Linda Cardellini on Nudity, Keeping ‘Avengers’ a Secret, and Rapping with Snoop Dogg

by Stacy Lambe 6:59 AM PDT, April 30, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

It’s a great time to be Linda Cardellini.

The 39-year-old actress -- who first starred in the cult TV classic, Freaks and Geeks -- has been busy over the past year following an Emmy-nominated guest role as Sylvia Rosen on Mad Men. In addition to starring on Netflix’s Bloodline, created by Glenn and Todd Kessler, Cardellini appeared on FOX’s New Girl, and has two new movies opening this weekend.

The first being Welcome to Me, which tells the story of Alice (Kristen Wiig), a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery and launches her own talk show. And the other film is the ensemble blockbuster, Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which features Cardellini in a recently leaked role.

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I still don’t know if I can talk about it! I’m in this in between zone,” she tells ETonline about the part -- which we won’t spoil -- and keeping it quiet.  “I love keeping a secret. It makes it more fun. In this day and age where everybody has a lot of information, to be one of the last kept secrets in a movie of that size is pretty fun.”

Ahead of her big opening weekend, Cardellini talks to ETonline about her thoughts on going nude, binge-watching Bloodline, and how she ended up rapping with Snoop Dogg.

ETonline: Let’s talk about your character, Gina, in Welcome to Me. You play Kristen Wiig’s best friend, but you’re very much on the sidelines watching her unravel on live TV. What was that like?

Linda Cardellini: I loved her relationship with Alice. I think she’s just a caregiver from birth -- it’s who she is -- and she cares more about people maybe more than they care about her. She’s one of those givers… It’s really difficult for somebody to watch someone who they love so much suffer. Nobody’s more excited for Alice when she wins the lottery. Nobody’s more terrified for her when she wins the lottery because she knows Alice and wants to protect her so much. Now, with all this money she has a newfound autonomy. Alice is someone who is very much on routine and now to see her break this routine is very unnerving.

I love the idea of here’s a movie about mental illness and how the disease is not always funny, and quirky, and perfect like movies can make it out to be. It’s dangerous and very difficult for the people are around her and the people who love her. It’s not easy for her.

I’m glad you mentioned that because the movie is presented as a comedy, but it’s much darker than that. What genre would you put the film in?

It’s almost in its own genre in a way. It’s hard to describe, but that’s what I loved about it -- that’s what I loved about the script. It’s so funny, yet in parts, it’s dark. It’s not broad even though some of the things [Alice] does is outrageous. They’re all within reason for Alice.

One surprising moment is when Kristen walks nude through the casino. Have you ever been presented with the opportunity to do nudity or would you do it if a role like this called for it?

Yeah, I would definitely do it, especially in the way it is in this scene. It’s a vital part of her ultimate breakdown and it’s incredibly important to the movie. That to me is something where nudity really serves a purpose. Not only is she naked in every sense of the word -- in terms of her emotions, vulnerability and mental state -- it speaks to so many different things. It’s such an important scene for the film. 

You’ve had quite the year and it seemed to have started with Mad Men. Did that role suddenly open new doors or was it very much you kicking it into high gear?

I had taken some time off -- I had a baby. Mad Men was my first venture back in and it proved to be something so wonderful. It was such a great role. So to be a part of that was a huge honor. It was very exciting. People in the industry definitely saw it and they saw me in a different way. And I’ve been busy ever since, so I can’t complain.

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Bloodline got a lot of attention when it first came out. I know at one point you hadn’t watched it all yet. Have you finished the show?

Oh, yes, I’ve seen it. Knowing it and then watching it. There’s just so much fun stuff to watch.

Did you binge-watch it like the rest of us?

[Laughs] Oh, I had to binge-watch that. I had to get to know it. [Glenn and Todd Kessler] -- what they put together was different than what we knew. I wanted to see what they did. It’s hard to watch yourself, but I really like to see what everybody else is up to and what everybody else did… Seeing all of the things together, all of the people you consider your friends, all the people you know behind the camera who worked so hard to make every piece of it look the way it does -- I don’t know, I just like to see what the village accomplished.

It’s an interesting one to binge-watch considering there isn’t a pilot and it subtly changes as it goes on.

It sort of only exists in that world. This format that they did -- it started off and seems to be one thing then it subtly changes, as you said, into something else. There are so many layers to it. I feel like by the time you watch the end of the show it’s very different from the beginning of the show.

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There are so many things to talk about with this show, but I couldn’t help but notice how casual your character, Meg, was when it came to dressing up for court.

OK, so I asked -- we had some neighbors that were lawyers from Miami and they said dealing with lawyers or going to court in the Keys is unlike anything else with judges showing up without a shirt underneath their gown or in flip flops. 

Another thing that you’ve been doing a lot of, which people may not realize, is voice acting for animated shows. Do you have a favorite character from over the years?

Oh, it’s really fun. I’m a huge cartoon lover, which I’ve said before. It’s a part of what was alluring about Scooby Doo -- I love cartoons. To do voiceovers is sort of a dream. Even when I was acting, I was like, ‘I wonder if I can do that too.’ I didn’t know it was necessarily possible.

One of my favorite things is I’m on an upcoming episode of Sanjay and Craig where I get to rap. Snoop Dogg is also one of the characters, so I’m actually cartoon rapping with Snoop Dogg, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do that in my career.

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You’re also starring in the upcoming Daddy’s Home, which I think is your first big comedy since Grandma’s Boy. I bring this up because it’d be great to see you to finally have a reason to host Saturday Night Live next season.

Oh wow, that would be amazing. I would love that.

And then you could reunite with Kenan for Kenan & Kel...

[Laughs] That would be great. Wow, that’s really calling back something!

In this age of the Internet, old roles never go away.

No, they don’t! It’s great. Freaks and Geeks would be dead forever if it weren’t for the Internet.

The entire cast of Freaks and Geeks recently reunited at the TV Land Awards, watch all excitement below: