When Selma Blair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly one year ago, she was due to start work on a new Netflix series, Another Life — and admittedly thought that as soon as she revealed her diagnosis, she’d lose her role.
“I was expecting to be fired that day,” Blair, 47, tells PEOPLE exclusively in the latest issue. “I was fully expecting [the producers] to say, ‘Okay, we need to talk to the people who are in charge and we’ll get back to you. We wish you well and we’re so sorry.’ “
Instead, the show’s producers and cast surprised Blair in the best way: by completely embracing and supporting her throughout production.
Executive producer Noreen Halpern says that finding out about Blair’s fear of being fired “was devastating,” and further inspired her to support the actress.
“People should not have to have that sense of fear,” she says, and immediately went to work with her fellow producers, cast and crew to figure out what tools they could put in place to make Blair feel comfortable and supported.
- For much more on Selma Blair and how she’s living with MS one year after her diagnosis, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“We agreed we would just write [any physical limitations] into her character,” Halpern says. “We went to the production designer right away, and he created a staff that was basically her communication device.”
Halpern adds: “People didn’t find out [about Blair’s MS diagnosis] until fairly late in the run, and everyone was so protective of her as a person. Everyone embraced her. She is such a pro. She is so smart and she’s such a team player, and we just created an environment where she was able to, if she needed to, go to her trailer. We made sure there was always a trailer very close by for her.”
Star Katee Sackhoff, who is also a producer on the show, says that Blair shared her diagnosis with her privately, and was awestruck by her frankness and strength in handling it.
“Selma was very honest and very humble in what she needed,” Sackhoff says. “You never really saw how hard it was for her but everybody acknowledged that she was working 10 times harder than the rest of us.”
Another Life is a sci-fi drama that revolves around a major intergalactic event — but at its core, it’s about family, says Sackhoff.
“It’s about how far you’ll go to protect the people that you love,” she says. “About faith and trust and teamwork and struggle and loss and everything that we can relate to right now.”
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Selma Blair streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.
In it, Blair plays a news and social media influencer who people look to in times of major events, and Halpern says they didn’t want anyone else to be cast in the role.
“I cannot tell you how perfect she is in this role,” Halpern says. “I challenge any viewer to actually see anything but the amazing strength of Selma Blair in the show.”
Sackhoff says she’s been inspired by Blair and how the actress has dealt with the new challenges in her life, while still continuing to work on-camera.
“I’m so proud of Selma. I hope that I would’ve been as strong as she is if I were faced with similar challenges,” she says. “She has decided to literally be an advocate living and working with disabilities and that is something that was needed by someone as humorous and self-deprecating as Selma is.”
For her part, Blair says that Another Life was in many ways, the perfect post-diagnosis role for her.
“I love the show. It is so apropos that it’s entitled Another Life because I was like, ‘Okay, this is my chance. This is my chance to stand up when something hits,’ ” she says, adding that the support she received was empowering.
“It’s huge because I can still work,” she says. “I might not have done the work I most wish I could because I was so concerned with covering it up still, but I’m still proud I was there. I’m so proud of the people in it.”
Another Life launches July 25 on Netflix.
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