October 22, 2007 in Features

Applegate plays not-so blank slate

Rick Porter Zap2it.com
Associated Press photo

Associated Press Christina Applegate
(Full-size photo)

It’s been a while since Christina Applegate starred in a TV series, so maybe that’s why she decided to play two characters on her new show.

Well, not exactly two characters, but two distinctly different versions of the same person. In “Samantha Who?,” which debuted on ABC last week, Applegate plays a woman who wakes up from a coma with retrograde amnesia, meaning she doesn’t remember what happened to her in the past. And that’s maybe not such a bad thing, because the old Samantha, it turns out, was really not a nice person.

Each episode offers a glimpse of the pre-coma Samantha, which Applegate refers to as “bad Sam.” “And I’ve never played (such) a bad girl.”

Applegate isn’t talking Kelly Bundy bad here either. Pre-coma Samantha is, in her words, “mean, bad, naughty, selfish, self-involved. I’m excited to do that once a week.”

In fact, she says, the bad-girl aspects of her character were a big part of what drew her to the show. “It was a really funny script, and I loved the idea of playing someone who gets to start over in her life. Who wouldn’t want to be able to start over, right the wrongs in your life? Now I get to do that every week.”

“Samantha Who?” is the first single-camera comedy Applegate has worked on, and she’s in nearly every scene. That means a lot of long days, but she’s hardly regretting the decision. Working without an audience is also a little different; her previous two series, “Jesse” and “Married … with Children,” shot before live audiences, and prior to Samantha she spent a year on stage in “Sweet Charity.”

“I think I kind of know now” what’s funny and what isn’t, she says. “I can feel it, and test it. … It’s odd – you want to hear that laughter; you’re kind of waiting for it sometimes. …

“The first couple days, it was a little difficult, but it’s like doing any other movie. `Anchorman’ was the same kind of thing. You know you’re doing well when they say ‘Cut,’ and you hear everyone finally getting to laugh – then you know you did good. If they don’t say anything at all, you better work it out.”

Because Samantha is essentially a blank slate, Applegate is approaching the character in a similar way. Rather than building her own deep back story for the character, she says she’s taking things as they come.

“What I kind of liked about this is that it was fresh. Everything was a discovery,” she says. “I mean, obviously when we really get into the bad Sam stuff, I have a whole slew of ideas there. But I kind of don’t want to know anything, because I want to be able to discover it sort of organically and naturally.”

The birthday bunch

Actress Joan Fontaine is 90. Actor Christopher Lloyd is 69. Actor Derek Jacobi is 69. Actor Tony Roberts is 68. Actress Annette Funicello is 65. Actress Catherine Deneuve is 64. Guitarist Leslie West of Mountain is 62. Actor Jeff Goldblum is 55. Bassist Cris Kirkwood of Meat Puppets is 47. Christian singer TobyMac (dc Talk) is 43. Singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding is 42. Comedian Carlos Mencia is 40. Country singer Shelby Lynne is 39. Reggae rapper Shaggy is 39. Rapper Tracey Lee is 37. Actor Michael Fishman (“Roseanne”) is 26. Drummer Zac Hanson of Hanson is 22. Actor Jonathan Lipnicki (“Stuart Little,” “Jerry Maguire”) is 17.

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