Interview | Linda Cardellini on ‘Daddy’s Home’ and Velma’s Sexuality
Daddy’s Home may be the latest comedy starring The Other Guys guys, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, but if you ask us, the whole movie belongs to Linda Cardellini. The actress plays Will Ferrell’s wife and Mark Wahlberg’s ex-wife, but skillfully avoids being treated like an object to be won, or a mere plot point. She’s an intelligent and thoughtful person who sees all the comic shenanigans coming and tries to stop them before all of their lives spiral out of control (but of course, since it’s a movie, they spiral out of control anyway).
Linda Cardellini is one of our favorite actresses here at Crave. She’s starred in classic shows like Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men and Gravity Falls, made the iconic role of Velma from Scooby-Doo all her own, and keeps popping up in notable roles in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron and the upcoming The Founder, which stars Michael Keaton as the man behind the McDonald’s fast food franchise. She has an extensive and fascinating career and with only ten minutes on the phone to chat about it, we were barely able to skim the surface.
But we do so hope you enjoy our conversation about Daddy’s Home (now available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD), the sexual side of Velma they shot for the Scooby-Doo movie (a scene that wasn’t released), and which moment from the hit show Gravity Falls she almost didn’t want to film.
Crave: I was surprised by how much I liked your character in Daddy’s Home. I was expecting a character who was willing to put up with a lot of this crap, and you really wanted none of it. Every step of the way you were like, “Do we have to have him stay over?”
I guess that’s not really a question…
Linda Cardellini: [Laughs.] No, I appreciate it! That was something that was really important to me. I think going into the film and hearing the pitch and knowing that it was going to be Will and Mark, you know that chemistry is so fantastic, and especially with these roles I thought they were so perfect for these roles. Hearing the pitch, it made me laugh. And then realizing that here I am in the middle of it, the woman who… she’s not hysterical, she’s not an airhead, she’s actually a really good mom trying to make both of these situations work for her kids, but at the same time she’s matured more than perhaps both of these men have. So I liked that about her. I think she has to tow the line and do it in a way that still allows for the comedy, so it was something I was working hard at!
Is that something that you look for, or something that you don’t always have the luxury to look for in a character nowadays?
Which part of that?
I guess just the strength of the character, because oftentimes in comedy there’s a certain formula and I find that the female characters in male-centric comedies get the short shrift once in a while.
I really thought that she was very present. She wasn’t an absentee mom in order to let what was happening happen. I liked how present she was in the story and in her children’s lives, and you know she’s also somebody who’s working and she went from having this wild love affair when she was young to maturing, realizing that that’s not what’s best for her or her family, and finding somebody who’s really, really good to her. Telling her she’s beautiful every time she walks down the stairs to go to work, and probably when she goes to sleep after a long day. You know? It’s somebody who truly loves her and puts the family first, so I just liked where she was coming from. I liked all the different elements of the film. I thought it was really sweet. I thought the kids had great roles. You know, they have their own arcs with everybody in the film. I just thought that it was a really sweet story that had a lot of elements that rang true, which are things that happen now with families being blended. I don’t know, I just found it really sweet. And when it gets time to the end of the film, even though I know what’s going to happen, I just find the end of the film really uplifting and it made me smile.
So I’m a huge Gravity Falls fan…
You’re awesome in Gravity Falls, I thank you for Gravity Falls, but I have to ask: how long did you know that you were the ice bag?
Not long, you know? Not long at all! Sometimes you go in and you do your part and you don’t really know the whole until it comes out, and in animation it takes a long time, so there are things that are mysteries even to us. And Alex [Hirsch] is so creative and wonderful, and everybody who worked on the show. It’s so much fun to see all of the twists and turns they put in. But sometimes, you know, you’re in the studio and an episode comes out many, many, many months later and you forget things. It’s a very different process than moviemaking.
How did your live-action cameo come together?
[Laughs.] They asked me if I wanted to do it, and for a minute I thought, “Do I really want to do it? Do I really…?” You know, because I have a young daughter and she’s very, very young. She’s four. And there is a magic to the animation world that she doesn’t tie into the live-action thing with, you know? Animation is so real to her, and so magical, and so there was a part of me that wondered if I wanted to break that illusion. And then I talked about it with Alex, and Jason [Ritter] was game for it, and I thought, “Okay, let’s do it.” And he goes, “If it works, we’ll put it in. If it doesn’t we won’t.” So we went and we shot it and dressed up. [Laughs.] It was really silly fun, and I’m so happy. I’m so happy that that’s in there.
What can you tell me about The Founder? We’re all really excited about that film. It sounds really interesting.
Thank you, me too. I’m really excited about it. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, he’s the co-founder of McDonald’s, and it’s a story about… you know, we all drive past McDonald’s ten times a day. There are so many of them and it’s become so much of our world. I don’t know that necessarily anybody knows much of the story of how it happened, and this delves into it. […] It’s a complicated story, and I play a woman named Joan Smith who would become Joan Kroc, and she turned out to be a really wonderful person who devotes much of the money she inherits after her much-loved husband dies, and she ends up being one of the greatest philanthropists in American [history]. National Public Radio… It’s just an interesting story about the genesis of McDonald’s as we know it. And Michael Keaton is amazing. He’s one of my favorite actors. [Laughs.] To get to work with him was a privilege and really was a wonderful thing.
It was really cool to see you show up in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but is there a part of you who wonders, when you get an opportunity to play “Laura Barton” in an Avengers movie, if you should hold out for a superhero instead?
I know. I know, of course! Everybody wants to be a superhero but at the same time I loved the role, and I loved the idea that here’s this secret that he [Hawkeye] has been hiding, and here is this woman who comes in and you didn’t know she was a motivation for his character for that long. And she has all the Avengers in her front room! [Laughs.] You know? So that part was pretty fun. You know, I just take it as it comes and I love Joss, he’s fantastic, and the idea of being a part of that movie and having those really heartfelt scenes with superheroes who are otherwise going crazy throughout the universe was something that really appealed to me.
Did they contract you to play that character ten more times?
[Thinks.] I don’t know if I can talk about that stuff. That’s sort of how they do things. No comment.
“No comment.” Fair enough…
[Laughs.] I don’t want to get in trouble!
I was first introduced to you through the Scooby-Doo movies, and I was like, “Oh, she’s like the perfect Velma…”
In the first Scooby-Doo movie in particular, Velma’s sexuality was a factor. You looked at Daphne and went “Wow.” Was that something you talked about on the set?
Oh, that was something that was really heavy in the first script. You know, James Gunn, he wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy, now everybody knows him, but James Gunn wrote the script for [Scooby-Doo] 1 and 2, and the first script had a lot of that in it.
There was this whole section where I [was] drunk and I sang on a piano, and then – this never made it to any of the DVDs – I ripped off my shirt and I’ve got this, like, Rosie the Riveter-esque bra on. […] Maybe not Rosie the Riveter but this very STRONG bra. [Laughs.] Anyways, I don’t know, I just rip off my shirt and I have this bra on and I’m singing this song and I point and the whole joke of the scene was, you didn’t know who I was pointing to… if it was Daphne, or if it was Fred. They were looking at each other like that. “I don’t know who she’s looking at.”
But yeah, there was a lot more of that in the first movie because I think the fans of Scooby-Doo, for many-many years, that was always a thread of discussion about the character. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not about that, but the cartoon had that conversation had that conversation happening and it’s something that they addressed in the movie but it’s one of those things that sort of went in but were taken out.
Top Photo: Desiree Navarro / WireImage
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.