that was deeply hurt and that's why she's been so mean to Todd. A lot was revealed in that episode, which is why it was one of my favorites.

SF: Are you envious of the way Samantha can reinvent herself?
CA: Definitely. You get to say, "I wasn't there." You get away with a lot. Who wouldn’t be envious of that?

SF: Do you think viewers of the show would like the chance to reinvent themselves?
CA: Definitely – and I honestly think you can do it if you want to do it. Scientists say that you shed your skin every day, so you are literally brand new every morning. You have the opportunity to change your life right now because the past is gone and every day is a new day. The future doesn't exist and it's only what we have right now that's tangible. Saying that, I don't think I'd want to be someone with retrograde amnesia because that's very frightening. It's a very scary place to be.

SF: Is it your philosophy in life to live every day as it comes?
CA: I strive for that; although the past creeps its ugly head every once in a while. There's nothing we can really do about it. It defines who we are, but I try not to live from that or because of it.

SF: You are an inspiration to many women because you are a fighter – especially when it comes to the problems you’ve faced in your private life. How does it feel to inspire other women around the world?
CA: Well, sometimes I have to be the inspirer for myself, too, which can be hard – but sometimes things happen like this. I don't believe that things happen for a reason. I don't believe in a God that would punish you and then make you have to deal with that. I think that you make reasons out of the things that happen and there were two choices that I could make in what happened to me.

SF: What were those two choices?
CA: I could either fall and succumb to it or I could help people – and I chose the latter. We needed a younger face to a disease that is mostly connected with mothers and grandmothers – and that’s not the case. Around 25 per cent of women under the age of 45 have breast cancer. The statistic is quite high.

SF: How important has your relationship with your mother – another survivor of breast cancer – been during this time?
CA: She's been wonderful. I don’t want to talk about this too much, but when you go through something like this, the people that you need around you the most are the ones who have been through it. As much as everybody else in my life has been fantastic, they'll never get what it feels like. They will never fully understand that.

SF: We talk about Samantha always learning things about herself, but what have you personally learned about yourself in the last year?
CA: I've always been a ‘push-through’ kind of person and this has become more apparent to me recently. It’s in my nature. I broke my foot a couple years on Broadway and I pushed through. I never think anything is going to take me down, so it was natural for me to push through and continue working and doing what I love to do when I faced this new challenge. I’m happy I’m a ‘push-through’ kind of person – and I’ll continue to push through.

Peter Oberth
Interview by Peter Oberth
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