Sam McCarthy and Christine Applegate in Dead To Me Season 2
On the Christine Applegate and Linda Cardellini-led Dead to Me, Jen (Applegate) and Judy (Cardellini) forge a tight friendship through personal and shared experiences of grief, loss, forgiveness and murder. The duo’s dark secrets are often under threat by nosy cops, but no one jeopardizes their fate quite like Jen’s son, Charlie. Played by Sam McCarthy, Charlie is a Laguna Beach teen with some anger and grief to work through, meaning he gets into a fair amount of trouble. But as Dead to Me approaches its final season, Charlie has grown up and worked on mending his relationship with his mom. However, everything changes in the Season 2 finale for Charlie when he reads a letter his mom wrote to Jen, in which he learns she’s been hiding a lot of dark truths.
Ahead of the season premiere, LA Confidential spoke with McCarthy about Season 3 and working with Applegate and Cardellini.
Let’s start by looking back at the Dead to Me Season 2 finale. What was your reaction to the first time you read the script and learned Charlie reads Jen's letter to Judy?
I was frankly just excited to see what happens next. I feel like you get a different perspective from working on something versus being an audience member. When you read a script for the first time, you are kind of an audience member, but after doing so many things on the show, I was just like, “Oh, wow, that's cool. Let's see how this unfolds. I'd like to have some fun with that.”
Looking ahead, what can we look forward to from Season 3, particularly for Charlie?
I would like to think most of all, we can look forward to people connecting. We shot much of the show through COVID. It was a time when people were so disconnected and so what really just jumped out to me right now when you asked that question is just hopefully a lot of connection in the season, which I think is a beautiful thing. And for Charlie, hopefully he can be more empathetic. I think he might if I did my job.
The second season came out while we were very much in lockdown, and even still, people flocked to it, despite all the darkness (amidst all the great humor). Why do you think audiences love Dead to Me?
I think so many things. One, Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, separately and together. They're wonderful. They're incredible in the show. I think that these are characters who really struggle and really suffer, and that's frankly what a lot of television and film and theater is about. It's about people suffering and how they deal with it. And I think there's a beautiful resilience to these two characters. And I think that it's beautiful to watch a friendship amidst immense suffering. I think Liz Feldman did a great job creating different storylines and relationships and all these things.
In another interview, you said how Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini will often improv. Is that something you’ve picked up too?
When we're shooting the scene, I just don't think I have the confidence to improv. In the last year, I've really come to understand that improv is just relaxation and having fun. And I wish I had more, I did a little bit. There's definitely some in there. I was a bit of a deer in headlights when it came to improv. I was just like, “Oh, can we stick to the line please!”
The whole show is frankly just awesome. It’s awesome to see in real life. There is so much that isn't probably gonna be in the show that was just hilarious. The whole crew was cracking up.
Sam McCarthy in Dead To Me Season 3
What are you most proud of about Charlie?
I'm the most proud that he hopefully grew up a little bit. And it's a little bit unfortunate, a little bit unfair that he's stuck in the dark. I think amidst that, I think he feels a bit like the glue that holds everything together. And he was forced to grow up and I'm proud of him.
Dead to Me ends with Season 3. How has being on this show had an impact on you?
It's been just a blessing, to be honest. And I think I really didn't quite realize that when I was working on it, especially in the earlier years. It's been such a blessing and just to get to be in that world and work with such wonderful people. So to be alongside Christina and Linda and to be able to watch them work and to be on a set with just real professionals who love what they're doing and know what they're doing and in a story that I'm passionate about and everyone around me is passionate about, that's just a magical thing to experience in terms of just enjoying it and in terms of your development as a professional looking to work in that field. It was incredible. I'll probably be more grateful for it in five years’ time.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time on set that we won’t get to see on screen?
The relationship I have with Christina. She’s just so wonderful and so giving of spirit and so loving to everyone. I'm just so grateful and so thrilled that I got to get to work with her. And probably one of the things that I'll take away from aside from just the whole collective experience of getting to do it was how much of a treat it was to work with Christina.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Netflix; Photo by Saeed Adyani for Netflix