From ‘Freaks’ to ‘Dead’: Linda Cardellini on her 10 best roles


When some people see actress Linda Cardellini, they think of the clever and anxious teenage girl Lindsay Weir of the ephemeral cult classic Freaks and Geeks. Others remember her long stint as Samantha Taggart on ER, or maybe neighbor Don Draper had an affair with Mad Men or even Velma Dinkley from Scooby doo movies. These characters have little in common with each other. According to the actor, that was the intention.

“What I tended to do, and what I think I always do, is try to turn left after each role and do something different,” says Cardellini. “It keeps me alive in my mind and always keeps me challenged.”

The youngest of four children, Cardellini’s first memories of an actress are hosting family shows in their living room in Redwood City, California. She made sketches or hosted her own talk show, wrote them tickets and sold snacks at the intermission. “It was my hobby,” she recalls. “I really wanted to be like Angela’s Who is the boss? She wrote jingles for commercials and I thought it would be my job, because I didn’t think you could live on [acting]. “

She starred in the school Christmas show and appeared as an elderly woman on The man of music at the age of 11, leading her to study drama in high school and college at Loyola Marymount University. “The road has been long,” she said. “My mom used to say to me, ‘Try it and see if it works. If someone wants to do it, why wouldn’t it be you? “All I wanted was to be able to do this thing that I love in life. “

Friday, the second season of Dead for me arrives on Netflix, the black comedy Cardellini plays with Christina Applegate. “It’s a scary and sad time,” she admits. “Many people are suffering. So the idea of ​​going out and talking about this TV show, sometimes you wonder. “Is it really something important that I have to do? I also relied on my television to keep me company and change my mood – being able to turn off the news and watch something fun was very important to me. So I hope it has value for others right now. “

To celebrate the release of Dead for me, we talked to Cardellini about 10 of his key roles on television and film.

Freaks and Geeks (1999): Lindsay Weir
I read the script and I just thought it was so beautiful. It was so different. Lots of girls I saw on the screen … I referred to them as someone I knew in high school, but not like me. I felt that Lindsay represented the struggle I had, that she wanted to grow in some ways but that she was still a child. Unlike these other screen relationships, where people have sexy adult style relationships, they were still teenagers and the awkwardness seemed so real to me. It’s that bittersweet feeling of high school. He had that sophisticated sense of humor and it was subtle. Even if it happened in 1980, I believe that all of these people really exist.

I love Lindsay. I just think she is so thoughtful and intelligent and I loved her relationship with her parents. One of my favorite moments is when she gets on the bus and says goodbye to her parents. It’s funny too, because I haven’t seen my parents because we’re all in quarantine, and my father said he was watching the show again because they were at home. My father was not very moved, and he said that moment had strangled him. I think that for every child, there is this feeling of cutting these apron cords and making a decision that belongs to you one hundred percent, not your parents. Get on this bus… she becomes an adult at this time.

The show was canceled, but we kind of felt like it was coming anyway, because we were like the monsters and the geeks of the network. They made us go up and down, and they never played [the episodes] All at the same time. We started to feel like they were going to unplug the plug any minute. The writers wrote the finale they wanted, so no matter where the series was unplugged, it would always have the ending it had, which I think was so brilliant. We had it in our back pocket in case they canceled us. And they did.

How has it been 20 years? It’s crazy! In a way, it’s as if it was yesterday, and in another way, it seems like so much has happened since then. The idea that this is still something we’re talking about is incredible. I like it for the show, I like it for the casting, I like it for the creators, I like it for the fans. I’m glad people can still enjoy it, because we thought it would die and disappear.

Revenge of a blonde (2001) Chutney Wyndham
My agent said, “It’s a small role. You don’t have to. “And because I detach myself Freaks and Geeks, I thought, “Oh my god, it’s so different. What a pleasure to go from a character like Lindsay to a murderer. So it was part of my reason for taking it. I also thought the script was hilarious. I just loved it and wanted to do it.

I missed the first one because I was working, and I went to see it with a friend. She said, “Don’t worry, nobody will recognize you. We are just going to enter. Of course, no one would recognize me. Nobody did anything. It was a crowded theater and I was really excited. I went there, and I didn’t care if I looked crazy in this movie. And when I got to the screen, someone gasped and shouted, “Ew! “And my stomach sank, because I remember someone criticizing Lindsay’s hair and it was the first time I was really criticized in public. It hurt my feelings, even if it was supposed to be my hairstyle. It was so confusing for me, because on the one hand, I’m just a human. I felt terribly criticized. On the other hand, I felt proud because I wanted you to think that person was gross. So it was about the mixed emotions of playing this character in real time, watching the film with a whole theater full of people.

Scooby doo (2002): Velma Dinkley
I loved this cartoon when I was a child; I used to go home from school and watch it. And as an adult, when I couldn’t sleep, because sometimes I had insomnia, I watched Scooby doo to upgrade and put me in this phase of happy childhood and fall asleep. So when it came out that there was a movie, I thought, “Oh, I will never get a chance to audition for this. ” But I [an audition].

I studied cartoons. I pulled my hair back – I did like a fake bob. I borrowed someone’s glasses. I went to Ross’s and bought a skirt and a turtleneck. I don’t normally rehearse in front of other people, but I rehearsed in front of my roommates, [who] were actors. I went to the audition and it was like everyone’s who was a young actor at the time. I saw famous faces and realized very quickly that everyone was looking at me like I was an absolute moron, because I was the only person in the busy waiting room wearing a suit.

I was mortified. I’m starting to sweat. I want to cry. And when they called me, I had done all of this research and found all of those things that I thought Velma had done. I raised my voice and made it a little more logical, where it seemed like it was a robot – all those things that for me were very Velma growing up. I went there and I did, and I felt like I was confusing people. I didn’t know if I was if I was doing good or bad work, but it was awfully uncomfortable. I went home and my roommate said the only thing she heard was those sobs and that little orange turtleneck coming out from under my covers. And then I got the role.

I’ve never made a big budget film like this before. I had to leave my family, friends, boyfriend and move to Australia for six months. I had so much fun, but I took this role very seriously. I had a tape where I listened to Velma from the cartoon every day before I went to work. “Jeepers! It’s the climbing plant. “

ER (2003-2009): Samantha Taggart
I did a lot of work playing a teenager, even though I was no longer a teenager. I thought, “Well, I’m going to play young until I can’t do it anymore. I was in no rush to get there. But I was wondering what I was going to do next. I’ve had a lot in my real life and I’ve traveled a lot. I had lost people and just wanted to be close to family and friends.

I really wanted to stay in the movies, but I got this phone call and they said, “John Wells would like to meet with you, if you’re interested. “They said there was this role of this woman who comes ER, which I’ve never really watched. It was a woman who had a child when she was young … she is running away from something, she is always on the move and she will get involved with the doctor. Then they sent me home with episodes to watch. I hadn’t seen anything like it on TV. The game was so fantastic and [she] was someone I felt like I knew growing up, who was a nurse and had a job, trying to make ends meet. It was something I hadn’t played yet.

I only wanted to stay a year because I don’t like staying too long doing one thing. And then over time, the community of people and the talent with which I was able to work … it’s one of my favorite experiences, working on this show. We laughed so hard. I have a text string right now during my forties like six of my ER friends. And we’re talking back and forth. We are still very close. I ended up staying there until the show aired because I liked it so much.

brokeback mountain (2005): Cassie Cartwright
I included it in my contract that maybe I could be released[of[of[de[ofER]if I had the chance to do something cinematic. I got a phone call saying, “There’s a hearing for you. It’s an Ang Lee movie, “and I think he’s capable of anything and everything. And the story was like this, so beautiful.

I don’t know if I had the entire script before auditioning, I don’t remember. But I knew I had to audition for Ang Lee. I remember auditioning and being there for at least half an hour, working the scene in different ways – I don’t like doing things the same way twice. I thought, “Well, I’ll probably never have that part, but I just worked with Ang Lee for half an hour, so it’s a win for me. Then I got the role. I must say that it was a dream come true to have worked with this group of people. [Heath Ledger] was wonderful.

Mad Men (2013-2015): Sylvia Rosen
After ER, I decided to take a break because I had worked so hard for so long, and I was afraid of not knowing what else to do. I find it hard not to work. But I hadn’t traveled or been able to party anyone’s birthday parties in a long time … so I took a little time. I found my life partner and I had a baby. So what Mad Men came with. It was four months after I had my daughter that I got a call. I thought, “Oh, my God. I don’t know, I just had a baby, I’m not sure I’m ready. An audition sounded just like torture.

But I came in and I was in the room with Matt Weiner. We were there for 45 minutes, and I did it in any way I could. At one point, in the middle of the hearing, I remember thinking, “It’s really, really good, or really bad, I can’t figure out which one. “It made me cry, so I did the version of the scene where the character is crying, because I was crying[[[[Laughs]. I just integrated it into the scene. Then they hired me and I said, “What does the role look like?” And Matt said, “I promise you, you’re going to be happy. Be patient. But I didn’t know. I couldn’t talk about it at all. I had long acrylic nails with a four month old baby. I was breastfeeding and pumping out of step in these beautiful costumes that I was terrified of spoiling.

I had no idea what was in store for me, but I trusted the show because it was so brilliant and I trusted Matt. He kept saying to me, “There is going to be something great. Don’t worry, it’s coming. And then when I read the script and realized it was the first time Don had really gotten caught. He gets caught by his daughter, which is terrible, but also wonderful as an actor. She was a very complicated woman in some ways. And [Jon Hamm] that’s great. I don’t think you can imagine anyone else being Don Draper. I mean, what should you not like, really?

Line (2015-2017): Meg Rayburn
I don’t know if I fully realized how dark it was when it started. I walked in and met Glenn [Kessler]and Todd [Kessler] and Daniel [Zelman] were on the phone … we just had a huge conversation over the room. I knew Kyle [Chandler] and then [Mendelsohn] were involved. Often what I choose has to do with the other actors, the people I just want to work with. For me, it’s wonderful when the product comes out and people like it, but my experience is just on the shelf. The rest have very little to do with me. So I like to make sure that the process is going to be something fun to do or that I learn something or that I work with people I admire.

Talking about it, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek came, and I thought, “What a privilege to work with these people. So we’ve talked about my character and she’s supposed to be that sister together, but you find out she has a lot of things she’s hiding. It is not what it seems.

I loved the way these characters evolved and I liked the idea of ​​being on Netflix. I’ve never been on a streaming platform before, and we were one of their very few original shows at the time. I think it makes it possible to tell many more stories. When I was young, people said, “You better do everything now, because when you are in your 30s and 40s, people will no longer look at you. But there is more room for the other characters to be developed in this long format, and not in a traditional and procedural way. Streaming models go beyond what we are used to on TV. I think more and more under-represented voices are being heard.

The curse of La Llorona (2019): Anna Garcia
When La Llorona came he was called he was called Children at the time. I thought this woman’s husband is dead. It’s not about him. It’s about her, her children, her protection at all costs. These are other women. There were a lot of strong females, and there are a lot of strong females in the horror. It was a genre I hadn’t gotten involved in and a role I had never played before. This is what was important to me when I chose this.

It was in the 70s in Los Angeles, and I was able to be with my family and work on it and I just enjoyed it. It was a very small film. I don’t think they anticipated how it would happen. If you look at the[[[[Conjuring]movies, this one was made on a very small budget compared to the rest of the universe. He was a first director [Michael Chaves] and the little film that could. It was like working on a small independent film.

Dead for me (2019): Judy Hale
Generally, I feel like this script at this point in my career would have come to me for the other character – the character of “Jen”. And they said, “No, we want you for Judy. Christina Applegate is Jen, “and I thought,” Oh, she’s great. ” I read it and thought, “This is crazy. How do you believe this person? And how, ultimately, do you want them to be friends? It’s impossible. Yes! I will do it! “

I had no connection with Judy at the time. I drew some of my good friends who happened to be great artists in their own right, and I said, “Do you think I can do this? And a hundred percent of them said, “You have to do it.” “And it was true. It was so different from anything I had encountered.

The first season really depended on her to keep her secret and the guilt and shame and responsibility for it. I think this season, she’s finally free from that in some ways. You can understand Judy better, because that’s not all that’s going on with her. The idea of ​​mourning the relationship she had with the person she loved was not a good person. I think it’s an interesting thing to watch, someone crying about this toxic relationship. Here you are crying for someone who has hurt you immensely over and over again. Life is full of contradicting feelings. They are not so cut and dry.

With Jen and Judy, I think the behavior between the two has a lot of texture because of the way Christina and I work together. She was a big reason why I wanted to do the show. I have not been in a situation with a woman who is my own peer and who has been able to play like that every day on the set. It’s really funny, and then two scenes later, we cry and kiss hysterically. It’s our own little source of therapy.

Liz [Feldman, the showrunner] also allows us to improvise a ton. She said, “I don’t want to work with assholes,” and I thought, “Great. Neither do I. Let’s go. ” [She] doesn’t want us to be anything other than our age. It’s a testament to having women writers, having directors and having female voices behind the characters who accept us at all ages, accept us the best we can and the best we can. I think a lot of credit also goes to the people who create the content.

Capone (2020): Mae Capone
We know very little about Mae Capone. She is one of the few people who has been involved with someone so high in this kind of world who has never really talked about it. I think she gave an interview once, and it backfired. She wanted people out of her front yard, her kids were scared and they twisted her words and she never wanted to do anything again.

At the origin of their relationship, nobody really knows. There are rumors that it was an arranged marriage. There are rumors that it was not her child. But she was very loyal to him, and never gave up on him, which I think says a lot, because most people think their story needs to be told.

TO M [Hardy, who plays Al Capone] is such an amazing actor … he’s just so creative and good at what he does. We were filming in this little town outside of New Orleans and there were about six of us living in a house converted into a hotel. It was like being at camp. I don’t think anyone can expect what he’s going to see. It’s very unusual. It’s not the Al Capone movie you’re used to, that’s for sure.


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