It's all about family for Christina Applegate

Christina Applegate is choosy about the projects she takes on as she prioritises motherhood over her career.
Christina Applegate is choosy about the projects she takes on as she prioritises motherhood over her career.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It is no accident that you do not see Christina Applegate on screen much these days.

As she promotes her new movie Vacation, the Emmy-winning actress and star of the hit Anchorman comedies (2004 and 2013) says it takes an awful lot to drag her away from Sadie, her four-year-old daughter with musician Martyn LeNoble.

"I'm a parent now, so my priority - and the thing that gives me the most joy - is being Sadie's mother," says the 43-year-old, who survived a widely publicised battle with breast cancer that was diagnosed in 2003 and treated with a double mastectomy.

"So if you're going to get me out of the house and stop being a mother for a certain amount of time, I'm going to make sure that if I leave Sadie for 12 hours that day, what I get to do is fun or inspiring or different or challenging for me."

With Vacation - a sequel to the National Lampoon franchise about the Griswold family's nightmarish holidays - it was the underlying theme of a couple trying to reconnect with each other that appealed to her.

The star, who played the ditzy teenage daughter in hit television sitcom Married...With Children (1987 - 1997), says she herself has to work to stay connected to her husband and knows many couples like that.

"Especially for 40somethings who had kids young and now the kids don't need them anymore and now you're stuck and looking at the other person and going, 'Okay, it's been 20 years since we went on a date or a vacation by ourselves and do we even know each other anymore? Because we've been ships passing in the night.'

"We lose ourselves and we lose the relationship. But if you can communicate and compromise, I think you can go through it and be okay."

Compromise is the reason her character Debbie reluctantly agrees when husband Rusty (Ed Helms) suggests an unappealing family holiday to a theme park.

Applegate says she never suffered through any such torturous vacations as a child. "I was an only child and raised by a single parent, so we didn't have a lot of money. We went on a day trip to Tijuana in Mexico once, mum and I. We crossed the border, we went down the street, we bought a sombrero, we went home - that was kind of it."

Her holidays with her family now are a different story. "I've been lucky to have had some pretty awesome vacations."

A family holiday, nowadays, is just as likely to involve the whole clan temporarily moving to wherever she is filming. Recently, this meant three weeks in New York, where she was shooting Youth In Oregon, a small independent comedy-drama co-starring Billy Crudup and Frank Langella.

"It's this dark, sad and beautiful story. Who knows if anyone will ever see it. But it's one of those things I did because I needed to do that for my soul," she says. "We were supposed to go on a summer vacation, but we uprooted the whole gang and went to New York City."

With billboards for Vacation plastered all across the city, she found herself having to explain to Sadie why there were photos of mummy everywhere. "She knows I'm an actress, but doesn't quite understand what that means."

Applegate half-jokes that it will be a long while before Sadie is allowed to watch the movie. "Oh, she's going to be like 32 before she can see it. I don't want her to see mummy say these things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline 'All about family'. Print Edition | Subscribe