Linda Cardellini got her start in the acting industry in the ’90s, and her star has been on the rise ever since. She started off in the 1996 series Bone Chillers and from there went on to guest roles in such iconic ’90s shows as 3rd Rock from the Sun, Clueless, Step by Step, Kenan & Kel, and Boy Meets World – not to mention her role in Freaks and Geeks. Soon enough, Cardellini began to land roles in major films, including Legally Blonde, Scooby-Doo, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Decades after she first appeared on the scene, Cardellini is still a prolific actress, with notable roles in shows like Bloodline and Dead to Me. Cardellini has come a long way in her many years on television and on the big screen, and she has changed a lot since she first came to prominence in the 1990s. Cardellini hasn’t just built a successful career for herself, but she also has a thriving home life. Here’s a closer look at how much Linda Cardellini has transformed over the years.
Linda Cardellini grew up in a large and supportive family
Linda Cardellini’s childhood seems to have been a happy one. She has described her family positively, revealing to Elle that her parents have always been supportive of her. According to Cardellini, her mom set "a great example" and "was there for everything." Her parents raised her to believe she "could do anything," even if her dreams didn’t seem possible.
Cardellini also grew up with a close bond with her siblings. As the youngest of four, as well as the youngest of many cousins, she grew up as "the baby of the entire family" and had plenty of relatives to look up to in a crowded but loving home. Cardellini said that she particularly looked up to her sister who was 13 years her senior and "was hugely influential" when she was growing up, providing her with a lot of advice.
Linda Cardellini has always loved performing
Linda Cardellini wasn’t a child star exactly, but she did start performing at a very young age. The future actress always loved to perform, telling Rolling Stone that, as a child, she would put on shows for her family — complete with tickets and snacks that she would sell at intermission. In spite of getting the acting bug from a young age, though, Cardellini didn’t realize that she could actually have a future in performance. Instead, she wanted to follow in the footsteps of sitcom character Angela from Who’s the Boss and write jingles for commercials. "I didn’t think you could make a living out of [acting]," she explained.
Another hurdle to acting was that Cardellini "was a little shy," as she told Interview. Still, once she realized that acting was a feasible career path, nothing could get in her way. "I was just crazy enough to think I could do it," she said.
Linda Cardellini started off in theater
Even though she is best known for her television and film roles, Linda Cardellini actually started her acting career on the stage. Cardellini revealed to The Cut that she began acting at school after a teacher heard her singing in the hallway, and the rest is history. As noted by Rolling Stone, Cardellini acted in her school Christmas show before then playing an elderly woman in a production of The Music Man when she was 11 years old. From there, she went on to participate in theater in high school, with Mountain View Voice reporting that she both starred in and directed several productions, including Grease, The Wiz, and Dracula. After her high school graduation, Cardellini moved to Los Angeles and continued her theater studies at Loyola Marymount University.
People who knew Cardellini in her younger years say that her star power was evident from childhood. "She had tremendous stage presence even when she was very young," the director of her youth theater group told SFGate.
Linda Cardellini’s TV debut was as a contestant on this popular game show
While she’s a respected television star these days, Linda Cardellini’s TV debut wasn’t actually an acting role. Instead, she found herself as a contestant on the game show The Price Is Right. It’s hardly the sort of auspicious beginning you’d expect from such a celebrated star, but hey, at least she ended up winning something. As Cardellini told The Daily Beast, she came away from the show with a fireplace that she kept long after she became famous — her friend even had a plaque made for it that said "Linda’s First Appearance on Television: The Price Is Right."
While Cardellini clearly treasures the fireplace, it wasn’t the win she wanted. In an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, Cardellini confessed that she’d had her heart set on a camper, reasoning that, as a college student, a camper would have been fun to take on trips with friends.
Linda Cardellini’s first paid role was for a Japanese commercial
Linda Cardellini’s first paid acting role is one that you’ve likely never seen before, unless you were in Japan. Before taking on the television roles that would make her famous, Cardellini starred in a commercial for a product called Cool Soap.
The entire experience, as Cardellini described it to Backstage, sounds a bit awkward. In addition to the commercial, the gig also involved voiceover and print work "for very little money." Cardellini said she and two other girls had to say "catchphrases that seemed very American" like, "Oh, he’s your baby, he’s your honey," and "Oh cool," while wearing "nude-colored bathing suits" to advertise the soap. Cardellini also had to "make a noise" that made it sound like the soap "feels really cold at first but then it feels really invigorating" on the skin.
Cardellini admitted that she has no idea what the finished product looks like. "I don’t know if it even exists," she said.
Linda Cardellini is "so proud" of her role on Freaks and Geeks
Linda Cardellini’s breakout role as Lindsay Weir on the cult classic Freaks and Geeks is still one of her most iconic. The script immediately resonated with Cardellini, who told Rolling Stone that she found it "so beautiful" and "different." She closely identified with Lindsay, whom she felt "represented the struggle that I had… to be grown up in some ways but was still a kid."
Even though the show lasted for just one season, it’s still a fan favorite. Cardellini still gets recognized as Lindsay, decades after the show came out, but it doesn’t bother her in the slightest. "I’m so proud of it," the actress told Elle. She even still has an important piece of Freaks and Geeks history: Lindsay’s army-green jacket. She revealed to Vanity Fair that the jacket — which she had her castmates sign — even survived a fire, "so it’s meant to be."
Linda Cardellini didn’t think she’d even land an audition for Scooby-Doo
One of Linda Cardellini’s most memorable roles is that of Velma in the 2002 live action adaptation of the beloved Scooby-Doo cartoon. In spite of the fact that Cardellini seems tailor-made for the part, the actress didn’t think that she would even land an audition for the film, let alone land the part. She told Rolling Stone that she grew up loving the cartoon and set out to do everything she could to win the role.
When she went to her audition, she went all in, creating a faux bob and dressing in character — something no one else at the audition did. While this led to a lot of nerves — Cardellini said she was "mortified" that she was the only one who turned up in costume — she ended up nailing the audition, although she didn’t "know if I was doing a good job or a bad job" and "felt horribly uncomfortable" through the whole process.
Cardellini ended up getting the gig, which was also her first major film. "I took that role very seriously," she said.
Linda Cardellini only planned to stay on ER for a year
One of Linda Cardellini’s most memorable roles is one that she didn’t think she would stick with for very long. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed that she only planned to portray the character of nurse Samantha Taggart on the show ER for a year, saying, "I don’t like to stay too long doing one thing." She had also been planning on doing more film work, and had been eagerly looking forward to her next project. However, her time on the set of ER ended up being one of her "favorite experiences," which led to her staying on the show until it wrapped in 2009. She noted that she "just loved it so much" and was drawn to "the community of people and the talent that I got to work with."
Cardellini formed an incredibly tight bond with her ER castmates, saying that she still maintains a text chain with several of them. "We’re still very close," she said.
Linda Cardellini met her fiance when she was just 10 years old
While celebrity marriages are notorious for often being short-lived, Linda Cardellini seems to have found a fairy tale love with her longtime beau, Steven Rodriguez. Cardellini met her fiancé when she was just 10 years old and when he was only 11. In fact, Rodriguez was her childhood crush, first catching Cardellini’s attention when he became the new kid at her school. "He could do amazing bike tricks and I was impressed," Cardellini recalled to People.
While Cardellini and Rodriguez were childhood friends, they were not quite childhood sweethearts. They didn’t get together until roughly three years before their 2013 engagement, after years of friendship. Cardellini explained that it had suddenly occurred to them that their strong friendship meant they "could probably be great partners," and the rest is history.
Cardellini and Rodriguez have one child together, a daughter named Lilah-Rose, who was born in 2012.
Linda Cardellini broke into voice acting because "nobody was looking for a pregnant woman"
Even if you don’t recognize Linda Cardellini’s face, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with her distinctive voice. The actress has performed a number of voice roles over the years, beginning with a role in the 2003 video game Gladius. It would be a few years, though, before Cardellini got steady work as a voice actress, and her rise in the voice-acting part of the entertainment industry not-so-coincidentally aligned with her pregnancy. "Nobody was looking for a pregnant woman," Cardellini told Backstage. Cardellini picked up a number of recurring voice gigs. Since then, she’s provided voices for the likes of Out There, Gravity Falls, and Sanjay and Craig.
Transitioning to voice work was a big change for Cardellini, who told Den of Geek that "you forget how much you rely on just a simple look on your face" after years of TV and film acting. Voice work also helped Cardellini realize she has "a distinct voice" which she "had no idea" about until people started recognizing her for her voice work.
Linda Cardellini’s Mad Men role garnered her an Emmy nomination
Linda Cardellini’s first major role after having her baby was on Mad Men as Don Draper’s mistress, Sylvia Rosen. She revealed to Rolling Stone that she was hesitant about even going on the audition as she had given birth just four months before she got a call about the show. "An audition just sounded like torture," she said, not thinking she was ready to go back to work. Things seemed to go downhill from there. Cardellini wasn’t even sure if the audition went "really well or really badly" and ended up crying in the middle of it — but she made it work for the scene and ended up landing the gig.
Filming for the show was rough — especially because of the period clothing worn on set. Cardellini said she was terrified of destroying the gorgeous costumes because she "was breastfeeding and pumping" at the time.
In spite of all the hurdles, joining the cast of Mad Men ended up paying off big time for Cardellini, who was nominated for an Emmy for her role on the show.
Becoming a mom changed Linda Cardellini’s approach to acting
Motherhood is a transformative experience, whether you’re a celebrity or not. Becoming a parent changed Linda Cardellini’s life far beyond late-night feedings and changing diapers. Not only did she become responsible for another human being, but having a baby also changed her approach to her career. In an interview with Syfy Wire, Cardellini said that being a mom very much influenced her character of Anna Garcia in The Curse of La Llorona, which is based on a Latin American legend about a woman who takes her children’s lives and her own and becomes a child-stealing ghost.
"I think your perspective shifts once you become a parent," said Cardellini. Now that she has a child of her own, Cardellini said that she "see[s] everything from a parent’s perspective" rather than from the lens of her inner child. She added that being a mom hasn’t just influenced how she approaches new roles but also how she views past roles. Looking back at her character Lindsay’s behavior on Freaks and Geeks, for example, she’s appalled. "I would kill her," she said.
This is how Linda Cardellini has avoided being typecast
Linda Cardellini has played a variety of characters across several genres over the years. Whether she’s playing an awkward teenager or a nurse, Cardellini shines on screen and proves her talent for both comedy and drama. Cardellini’s vast arsenal of roles doesn’t just show her talent and versatility as an actress, but it’s also a testament to how hard she has worked to avoid being typecast.
In an interview with Under the Radar, Cardellini explained how she has been able to play such a broad range of characters without getting pigeonholed into a genre or a certain type of character. She revealed that she has always loved both comedy and drama, saying, "Life is both." Cardellini has approached her career with the desire "to change it up," saying that, while she does like being associated with her iconic roles, she likes to surprise her fans by taking on something new.
She added, "I’ve been lucky in finding good material with different roles."
It took a while for Linda Cardellini to relate to her Dead to Me character
Fans can’t get enough of Linda Cardellini in her role as free-spirited Judy Hale in Dead to Me, but it’s not a part she originally envisioned herself in. In fact, when she first got the script, she thought that she would be auditioning for the other main character, Jen. Cardellini revealed to Rolling Stone that she did not "relate to Judy" at all when she first landed the role, but was up for the challenge of portraying the complex character who is hiding a major secret. "It was so different than anything I had come across," said Cardellini of the Netflix show.
As the show progressed, Cardellini began to relate more to her character, and especially loved bonding with her co-star Christina Applegate. She said that the friendship between Jen and Judy really has "a lot of texture" because of her friendship with Applegate, who was a big part of why Cardellini wanted to do the show. The actress said that working with Applegate is a unique experience. "I haven’t been in a situation with a woman who is my own peer and been able to play like that every single day on set," she said.