How Dead to Me Came to Be & What's to Come

Alternate endings, hardest scenes, and more tidbits from the cast and creator of the Netflix dramedy
By Lauren Piester Jun 12, 2019 11:46 PMTags
Dead to Me, Netflix, Christina Applegate, Linda CardelliniNetflix

By this point, you've likely fallen in love with Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) of Netflix's Dead To Me

The BFFs hit a bit of a rough patch as Jen learned that Judy was the one who hit her husband with her car, but at the very end of the season, it seemed they were united once again, staring into the pool at the dead floating body of Judy's ex, Steve (James Marsden). 

Netflix has since very kindly renewed the show for a second season, meaning we'll get to see the pair navigate yet another secret and more complicated and messy grief on everybody's part. 

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Christina Applegate & Linda Cardellini Talk "Unlikely Pairing"

Season two is a ways away, so for now, we've got a lot to talk about from season one. Did Jen actually kill Steve? How much did Christina Applegate's real life influence the show? Where did the idea even come from? 

In the weeks since the show's debut, Applegate, Cardellini, and creator Liz Feldman have been weighing in on season one and what comes next. 

An Idea From the Ether

The idea of the show came to Liz Feldman came almost out of nowhere, in the midst of a tough personal time for Feldman. She had been asked to come to a pitch meeting with no ideas, and then was asked for an idea, which she didn't yet have. 

"I was coming off a really difficult couple of weeks in my life. I had just turned 40. On the day I turned 40, my cousin passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. Also, I was struggling with fertility, trying to get pregnant for what felt like the 7,000th time," she told NewNowNext. "From that state of being, I thought of this idea about a show for two women—which is what I was being asked to pitch—and one of them was a widow. She meets another one in a grief support group. Only that woman, her guy didn't die. He just broke up with her. It just dropped into my head, like from the ether." 

Feldman told the full story in an essay for Glamour

Art Imitates Life

Applegate asked for her character Jen to have had a double mastectomy, which Applegate had in 2008, "because it will add something to her pain and then validate all the reasons that she is the way she is," she told Vulture. 

"We didn't want to make it like a whole other storyline, that's the thing. We didn't want the audience to feel sorry for her. People who've had the surgery are like, oh no, it's good. It's all good; it's all good; it's all good. Then, we get to episode nine and we see the pain that is involved with this."

Applegate says she didn't want it to be a public service announcement, but it was really about "trying to find the core of [Jen's] pain, because she's so tough and her coping mechanism is to be the way that she is." 

Jen the Dancer

Christina Applegate has been a dancer in real life, and starred in Sweet Charity on Broadway in 2005, so adding dance to her character made sense. Episode nine opens with her having a great time in dance class while Judy is simultaneously miserable while painting. 

"There's only a mention of it one time, where she says, 'I wanted to be a dancer. It's stupid.' They wanted to have a moment where Jen's finally coming out of her pain, with dance," Applegate told Vulture. "Judy, on the other end of it, is now suffering. They wanted to find what would make Jen actually smile." 

Applegate described the dancing as "horrific." 

"It was so hard. It hurt a lot because I didn't have, really, any rehearsal," she said. "Our schedule is so tight that I had maybe one hour for us to choreograph. That was it. Then we shot it." 

A Beautiful Friendship

Applegate and Cardellini had never met before filming the series, but EP Jessica Elbaum told Applegate she thought the two of them would fall in love. 

"And we did," Applegate told us. "I mean we're literally a couple." 

The two became best friends, which Applegate tweets about a lot. 

"Linda is an incredible human. Whom I love with all my heart. When you find friends in life like that, you hold that dear to your heart. Women supporting women is the way it should be," she said in response to a fan. 

The Hardest Scene

Applegate told Vulture that the finale scene where Jen yells and pushes Judy was particularly hard to film, and the take that was used was a bit of an accident. 

"I hated having to yell at Linda," she said. "The scene that ends with Jen saying, 'If you even come near me, I'm gonna shoot you in the f--king face,' that was really hard. But it was easy, too—at that point, I'd lived in Jen's shoes so much that I was feeling as angry as Jen was feeling. I actually pushed Linda really hard. I wasn't supposed to, and I didn't mean to. Afterward, I literally started crying. I'm like, 'Linda, I'm so sorry.' She's like, 'No, no, it's okay. It's okay.' I pushed her so hard and my heart was broken because I love Linda so much and just was caught up in the moment of it." 

The Secret-Keeping Continues

Season one ended with Steve's death, which means Jen and Judy now both have major secrets. 

"Jen and Judy need each other now more than ever," Feldman told NewNowNext. "Instead of one of them keeping a secret from the other, they're both keeping a secret from everyone else." 

Applegate told Vulture that season two will be exploring the dynamic of an "equal playing field." 

"I don't know what that's gonna look like, as far as Jen and Judy's relationship, because Jen is heartbroken and horrified and angry and resentful and all of the things that you would feel when someone tells you, 'I've been lying to you this whole time. I'm the one who killed your husband,'" she said. "Now, that that's happened, I don't know how she's gonna weave it. But she's got a pretty great brain and I'm sure she'll figure it out." 

Everything Is Deliberate

Did Jen really kill Steve, though? There's a reason we didn't see it happen. 

"One thing I can tell you is that everything is deliberate," Feldman told EW cryptically. 

A Different Ending

Feldman began season one with a plan for season two that has now completely changed. 

"You have to be able to adapt. I did pitch a second season arc—a shape of how it would start and end—but that changed based on how the first season ended, which changed as we went on." 

The first season was not originally supposed to end with Steve's death, which obviously means season two would have been very different. 

"Sometimes, when things are pitched in the writer's room, there is an electricity that takes over the room, you can feel this sort of palpable buzz because it's a good idea and everybody knows it," Feldman told Uproxx. "That's what happened when they brought up the possibility of killing Steve. I thought it was kind of a big swing." 

However, whatever the ending was originally going to be, it's something that could still happen since Feldman won't reveal it. 

Dead to Me is now streaming on Netflix.