FUNNY LADY

CHRISTINA AP­PLE­GATE RE­IN­FORCES HER COM­EDY CHOPS IN NEW FAM­ILY FLICK VA­CA­TION

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - NEALA JOHN­SON

Kelly Bundy in Mar­ried With Chil­dren. Ron Bur­gundy’s coan­chor Veron­ica Corn­ing­stone in An­chor­man. Those cameos as Rachel’s hor­rid sis­ter on Friends. Ask any­one: Christina Ap­ple­gate is com­edy.

How­ever, rewind to early 1987, when Ap­ple­gate was just 15 and com­edy seemed a very un­likely ca­reer path.

“I was not good at it,” re­calls Ap­ple­gate. “In fact, my mum was shocked that I got Mar­ried With Chil­dren. She even went up to Ed O’Neill the first week I was there and said, ‘Look, I don’t know if Christina’s go­ing to be able to do this. Can you help her? She just got off 13 weeks on a cop drama and she’s a dark lit­tle girl ...’”

Ap­ple­gate laughs at the mem­ory.

“So it re­ally wasn’t my forte. But I guess I got my train­ing on the set of Mar­ried With Chil­dren.”

Back in the present, now 43 and mar­ried (to mu­si­cian Mar­tyn LeNoble) with a child of her own (daugh­ter Sadie, go­ing on five), Ap­ple­gate is a per­ma­nent fix­ture on Hol­ly­wood’s go-to short­list of funny ladies: up there with her mate Melissa McCarthy, Kris­ten Wiig, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne. But if Hol­ly­wood ex­pects Ap­ple­gate’s ver­sion of funny to be just tut-tut­ting her screen hus­band’s wacky an­tics, Ap­ple­gate is de­ter­mined to make Hol­ly­wood think again.

She did just that with her latest role, as wife to Ed Helms’s all-grown-up Rusty Gris­wold in Va­ca­tion, a 30years-later re­boot of the Na­tional Lam­poon’s road trip com­edy fran­chise.

“They were on the right track with the first script,” Ap­ple­gate says of Va­ca­tion’s writer-di­rec­tors John Fran­cis Da­ley and Jonathan M. Gold­stein, “but then I sat down with them and was like, ‘Come on, I don’t want to sit there in the car, I want to have some fun. I like hav­ing fun! Let’s give her a life. Let’s make her like the mums that I know, who grew up in the ’70s, par­tied in the ’80s and ’90s, then started med­i­tat­ing in the 2000s to get their s--- to­gether. Those are the real mums that are 40 years old right now, so let’s rep­re­sent’.

“Their an­swer was to have me throw up and break down,” she laughs. “They gave me ‘Deb­bie Do Any­thing’. It was per­fect.”

On their cross-coun­try road-trip, Rusty and the cou­ple’s two boys learn their mother has a wild past – nick­named “Deb­bie Do Any­thing” in col­lege, she got up to way more mis­chief than her hus­band ever did. And that kind of thing, says Ap­ple­gate, is what’s needed “to get me out of the house”. She’s not go­ing to go to work for just any old “wife” or “mum” role.

“I’ve been do­ing this way too long, I don’t want to be bored,” she says. “It’s al­most soul-suck­ing for me if I find my­self stuck in that (wife/mum role).”

From Veron­ica Corn­ing­stone to two sea­sons as Sa­man­tha Newly on Sa­man­tha Who? (“One of my favourite jobs ever”) and the in­die dram­edy Youth In Ore­gon she just wrapped film­ing with Billy Crudup and Frank Lan­gella, Ap­ple­gate reck­ons she’s had plenty of worth­while char­ac­ters to get out of the house for in the last decade.

That she’s been able to grasp these chances (as well as fight­ing off a can­cer scare in 2008, un­der­go­ing a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy to avoid fu­ture risk), comes down to the pro­fes­sion­al­ism she’s prided her­self on from day one.

“Show­ing up at work at the time you were sup­posed to be there … was top pri­or­ity for me and it still is to this day,” she says. That re­mained true ever dur­ing her own “do any­thing” phase as a very fa­mous teenager par­ty­ing in the “dark dregs of New York City”.

“We were just in New York, stay­ing near where I used to go to af­ter-hours clubs. Now there’s fam­i­lies and peo­ple walk­ing their kids. Back then, you’d come out at 6 o’clock in the morn­ing and it was just the scari­est place on the planet to be for a 16-year-old ... I did all that. It was just there were no pa­parazzi so no one knew about it,” she laughs.

No pa­parazzi? Wow, Ap­ple­gate has been do­ing this a long time. Still, there are no signs of cyn­i­cism. For in­stance, she hap­pily ad­mits she “nerded out” when the orig­i­nal Gris­wolds, Chevy Chase and Bev­erly D’An­gelo, turned up on the Va­ca­tion set.

“I think it’s OK to tell peo­ple they’re amaz­ing be­cause we’re all in­se­cure.”

Skyler Gisondo, Steele Steb­bins, Christina Ap­ple­gate and Ed Helms in a scene from

Va­ca­tion.

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