Interview: Linda Cardellini on “Welcome to Me” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Linda Cardellini (far right) in Welcome to Me

Linda Cardellini on “Welcome to Me”

Freaks and Geeks Actor Stars Opposite Kristen Wiig in New Dark Comedy

May 01, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Since her breakthrough role as Lindsay Weir of the cult series Freaks and Geeks, Linda Cardellini has become a familiar face in a wide range of television and films, from her long-running role as Samantha Taggart on E.R., to films as varied as Brokeback Mountain, Return, and the live action Scooby Doo franchise. In recent years, Cardellini played a pivotal role opposite Jon Hamm on Mad Men, for which she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress, and she currently stars in the Netflix original series Bloodline with Kyle Chandler.

In Welcome to Me (now available on Blu-Ray and DVD), Cardellini plays Gina, the heroically patient best friend of Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who wins the lottery and uses the money to finance a cable talk show about her life. We chatted with her about her latest film role and distinguished television career.

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: How’d you get a hold of this script? Did it come through your agent, or did it have a more roundabout path in finding its way to you?

Linda Cardellini: No, it was typical. It came through my managers. I just read it and really loved it. I thought it was so beautiful, the way Eliot [Laurence] had written it, and funny. And I knew Kristen [Wiig] was attached, and I was an admirer of hers, so I knew it would be a fun project to be part of. And I also liked the idea of playing her best friend; sort of the long-suffering best friend. She’s full of love for Alice and wants the best for Alice, but nothing is probably more terrifying for her than Alice having all of this money. It’s exciting for her, but she also knows all of Alice’s self-destructive tendencies, and what’s it like to be around someone who is dealing with mental illness. It’s also hard for those around them. It’s not always cute, or quirky, or a walk in the park.

It’s obvious that Alice is someone who can be difficult to be friends with. What did you see as the thing that kept your character sticking beside her for so many years?

I think Gina sees the best in people. I think she’s the type of person who’s very much a giver. And she always will be, regardless—that’s just who she is. I think that she is probably a very good caretaker for Alice in some ways, and that Alice is probably much braver than she is, in a lot of ways. And so she admires things about Alice, and Alice’s personality. I think she wants to protect her.

They’ve been friends since they were kids, and people are very different when they are younger from when they start turning into adults. Sometimes certain mental illnesses are triggered by certain events in your life. They don’t surface or show symptoms until later in life. There’s a bond there that they have from a very young age, and they’ve probably changed a lot from then.

For the audience, your character is a very important counterbalance to Kristen Wiig’s character. I feel like we’re meant to see Alice in the same way Gina sees her: we like her, but become increasingly frustrated with her as the story goes on. I don’t want to say you’re playing the straight man in this –

Right. [Laughs]

—because there’s so much more to it than that. I’m curious, is it easier for you to approach a character who has the same point of view as the audience; or you, as you read the script?

Yeah! Well, I think Gina’s perspective of her—she’s more forgiving than other people of Alice. I think she might be just a little bit more sane, and the audience can relate to that. But she’s so hopeful for Alice, and for them, in life, that even though she’s worried about it, she’s very hopeful that Alice will get it together. There’s a very strong chance, and I think you see that, which is why walking that line is what’s so awkward about Alice’s character, and seeing her when she’s so destructive.

As an actor, you’ve done both comedies and dramas. This one’s somewhere in between. Do you find either to be more of a challenge?

I like them both. It’s been very fun to go back and forth between the two. It’s sort of like your moods, you know? I feel like I can go up and down in that way; sometimes life is comedy, and sometimes life is tragedy. That’s what is so fun about what I’ve been able to do throughout my job, to do both. Because that’s life! Life is both.

Looking at your career, it’s striking how you’re so strongly associated with your great TV roles—Freaks & Geeks; E.R., and now Mad Men—but you’ve never let yourself be pigeonholed into certain character types. Has that taken a lot of effort on your part?

I like to change it up. That’s what’s exciting for me, in the career. I like to go different places and do different things. While I enjoy being identified with some of the great roles that I’ve had, I also enjoy surprising people by doing something different. That’s really the beauty of acting. I’ve been lucky in finding good material with different roles.

How was Shira Piven, as director?

Great! Her theatre background is very strong, and she was invested in discovering and exploring the characters. We talked a lot about it, and it comes from a very real place. That’s why I think this movie is so different: although some of the things that Alice does are so outlandish, it comes from a very real place. When Kristen says things in the film, they’re funny because they’re so honest, you know? [Laughs]

I think that’s what was beautiful about the writing, too. There was a delicate balance in the script, and I think Shira found it wonderfully.

You mentioned you had been a fan of Kristen’s work. What had you seen her in that you’d admired her for?

On Saturday Night Live. She was just outstanding! She’s really one of the funniest people out there, male or female. And she was incredible in Bridesmaids, which, you know, was Paul Feig and some of my friends. And to write that… I just enjoy watching her. And in this film! She’s a great dramatic actress, and comedic actress, and this role was perfect for her.

You didn’t really know each other before doing this film.

Hm-mm.

But it did feel like the two of you had a long history together. Was there anything you did to rapidly develop that chemistry?

We just hung out! I really like her, as a person. And I enjoy her talent. She’s just a fun person to be around. She’s a very normal, down-to-earth, honest, fun person. It’s funny. It felt like we’d known each other forever.

Was the opportunity to work with a female filmmaker also a draw for you?

Oh, sure. I love it. And it’s funny, because Kristen was also in Hateship, Loveship with a woman I know, Liza Johnson, who directed Return. [Cardellini starred in the 2012 film with John Slattery and Michael Shannon.] Comparatively, there are so few female directors. I love to work with new talent, male or female. The fact that it’s a female is, of course, exciting to me, as another female. Usually on set you’re surrounded by mostly men, and it’s really nice to have a female presence there.

***

Welcome to Me is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Alchemy. For more information about the film, check out its website.



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KKC
May 1st 2015
8:23pm

She was horrible on New Girl in Season 3. She had ruined the show of that season.