Actress Christina Applegate is not just living with multiple sclerosis (MS) — she’s also joking about it. At the 2024 Emmys on Monday night, the nominated Dead to Me star helped open the show by appearing as a presenter for the Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category. Escorted onstage by Emmys host Anthony Anderson, Applegate — who now uses a cane and was accompanied by a male usher for support at the podium — was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience. The 52-year-old responded to the outpouring of love with trademark humor. "Thank you so much," she said. "Oh my God, you're totally shaming me with my disability by standing up. It's fine. Body not by Ozempic.”
Applegate’s joke isn’t the first time she’s spoken about her life with MS, which she was diagnosed with in 2021. Here’s what else the Married … With Children alum has shared over the years, and how it has affected her career and life.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease affecting the central nervous system, in which the immune system attacks the myelin that protects nerve fibers. Symptoms of the disease can vary from person to person, but include fatigue, numbness in the limbs, blurred vision, unsteady gait or inability to walk, slurred speech, cognitive impairment and lack of coordination.
There is no known cause of MS; however, experts believe that there is possibly a genetic connection. Women are two to three times more likely than men to receive the diagnosis, and the onset of symptoms typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include a weakened immune system, the Epstein-Barr virus, obesity, smoking and a family history of MS.
What has Christina Applegate said about living with MS?
Applegate, who is also a breast cancer survivor, said that she was diagnosed with MS in an August 2021 tweet. “Hi friends. A few months ago I was diagnosed with MS. It's been a strange journey,” she wrote at the time. “But I have been so supported by people that I know who also have this condition.”
Over the next year, Applegate spoke about what it was like to learn that she had MS after years of experiencing subtle symptoms. “I got diagnosed while we were working [on Dead to Me],” Applegate told Variety in November 2022. “I had to call everybody and be like, ‘I have multiple sclerosis, guys. Like, what the f***!’ And then it was about kind of learning — all of us learning — what I was going to be capable of doing.”
What was particularly challenging, Applegate explained, was navigating the last episodes of the Netflix series while also learning what her body could handle. She called the experience of filming the final season “like torture” and said that the cast and crew of her show “felt like they were torturing me, too.” However, she pushed through to finish the show because it was “too important in our hearts” to end prematurely. “If that meant me having to take a break in the middle of the day so I could go sleep — or me just leaving because I couldn’t do anymore — then that’s what we had to do,” Applegate explained.
The following month, the former Samantha Who? star appeared virtually on The Kelly Clarkson Show, where she further explained how she managed to film the final season of Dead to Me, despite it being “the hardest thing” she had ever done in her life. She also shared that even before she was diagnosed, she “couldn’t walk” and that they “had to use a wheelchair” to get her to the set. “I was freaking out until someone was like, ‘You need an MRI,’” she said of the weeks before she was diagnosed.
How MS has impacted Christina Applegate's career
Despite all the work she put into it, Applegate admitted in a February 2023 interview with the Los Angeles Times that she didn’t watch the final season of Dead to Me, which dropped on Netflix in November 2022, until “months later.” At the time, she said that she didn’t want to see herself “struggling,” noting that she “gained 40 pounds because of inactivity and medications,” explaining how she “didn’t look like myself, and I didn’t feel like myself.”
Due to her condition, Applegate believes that Dead to Me will likely be her last onscreen role — and, indeed, referred to it as "probably, maybe, my last job" during the Emmys telecast — though she is hoping to continue working in the entertainment industry with producing and voice-over projects. "Right now, I couldn't imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I don't have that in me at this moment."
Applegate admitted in a candid interview with Vanity Fair in May 2023 that “with the disease of MS, it’s never a good day. You just have little s***ty days.” Even previously simple things, like taking a shower, have become 'frightening' for the married mother of one, as “you can fall, you can slip, your legs can buckle.”
There are now “certain things that people take for granted in their lives that I took for granted,” she told the magazine, like “going down the stairs, carrying things — you can’t do that anymore.” “It f***ing sucks,” she concluded.