It’s always fun to talk with interesting people doing what they love.
I got the unique pleasure to sit down and talk with Linda Cardellini, co-star of the gonzo but heartwarming comedy “Daddy’s Home” where she plays wife to Will Ferrell’s super step-dad and ex-wife to Mark Wahlberg who returns to try and win back his wife and the love of his kids.
We talked a little bit about her time on set, the challenges of working in a genre with some of the very best, the legacy of her career, her process and the seemingly effortless jumps she makes from TV to film and back again.
Dave Voigt: I got a big kick out of the movie and it is such a sweet story but I can imagine that being on set with both Will (Ferrell) and Mark (Wahlberg) when they are in full out comedy mode can be a bit of a challenge to at the very least keep a straight face. How did you ultimately find the shooting experience working with these two guys?
Linda Cardellini: Oh it was a rush! It was so much fun just to be there and to be a part of it and I mean there is just so much improv that everyone is doing and it all stays so incredibly loose throughout, it is the way that Will and Sean (Anders) the director like it because there are usually versions where we stick to the script pretty closely and there are others where we go off script and do something that works in the moment. When Sean would just tell Will to go for it and give us what he’s got would be some of the best moments, in particular this key moment in the Daddy/Daughter dance at the end of the film when Will has to start crying because the kids call him “Dad” for the first time and he just let go and gave us such funny stuff, that’s when you realize that you are in an auditorium full of people who are trying not to burst out laughing and then when they call cut the place erupts in laughter. When you are standing there and a part of the scene, you desperately want to keep the scene going because you know how funny and brilliant it is and I try to stay in character especially because my character here isn’t necessarily the one who gets a kick out of any of it and she has to stay sane and play it straight in the middle of it all which also helps you not to break.
DV: Is that kind of thing intimidating? I can imagine that at least at first glance looking at a project and knowing that you’ll be improving with the likes of Will Ferrell can be a little daunting?
LC: Yeah, but it is pretty fun though. I mean if you are going to do this kind of stuff obviously you want to be able to go and do it with someone who is just such a master at the craft of it all, is really the best place to be. It’s like someone asking you to go jogging with the Olympic Team you know (laughs). I’m definitely not trying to win; I’m just hanging out and more than happy just to have been invited in the first place. Plus as an actor that is something that I came up doing, and we did a fair bit of it when I was on “Freaks & Geeks” and it comes in to drama as well as it is some important about just being in the character and being a part of the story you are telling at the moment, that energy is just really fun for me and if you don’t get in your head too much about it all it can allow for an incredible amount of freedom.
DV: Since you brought it up, “Freaks & Geeks” is now on Blu-Ray and you’ve had this incredibly interesting run as an actor where you been on something like “ER” which went for hundreds of episodes but also something like “Freaks” which only had a short 18 episode run but has such a devoted cult following. How is it for you to have something that is so fondly loved in spite of its short broadcast existence as a part of your career?
LC: It’s a memorable moment in my personal life and isn’t really something I am able to just leave behind. It was a special time and everyone I got to work with on that are really very dear to me, and the memories are very dear to me. I am obviously very proud of the show even though it died a very quick death while it was on the air, and I am amazed how it is finding new fans each and every day. The ardent fandom of people who love this show never gets old for me and it’s an honor to have been a part of and played such a pivotal character on a show that has continued to live on in people’s hearts in just an amazing thing. It’s a lightening in a bottle type of thing that I feel so fortunate to have had in my life…and I didn’t even know it was coming out on Blu-Ray! I’ll have to grab one.
DV: You’ve gone back and forth between TV and movies and fair bit in your entire career, do you ultimately have a preference between a job like “Daddy’s Home” versus something like “Bloodline” where you are taking part in this long arching story where you really get to flesh out and explore a character?
LC: You know, I don’t know. It really depends, on the project and who I am working with as well. I mean with “Bloodline” when you show up on set with this loaded cast with all of these marvelous actors and have THAT be your day at work, to work with a Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, Ben Mendelsohn and all of the people involved. They all just so great and I learn from them every day while conversely there is something great about film as a medium. I had a chance to work with Michael Keaton on “The Founder” which comes out in November and to have those opportunities along with a series is something that I enjoy and the ability to do a little bit of both has always been appealing to me and so far I’ve very lucky to be able to maintain that kind of balance. There’s something to be said about playing with a character over a long period of time, but having the beginning, middle and end has its advantages to because especially with something like “Bloodline”; it’s not like we know where are characters are going to go and it is fun as we wait for the next script, it keeps us engaged as actors. While in film being able to build that entire character arc is rewarding because it reminds of my beginnings in theatre and how we build the story, is also so much fun.
DV: It’s almost like working different muscles in your body. If you had to assign comedy or drama to muscles in your body, what would they be?
LC: Hmmm…you know I don’t know, let me think…wow that’s a good question (laughs) I would need to think on that, damn that is a good question it feels like one of those one’s if where I gave you an answer I’d immediately regret it and want to change it! (Laughs)
DV: I guess that dovetails right into my next question because you really are a good I guess you would say “Cross-Training” kind of actor because you are always very adept at whatever genre or type of story you are in. Is there anything out there from a storytelling perspective that you’d like to try and just haven’t gotten to yet?
LC: Hmmm…another good one but yeah there are lots of things I would like to tackle and I am always very aware of trying to change it up from project to project in an effort to surprise people, I’d just love to play someone…interesting .
DV: So yearning for a “Star Wars” or a franchise type role in your future?
LC: (Pauses, then upbeat)…Maybe! (Laughs) It all comes down to the story and the part and as an actor you just wait for the lightning bolt to strike.
DV: That’s really what it comes down to at the end of the day isn’t it?
LC: Yeah, it really is.
DV: Thanks again for the time today and keep up the good work.
LC: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
“Daddy’s Home” is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes and On Demand.