The lunch set out on Christina Applegate’s kitchen counter is a succinct testament to the pains and pleasures of a 40-year-old working actress. She’s eager to tuck into the vegan faux-crab cake on a mesclun-lined plate. But she frowns at the bottle of green beverage set beside it. “Ugh,” she says. “I’m starting a cleanse.”
You play, you pay. Time to scour out the tasty toxins of summer hiatus here in the Hollywood Hills and fortify for a breathless fall of TV and movie work. She is about to begin a second season starring in the NBC sitcom Up All Night. The show triangulates her character, Reagan, a type A television producer and new mom; her husband, Chris (Will Arnett); and Reagan’s best friend and, as of this season, former boss, Ava (Maya Rudolph), a rock diva turned chat-show queen. Bobbing in their midst is the couple’s baby, Amy.
Applegate soon will also be on a movie set reprising her role as Veronica Corningstone, Will Ferrell’s feisty love interest, in a sequel to the hit 2004 TV-news spoof Anchorman. As with all Judd Apatow–produced films, there will most likely be warp-speed improv, flying fluids and bruising slapstick. Bring it on, says Applegate—she’s happy to have been asked back. “The female role is oftentimes interchangeable or expendable in a man flick,” she says. “I’m glad they recognized I was a part of that team.”
But after more than a decade of playing the duh-licious tart-in-a-tube-top Kelly Bundy on the Fox sitcom Married with Children, and after dozens of appearances in such lighthearted movies as Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, as well as the sitcoms Jesseand Samantha Who?, doesn’t she see herself as funny? “I don’t,” she says. “I know that comedy is the thing I’m going to be given because that’s what I’ve been doing for so long. I’m not being called to do After the Fall. But I never think of myself as that funny person.”
Maya Rudolph, a veteran of glib, nimble ensemble casts (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids), disagrees: “Christina’s sense of humor is such a strong voice that I can hear it in a text message or an e-mail. It’s really dry. She’s got a Pinot Grigio sense of humor.”
Applegate’s most unlikely comedic costar weighs in as well. Stevie Nicks, who made a guest appearance on Up All Nightlast season, says of her new friend, “Christina is that girl next door you really would love to know, really sweet and smart and dear. She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.”
A squeal erupts behind the kitchen island, and Applegate wonders aloud whether her upcoming workload might be less challenging than dealing with a toddler discovering the joys of “No!” Her daughter, Sadie, will be two in January, and the household dynamic is already getting wiggy. Here comes Sadie now, squarely into the criminally cute phase. She has jammed an oversize cap onto her head and a cell phone in her ear. “Mama! Papa! Buh-byeeeeeeee.”
Standing over the tot, Papa grins. Applegate’s fiancé is Dutch-born Martyn LeNoble, a former bassist for the alternative band Porno for Pyros. At the kitchen table, his 15-year-old daughter, Marlon, has been entertaining her little sister. LeNoble currently composes the music for Up All Night. Much of the time he works in their home studio. Lately they have been in deep huddles about Sadie’s new willful mode. “We don’t know the best thing to do,” Applegate confesses. “She’s starting to get really defiant when we say no and look back at us with an evil look in her eye.”