Fans of the Netflix black comedy thought they saw the last of Marsden when his character Steve, Judy (Linda Cardellini)'s emotionally manipulative ex-fiancé, when Jen (Christina Applegate) bludgeoned him to death with the bird figurine at the end of season one. And apparently, so did creator Liz Feldman.
"He wasn't even supposed to be on the show past season one!" Feldman exclusively shared with E! News. "Steve dies at the end of season one, and James reached out, and he was like, 'Why am I googling if a guy can survive a traumatic brain injury and drowning?' But we had such a great time working together, and he had such great chemistry with Christina and Linda, that as soon as he said he was open to coming back, I was like, 'Twins!'"
For his part, Marsden said he's "grateful" he pushed to continue on with Dead to Me because he admires the creative vision of Feldman, who previously created and wrote series like One Big Happy and 2 Broke Girls.
"One of the first things I said [after that] is, 'I want you to write everything I ever do,' and that wasn't hyperbole," he shared. "Your brand of comedy is exactly what I love, which is just grounded in reality, with real conviction, and have the humor spring from that. I just wanna be in her orbit."
But after Steve was killed in season one, Feldman needed to take Marsden in a new direction—which meant revealing Steve's identical twin, Ben. And although Ben seems much kinder than his deceased brother, the season two finale showed him hitting Jen and Judy in a drunken accident—and then driving off.
So, in season three, will Ben feel that same sort of crippling guilt that Jen and Judy have experienced throughout the series—Judy for being involved in Jen's husband's hit-and-run, and Jen for killing Steve? According to Marsden, yes—which wasn't exactly easy to do as an actor.
"You drive home from a day on Dead to Me and you're like, 'Whew, that's intense,'" he explained. "You want it to be as real as possible. I just want to take the audience on that journey and I want them to invest in these characters, and that requires you just bringing that real emotional energy to it. It was asked of me this season to go there with a lot of this stuff, and it's hard not to have that bleed into your real life a bit."
The third and final season of Dead to Me is now streaming on Netflix.