Sarcastic quips and fearlessness in the face of broad, physical comedy – Christina Applegate can deliver both with award-winning aplomb in any sitcom, musical or movie.
But to play raging widow Jen in her latest comedy Dead To Me, the Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actress had to channel deep, sobbing internal strife. And she was ready for it.
"It was a character I haven't gotten an opportunity to play before and I was able to really go all the way," Christina, 47, tells TV WEEK.
"To be asked to basically fall on the floor and fall to pieces in every single scene was something I had been waiting to do, just for cathartic reasons, really!"
In creator Liz Feldman's series, real estate agent and mum-of-two Jen can't let go of the fact that her husband died in a hit-and-run accident. She becomes obsessed with trying to find the car, and the person, responsible for the event that's changed her life.
The only one who understands what she's going through is Judy (Linda Cardellini). She seems to be suffering from the same stages of grief, but coming at it from a different angle. The unlikely pair bond, even as new revelations threaten to break them apart.
"I loved the idea of a show written primarily by women and directed mostly by women," Christina explains about signing on for the series.
"Sometimes I think that female relationships are skewed if it's not written really from the point of view of a female. And so I think the heart of this show is this relationship, but everything else around it is so much more than that."
To prepare for her role, Christina only had to look back to 2008. Two years after a public split with actor husband Johnathon Schaech, her on-again, off-again boyfriend had died suddenly, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy.
"I've been through a lot of grief in my life and loss of people close to me, that I have lost my life in so many ways," she says. "So I understood what it feels like to almost throw in the towel."
For the Los Angeles-based Christina, her anchors now are musician husband Martyn LeNoble, 50, and their daughter Sadie Grace, eight.
"Life changes drastically when you have a child," Christina concedes. "You're spending your whole day making sure this person has everything they need.
"As an actress, I think my daughter has given me this place to fall apart, and with this show, there was no holding back."
But Christina, who has worked steadily in show business since she was seven, says she wants Sadie to preserve those early years for after-school activities and for playdates.
"I want her to have a real childhood," she explains, "because that's something I didn't have entirely. I want her to have that so badly because I really missed out on that. But this was my journey, so I have no regrets."
She certainly has no regrets about her breakthrough role as rebellious teen Kelly Bundy in '80s classic sitcom Married...With Children, a part she played for 11 years.
"That show was where I grew up," Christina recalls with fondness. "It was really joyful."
As for a possible remake, Christina says with a laugh, "They have talked about it, but no-one wants to see a 47-year-old in a mini-dress!
"Maybe there's some weird strip club somewhere that would have me, and it smells really weird, and no-one is in there, but no, I think that ship has sailed for me!"
Dead to Me Season 1 premieres May 3rd on Netflix.