CHRISTINA Applegate has been making audiences laugh for more than 20 years, but the past 12 months have held nothing for the comedy actor to smile about.
In April last year, the 37-yearold was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in August she had a double mastectomy.
It is a tribute to Applegate’s resolve that she has managed to continue filming sitcom Samantha Who? around the trauma. An Applegate spokesperson said the star was ‘‘on a normal shooting schedule’’ and the US’s ABC network said ‘‘it’s business as usual’’.
It was her role as ditzy teenage daughter Kelly Bundy in the comedy Married with Children that shot Applegate to international stardom. She played the character for 10 years from 1987.
‘‘Kelly Bundy was a great, amazing experience,’’ Applegate says. ‘‘If I hadn’t had that, I wouldn’t be able to do comedy.
‘‘I have such respect for that experience and that character. But you have to leave your characters behind and move forward.’’
In Samantha Who? Applegate plays Samantha Newly, a ruthless businesswoman known for her selfishness, whose character changes after an accident leaves her with amnesia.
Upon hearing about her old life, Samantha decides to start afresh, but it’s not as easy as she thinks to leave old habits behind.
‘‘What I liked about the role was its freshness,’’ she says. ‘‘Everything was a discovery.
‘‘I liked the fact she has no preconceived opinions. It’s a reflection on real life; you don’t know if you will wake up one day and discover who you are.’’
Applegate has gone through plenty of self-discovery in the past year. Her mother had survived breast cancer and Applegate had been having regular mammograms since she was 30. It was only when doctors suggested an MRI screening, because of the denseness of her breast tissue, that the condition was diagnosed.
‘‘They found some funky things going on in one breast,’’ she told Oprah Winfrey in November.
Doctors did a biopsy and a week later gave Applegate the bad news.
Results showed the cancer was in her left breast and had been detected at an early stage. Just as she was contemplating radiation therapy, another test — for the breast cancer gene — returned a positive result. That left two options: go ahead with radiation and be tested for the rest of her life, or have both breasts removed. Applegate chose the latter. ‘‘I didn’t want to have to deal with this again. I didn’t want to keep putting that stuff in my body. I just wanted to be done with it,’’ she told Winfrey.
Applegate’s composure and strength during her interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show eradicated once and for all the image of ditzy Kelly Bundy.
HERE was a woman who, professionally, had achieved so much and now was opening up to the world about one of the hardest decisions a woman has to face.
‘‘I’m no dumb blonde,’’ she says. ‘‘I’ve learned to be responsible and professional and that’s because I did work through my childhood. I think it was a good thing.
‘‘I wasn’t Kelly Bundy. When I left the studio on a Friday night, I put on my long, flowing skirt, took off my make-up, put my hair in a ponytail and lived a completely different life.
‘‘If someone had in mind that I was like my characters when I sat down with them, that’s gone. I’m not those people any more. That is how I approached my work.
‘‘The question of whether I’m like Kelly keeps happening, but I’d really left it. That was nearly 20 years ago.’’
Traumatic year: US comedy actor Christina Applegate chose a double mastectomy rather than being subjected to a lifetime of cancer tests.