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Linda Cardellini is a Powerful Woman (And That’s Just One Thing We Like About Her)


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Linda Cardellini is a Powerful Woman (And That’s Just One Thing We Like About Her)

By: Greg Hudson|March 30, 2015




Now, she’s on Bloodline, a Netflix drama by the people who created Damages. You’ve probably already binge watched it. And fallen in love with Linda Cardellini again. And it’s not because she’s sweet. Although, she is of course. You notice that right away. She’s very diplomatic, which bears mentioning, even though it’s not exactly a surprising trait in an actress. But, the way Cardellini pulls it off feels less like Hollywood media training, and more like, well, cheating. Like unkindness just doesn’t occur to her. Behold, an actress in whom there is no guile.

You ask her to talk about herself, and she flounders. You give her the option to take shots at some pretty broad targets and she answers without a shade of snark. She recently had a child, for example. Of all the adjustments that caring for another small human brings, suddenly having to watch copious amounts of children’s programming may not be the most grave, but it’s still annoying. Talking about infantile cartoon, that’s an easy chance to vent. But no. “I love cartoons, so it works for me perfectly,” she says. “I have to actually limit them. I would sit there and watch them longer, but my daughter shouldn’t watch that much cartoons.”

I push back. Because there’s always a cartoon parents can’t stand. “Well, there was a moment where I got really tired of Dora. But listen to this,” she says, as though Dora might read this later. “Then, I switched over to other cartoons and found that my daughter was actually scared, so I welcomed Dora back. It was so benign and sweet and somewhat educational.”

What about the obnoxious enigma that is Caillou? A television program seemingly orchestrated to test the patience of even the kindest parent. “Caillou is not my favourite.” That’s the harshest she’ll get.


Still, it’s what made her turn on Mad Men so potent. People will say that it garnered so much attention (and an Emmy nomination) because it showed that Linda Cardellini (or maybe Lindsey Weir) had grown up. But that isn’t quite right. Cardellini had played grown women before. It’s that Cardellini was able to show she had grown up, while still keeping her super power. So, her Sylvia Rosen was strong, but not. She was a sinner, but still innocent. Her unfair advantage, which allows Cardellini to still play sarcastic teenagers in countless cartoon voice acting gigs, becomes remarkably sexy when it’s distilled by experience and served up in the person of Linda Cardellini, who has thankfully aged out of playing high school seniors and college kids in real life.“I think I grew up and I was lucky enough to be still working at something that I loved and I was able to transition from playing a young girl to a woman and I’m so grateful that I made that transition,” she says. But, back to the unfair advantage. “I haven’t told anybody that before,” she continues. “It’s an exclusive on what superpower I would like to have.” The implication of course, is that she has had to learn things the hard way, but when I press, she only says, “Oh come on, who doesn’t have to learn things the hard way?” True. But, from a thematic perspective, it’s perfect that she mentioned that. It seems perfectly earnest, and maybe a bit fragile.

It’s the humility of a working actor. There’s success, but bruising, too. “There’s always doubt that can creep in,” she says. “My mom used to say if I didn’t cry then I wouldn’t get the job. Whenever I felt horrible about something it was always the time that it was actually working for me. I’ve always wished that I were better at selling myself in that way, but that’s not my strong suit.”

Only, somehow it is. Watch Bloodline. She uses her super power. Her character might live in a moral grey area, she might know terrible secrets, she will have layers and surprises. But her smile will shatter hearts and make you feel safe and worried at the same time. She’ll be showing up in a Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy this year, too. Completely different feel, but her power will be on display, making it utterly believable that Ferrell and Wahlberg would fight over her. It’s what we love about every character Linda Cardellini plays. And we can’t help it. She does it on purpose.


What got me started thinking of Linda Cardellini’s super power was this: she brought it up.

“If I had one superpower it would probably be to not have to learn things the hard way,” Linda Cardellini says. “To know the right thing, before having to learn it the hard way.” And in doing so, she revealed the power she actually has. Super power might be a tad hyperbolic. Call it, instead, her unfair advantage. To succeed anywhere, especially in Hollywood, you need an unfair advantage (I learned this listening to a business podcast, so it must be true). This doesn’t mean nepotism, or a trust fund (although, it might!). It means that you possess something that gives you a leg up on your competition: maybe your experience, or your savvy. In Hollywood it usually has something to do with your looks.

Looks aside, which yes, of course she has, Linda Cardellini’s unfair advantage, her super power, is how she breaks apart your cold heart and makes you want her to like you. She radiates a kind fragile earnestness. Make no mistake: she doesn’t seem fragile (except when she wants to) or, heaven forbid, weak. Look at her eyes, they plead and sooth, maybe taunt, in equal measure. They are the eyes of someone who seems to see only the best in the world, but her vision might also be starting to fail.

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