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With more than 20 years in the industry under her belt, Linda Cardellini has become one of Hollywood’s biggest chameleons, in the past year having taken on drama (Green Book), horror (The Curse of La Llorona), superheroes (Avengers: Endgame) and, most notably, headlining Netflix’s genre-defying series Dead to Me. The star, 44, spoke to THR about her year, the dynamics between her and co-star Christina Applegate, navigating the show’s twists and turns and telling a comedic story about grief.
What did you think when you first read the script?
I loved the idea of playing a character where in the first episode you can’t know what’s happening, you can’t be let in on what she’s hiding. By the rest of the series you’re in on the secret with her, and the idea of tweaking the performance based on that was an unusual way to play a character.
What was the key to nailing the tone?
We would try a lot of different things and [creator] Liz [Feldman] would go, “That’s it! That’s the tone!” But it was really just grounding it in a reality and then also finding the absurdity of how life can actually be.
How was it to jump to this series from Bloodline, which also dealt with murder, secrets and family?
They both have incredibly high stakes, but Bloodline could not be a more different show. It was a male-heavy show. I was really excited to do something that was also on Netflix but completely different, so if you watched them back-to-back they’d be such different characters. I think Meg is a very, very different person than Judy is, and to me that’s the exciting thing about acting.
You’re filming season two — what can you say about it?
There are definitely going to be more secrets and more twists and turns, so we can count on that — I knew there was a twist in the first episode when I read the first season, but I didn’t realize how each episode would be, that the show would turn and twist as the season went on. So I’m really excited about that.
You’ve had a really busy year. What is it like to be 20 years into your career and still have so much success?
I am so happy about it. I was always scared. People are always scared with you being a woman in Hollywood and turning a certain age — turning 40 or whatever it is — that you’re just not going to work very much anymore. And I’m so happy, I feel like the best is still yet to come.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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