Born to record-label executive Robert Applegate and actress Nancy Priddy, Christina Applegate begins acting before she can even walk, appearing in her mom's arms in an episode of Days of Our Lives when she's 3 months old. By age 3, Applegate begins doing radio commercials. "That's when I started to really enjoy this," she tells the AP in 2005. Roles on Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons, Family Ties and 21 Jump Street follow.
Applegate lands her first starring role at 15 when she's cast as teen vixen Kelly Bundy on the FOX sitcom Married ? with Children. Though there aren't high hopes for its success, the raunchy comedy about the less-than-wholesome Bundy family (from left, costars David Faustino, Katey Sagal, Buck the dog and Ed O'Neill) becomes the network's No. 1 show. And Applegate, wearing tight tube tops and tiny miniskirts, becomes a teen boy fantasy. Yet, she tells Los Angeles Magazine in 2004, "The whole sexy image was just a character. It wasn't who I was."
In Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, Applegate plays Sue Ellen "Swell" Crandell, who has to take charge of her three younger siblings after their elderly babysitter dies. "My character happened to be the straight man, which is probably the hardest because you want to be able to make people laugh," Applegate tells the Los Angeles Daily News.
After Married ? with Children ends its 10-year run in 1997, Applegate takes on a more adult role – as a single mother in the NBC comedy Jesse. Applegate's mom – who split with her father soon after Christina was born – inspires her portrayal of the feisty aspiring nurse Jesse Warner. "I respect what she did for me totally on her own," she tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. "She went through a lot of trials and tribulations when money was tight."
"When we shook hands, my heart skipped a beat," Applegate recalls to Hollywood Life magazine about first meeting actor Johnathon Schaech in 1997. After dating for four years – and costarring in several projects together, including the 2000 thriller The Giving Tree – Applegate, 29, and Schaech, 32, marry in an intimate outdoor wedding in Palm Springs, Calif. They share red roses – and tears – at the ceremony attended by 130 guests, including Cameron Diaz and Applegate's former Married castmates Katey Sagal and David Faustino.
Applegate appears on the cover of Rolling Stone with Diaz and Selma Blair, her costars in the romantic comedy The Sweetest Thing. During their girl-talk interview, Blair points out that "Cameron has the best breath, but Christina has the best breasts." In November, Applegate also guest stars on Friends as Jennifer Aniston's spoiled sister Amy and wins an Emmy for her hilarious portrayal.
Applegate plays 1970s TV reporter Veronica Corningstone, who goes toe-to-toe with a group of sexist newsmen (from left, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell and Will Ferrell) in the comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. "It was a more difficult role to cast than we thought it would be," Ferrell told USA Weekend. "She is the reactor to all of our buffoonery. She had to know her way around a joke. Not everyone had the right feel for it. Christina fit in."
Despite a foot injury that nearly derailed her, Applegate makes her Broadway debut as dancehall vamp Charity Hope Valentine in the musical Sweet Charity – and earns a Tony Award nod for her plucky performance. "She has all of the qualities we wanted for our Charity – innocence, vulnerability and yet she's seductive," producer Barry Weissler tells the AP. During the show's run, Applegate and Schaech separate and file for divorce in December 2005.
Applegate returns to the small screen in the ABC comedy hit Samantha Who?. She plays mean-girl lawyer Samantha Newly, who suffers from amnesia after a car accident and tries to make amends for her past. "It's a blast. I've never gotten to play a character with no self-editing system whatsoever," Applegate (pictured with costar Jennifer Esposito) tells the Contra Costa Times. She earns both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Applegate, whose mother battled cancer twice, is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a double mastectomy. "I didn't wanna go back to the doctors every four months for testing and squishing," she says. The actress, who will have reconstructive surgery, appears at the EIF "Stand Up to Cancer" fundraising special (pictured with fellow cancer survivors Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge).
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Warner Bros.; Everett Collection; Joe Buissink/WireImage; Everett Collection; Stephen Lovekin/WireImage; ABC; Michael Caulfield/Getty Images