|November 25, 1971|
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A rare native of Tinseltown, Christina Applegate was born on Nov. 25, 1971 in Hollywood, CA and raised in the historically bohemian neighborhood of Laurel Canyon. True to many a sixties song, the Hollywood canyons were a hotbed of folk rock musicians and Applegate's mother Nancy Lee Priddy was no exception; she had begun her musical career as a singer in New York's Greenwich Village and had recorded with now legendary songwriters Leonard Cohen and Harry Nilsson, releasing her own solo album in 1968. Not long afterwards she married Bob Applegate, a producer from the album's record label, and the pair settled in Los Angeles. The couple broke up while their daughter was still an infant, leaving Priddy to retire from her musical career in the hopes of finding work as an actress, both for herself and for the financial support of her daughter. Applegate appeared in her mother's arms on the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) and toddled her way through many a commercial, before landing television roles. The youngster had a small turn in the feature "Jaws of Satan" (1979) and played a young "Grace Kelly" (ABC, 1983) in the self-titled TV film.
Applegate gained some attention playing Ricky Stratton's prom date on "Silver Spoons" (NBC, 1982-87) and a member of Jennifer Keaton's pop band in "Family Ties" (NBC, 1982-89) before landing her first regular role as a cop's daughter on the short-lived drama "Heart of the City" (ABC, 1986-87). The following year was a life changer. She rebounded as Kelly Bundy on "Married with Children." The first original primetime series for the fledgling Fox network, no one involved had particularly high hopes for the crude sitcom that was an antidote to the crop of wholesome eighties TV families. The show broke all the TV roles - not only with its reliance on bathroom humor and sex jokes - but with its dead-end job dad, money grubbing bee-hived wife, and disrespectful and conniving kids. Applegate's Kelly was an endless butt of jokes for her promiscuity and her utter stupidity, both of which she seemed blissfully unaware. The show found a startlingly wide audience and went on to become the longest running live action sitcom in history throughout its 11 seasons.
Kelly Bundy may not have evolved over the decade, but the actress playing her was anxious to broaden her range and work as much as she could, especially since she and the rest of the cast had signed a deal early on which excluded them from receiving residuals from the show - a tragic mistake once it was syndicated and aired ad infinitum around the world. Applegate had no problems parlaying her quick comic timing and devoted male following into film, starring in teen comedies like "Dance 'Til Dawn" (1988) and "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" (1991), though neither seemed likely to make her a box office star. More importantly, they proved that Applegate had beaten the odds and survived childhood and teen stardom - unlike her school classmates Corey Haim and Corey Feldman - by wisely keeping her personal life out of the spotlight and maintaining a professional approach to her work.
In 1993, Applegate and her choreographer roommate Robin Antin created a retro themed burlesque dance show (Applegate had studied jazz dance since she was a young girl) called The Pussycat Dolls. The group performed to 1950s and 1960s pop hits dressed like vintage pin-up girls at Johnny Depp's Viper Room every week, with Applegate alternately serving as dancer and show emcee. She contributed to the show for several years until Interscope Records became involved and recast the Dolls as a pop/R&B music and dance act that wore out its pop culture welcome quickly. Meanwhile, Applegate appeared regularly in small roles in films including Tim Burton's campy "Mars Attacks!" (1996) and the dark teen drama "Nowhere" (1997) until "Married With Children" taped its final season in 1997.
Applegate was again fortunate to avoid the pitfalls of such an iconic role and a teen one at that, by easily transitioning into the starring role of a hard-working single mother in the NBC sitcom "Jesse" created by the production team behind "Friends." Most critics praised her performance as Jesse - enough to honor her with her first Golden Globe nomination. But even though the series debuted in the cushy 8:30 p.m. time slot on Thursdays, sandwiched between "Friends" and "Frasier," its ratings were somewhat disappointing and it was canceled after only two seasons. Applegate bounced back with a sweetly charming lead opposite Martin Short in the TV film "Prince Charming" (2003). That same year, her romance with actor and director Jonathan Schaech seemed to have its own happy ending when the couple married to the delight of fans. Despite being a happy newlywed, Applegate revisited the experiences of a frustrated single gal the following year alongside Cameron Diaz in the somewhat crass chick flick comedy, "The Sweetest Thing" (2002), in which she, Diaz and co-star Selma Blair all co-wrote the infamous "The Penis Song" that they performed in the film.
She joined Gwyneth Paltrow and Mike Myers in the flop airline comedy "View From The Top," but showcased her talent far better with a stint on "Friends" as Rachel Green's (Jennifer Aniston) shallow, self-absorbed sister Amy, finally earning her first Emmy Award. Tipt ing into big screen drama, she played the small but crucial role of Susan Launius, the only survivor of the infamous 1981 Wonderland Avenue murders involving porn legend John Holmes, in "Wonderland" (2003). Ironically, the young Applegate had grown up not far from the Wonderland murders in Laurel Canyon. Her highest profile and strongest film performance came the following year with "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004) in which Applegate played a competitive news anchor and love interest to Will Ferrell in the hilarious 1970s newsroom comedy. A pairing with Ben Affleck in the holiday comedy "Surviving Christmas" (2004) later that year, however, failed to deliver the laughs, as did "Grand Theft Parsons" (2004) an ill-conceived road comedy based on the final days of 1960s country rock icon Gram Parsons.
Applegate returned to guest star in another season of "Friends" and earned another Emmy nomination before getting an unexpected opportunity to star on Broadway as 1960s dance hall dame Charity Hope Valentine in the revival of Bob Fosse's "Sweet Charity." The production was derailed when Applegate broke her foot during preview performances in March and had to be replaced by her understudy. Applegate appealed to her producers and the show was rescheduled to debut in May 2005 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where the bandaged star wowed critics and audiences alike, receiving Tony, Drama Desk, and Theater World Awards for her run. Unfortunately, the career high point coincided with personal heartbreak when Schaech and Applegate decided to call their marriage quits at the end of 2005, after four years and two movies together: "The Sweetest Thing" and Fox's "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" (2005). Rumors circulated but were never confirmed that Applegate had fallen for a "Sweet Charity" co-star and that the time apart from Schaech had spelled the end for their seemingly idyllic marriage.
Making a triumphant return to series television in the fall of 2007 with "Samantha Who?" Applegate served as producer and star and was immediately nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. The sleeper hit of the fall TV season centered around a real estate executive who, after an accident, suffers from amnesia and tries to put the pieces of her forgotten life back together, only to discover that her former self was not particularly well liked, to say the least. "Samantha Who?" quickly rose to the top of the sitcom ratings with Applegate earning accolades for the challenging role that required her to play two versions of the same character in each show.
Her happiness over anchoring a successful sitcom was diminished somewhat, when the actress suffered two very public blows in 2008. First, her 26-year-old ex-boyfriend Lee Grivas, whom she dated following her separation from Schaech, was found dead in July of an apparent drug overdose. A saddened Applegate expressed her grief by releasing the statement, "Lee was an incredible human being who was an extremely important and beautiful part of my life. He is missed beyond words. He touched so many and I feel much sadness for his mother, brother and all of his family and friends." Only a month later, Applegate revealed she had received a double mastectomy after it was discovered that she had breast cancer - the result of her inheriting a mutated BRCA1 gene, which often causes the disease. While fans, friends and coworkers rallied around the brave actress, Applegate did everything in her power to shed light on the devastating disease - from giving frank interviews of her ordeal, to appearing at breast cancer benefits in order to raise awareness. Meanwhile, she continued work on "Samantha Who?" while recovering and earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2009, despite the cancellation of her quirky sitcom earlier in the year.