Family & Companions
Equally adept in comedy or drama, Linda Cardellini was universally hailed as a major talent but struggled to find projects worthy of her potential. After a string of television guest spots, she registered on the big screen with a small role in the kids' comedy "Good Burger" (1997) and a larger role in the horror flick "Strangeland" (1998). Cardellini's breakthrough came as Lindsay Weir on the beloved Judd Apatow-produced dramedy series "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000). Despite rave reviews, the program was quickly canceled, but enjoyed an amazing cult following and group of alums, including James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen and Cardellini's boyfriend-at-the-time, Jason Segel. The actress rode the wave of adulation to a memorable cameo in "Legally Blonde" (2001) and then breathed marvelously comic life into classic cartoon Velma in the hit "Scooby-Doo" (2002) and its 2004 sequel. In 2003, she joined "ER" (NBC, 1994-2010) as the fearless Nurse Samantha Taggart and won praise for a brief role in "Brokeback Mountain" (2005). Although she proved her comedic fearlessness with fun work in "Grandma's Boy" (2006) and on "Robot Chicken" (Adult Swim, 2005- ), Cardellini did not receive the career boosts Judd Apatow bestowed on Franco, Rogen and Segel through his comedy films. Despite this fact, Cardellini's impressive reviews for her work in the drama "Return" (2012), finally acknowledged her as a gifted actress and a uniquely intelligent, quirky presence onscreen.
Born June 25, 1975, in Redwood City, CA, Linda Edna Cardellini was the daughter of Lorraine and Wayne David Cardellini. A brief appearance singing in a school play sparked her love of performing, and Cardellini went on to take acting lessons and appear in additional productions. Determined to become a professional actress, she moved to Los Angeles after graduating high school and was cast as Sarah, a high school freshman investigating paranormal activity on the Saturday morning series "Bone Chillers" (ABC, 1996). Although the creepy anthology was short-lived, Cardellini quickly fleshed out her résumé with TV guest spots on everything from "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001), "Pacific Palisades" (Fox, 1997), "Clueless" (ABC, 1996-97; UPN, 1997-99) and Step by Step" (ABC, 1991-97; CBS, 1997-98). Amusingly enough, Cardellini's TV debut came in 1994, when she won a fireplace on "The Price is Right" (CBS, 1972- ).
Photographing younger than her real age, Cardellini made her film debut as the fast-talking oddball Heather in the Kenan & Kel kids' comedy "Good Burger" (1997) and also appeared in an episode of the goofy duo's self-titled show (Nickelodeon, 1996-2000). Tackling darker material, Cardellini played a high school student trapped in the hellish "Strangeland" (1998), the horror debut of Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider. The memorably creepy box and poster art featured the actress with her mouth sewn shut. She took a small role in the forgettable college comedy "Dead Man on Campus" that same year, crossing paths for the first time with another up-and-comer named Jason Segel. She continued to work steadily on television and in film, notching a notable and lengthy arc on the much-loved tween staple "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000) as the girl who briefly (and scandalously) inserted herself between Generation Y supercouple Cory and Topanga (Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel). Cardellini's big break, however, came when she was cast on a new series mining both the comedy and drama of a 1980s-era Michigan high school, "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000). The actress starred as Lindsay Weir, a young woman searching for meaning as she leaves behind her former "good girl" persona to question her faith in religion and society while befriending a group of glamorously troubled slackers and tough kids, including James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen and her previous co-star, Jason Segel. With an amazingly talented cast, sensitive, sharp writing, and an achingly poignant eye for even the smallest detail of the most minor character, the show was beloved by critics yet struggled to attract an audience.
One of the most notable traits of the extraordinary show was the complexity and depth of Cardellini's character; the actress presented one of the most realistic and wholehearted portrayals of a teenager on television. Created by Paul Feig and able to elicit guffaws and tears in the very same episode, the series became a cult favorite and prompted many critics to write impassioned articles on its behalf, enshrining it as one of the all-time best shows on television. Despite its short run, "Freaks and Geeks" took on an almost mythical status in Hollywood, and many of the cast and crew - including executive producer Judd Apatow - would go on to shape an entire era of Hollywood comedy. One of the most poignant through-lines of the series was the ill-fated romance between Cardellini's and Segel's characters. Life imitated art, as the two dated in real life as well. Their break-up and Segel's painful recovery from it would inspire him to write the bittersweet roman à clef "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008), which became a major comedy hit and made him an overnight star.
Buoyed by her success and armed with a recent theater degree from Loyola Marymount University, the actress rose from the ashes of "Freaks and Geeks" to the big screen with a small but juicy role in the Reese Witherspoon smash "Legally Blonde" (2001) as a murderous stepdaughter memorably undone on the witness stand by Elle Woods's knowledge of perms. Even more impressively, Cardellini brought the famously dowdy animated character of Velma Dinkley to surprisingly sexy life in the successful big-screen re-imagining of "Scooby-Doo" (2002), a role she would reprise in the 2004 sequel. Cardellini found the long-term TV success that had previously eluded her when she joined the cast of the powerhouse "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) in 2003 as the tough-as-nails single mother and nurse Samantha Taggart. Replacing Maura Tierney's Abby Lockhart character as the show's main nurse, Cardellini's character struggled to free herself from an oft-returning, abusive ex-husband. The actress stayed with the show until its decade-long run finally ended.
She hit another career high with a small part in the Oscar-winning cultural phenomenon "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) as Cassie, a waitress who attempts a flirtation with the closeted gay cowboy Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger). Along with her castmates, Cardellini earned nominations for ensemble acting from the Screen Actors Guild. Although she did not benefit the way many of her co-stars did from the post-"Freaks and Geeks" rise-to-power enjoyed by Judd Apatow, she did star as the up-for-anything female lead in the good-natured, Apatow-esque stoner comedy "Grandma's Boy" (2006). Cardellini appeared in the Western miniseries "Comanche Moon" (CBS, 2008) and proved her comic fearlessness with killer voiceovers on both the cult fave "Robot Chicken" (Adult Swim, 2005- ) and the short-lived family parody "The Goode Family" (ABC, 2009). After returning to the stage in 2010-11 to star in the regional comedy "Dr. God," Cardellini supported Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer in the indie crime thriller "Kill the Irishman" (2011). Sticking with the independent film world, she delivered an acclaimed performance in the war-themed drama, "Return" (2012), where she played an Army reservist who struggles to rebuild her life and relationships following a tour of duty in the Middle East. Cardellini's subtle performance was praised by critics and earned her an Indie Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress.
In 2013, Cardellini joined the cast of the Emmy-winning drama "Mad Men" (AMC 2007-15) as Sylvia Rosen, the middle-aged wife of genial heart surgeon Dr. Arnold Rosen (Brian Markinson). Sylvia's torrid and emotionally ambiguous affair with her upstairs neighbor Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was one of the key dramatic arcs of the show's sixth season.
By Jonathan Riggs
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made debut as a series regular on ABC Saturday morning program "Bone Chillers"
Feature film debut, "Good Burger"
Appeared on "Boy Meets World" (ABC) in a recurring role
Cast in the college-set comedy "Dead Man on Campus"; played Jason Segel's girlfriend
Played a victim in the horror film "Strangeland"
Played a young starlet in AMC special "The Lot"
Cast as honor student Lindsay Weir on NBC comedy-drama series "Freaks and Geeks," directed by Judd Apatow; co-starred with James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel
Portrayed Velma Dinkley in live-action adaption of "Scooby-Doo"
Joined NBC medical drama "ER" as nurse Samantha Taggart
Reprised role of Velma for "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed"
Cast opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain"
Starred opposite Martin Short in comedy "Jiminy Glick in La La Wood"
Co-starred in IFC project "American Gun," written and directed by Aric Avelino
Played lovelorn Clara in CBS miniseries "Comanche Moon"
Starred in indie drama "Return" as a soldier who comes home after finishing tour of duty
Voiced Marcy 'Hot Dog Water' Fleach on "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated"
Voiced Wendy Corduroy on "Gravity Falls"
Turned heads in a recurring role as one of Don Draper's many mistresses on "Mad Men"
Had a recurring guest role on "New Girl"
Played Meg Rayburn on "Bloodline"
Starred in Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlburg comedy "Daddy's Home"
Cast in McDonald's founder biopic "The Founder"
Returned for "Daddy's Home 2"