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March 2004
Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed: An Interview with Linda Cardellini

By Todd Gilchrist

Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed: An Interview with Linda Cardellini

In 2003, Linda Cardellini began a run on television's "ER" that made her name familiar to millions of viewers across America, but the 28-year old actress is not stranger to the small or big screen. After suffering through bit parts in horror films and low-level releases like "Strangeland" and "Good Burger", she landed the role of Lindsay Weir on the viewer-deficient but critically-acclaimed series "Freaks and Geeks", and augmented her visibility with roles in the 2001 hit "Legally Blonde" and "Scooby-Doo", where she played investigative bookworm Velma Dinkley.

"Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" sees the actress come into her own, both as Velma and as a formidable on-screen presence amidst a gifted cast of rising stars (which includes Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, and Seth Green amongst others). Cardellini recently spoke to Blackfilm.com about her latest movie, which opens nationwide March 26, as well as making the transition back and forth between television and film projects.

What was it like to wear a red leather jumpsuit rather than Velma's bulky turtlenecks?

LC: It was fun. It was very different for Velma because, you know, she typically has the orange turtleneck uniform on, but it's great because even though the outfit appears- - she's trying to appear mysterious, glamorous and a little bit sexy, she doesn't feel any of those things, so as an actor, it's really fun to play with how awkward you feel in something that looks like you shouldn't feel awkward in at all, or at least be pretending not to feel awkward.

Was it easy to slide back into the role?

LC: Oh yeah, I definitely did some rehearsals. I have a little- - I use it as a language tape and it's sort of Velma- - there are certain Velma-isms from the cartoon that I've recorded onto a DVD and I'll practice with that and have sort of a lag time where you repeat the phrase that she's just said. So I used that again and I got back into it and I watched a lot of the cartoons. For me, that's fun. That doesn't seem like homework.

What are the phrases you used?

LC: Just different things that she says in the cartoon. There's a lot of them on the internet that you can download and my boyfriend burned them on a CD for me and I started listening to it. To learn her voice, I originally had that CD to help me because not only does she say certain odd things like Jinkies, but there's a certain cadence that I remembered listening to and identifying Velma with when I was a kid that I really wanted to have in the character when I played her. And so there'll be things like- - well, my favorite line is what I always do before I- - everybody in the cast will tell you the line because I say it every time I start, is "Oh Shaggy, we're not trying to make time. We're trying to make contact with the Creeper." It's this line from the episode with the Creeper that she says and it's really the line that gets me back into character. I've used it for years now.

Where do you look for reassurance when you go through self-doubt?

LC: Oh my God. That's always, I think, the hardest thing, because you want to be able to look to yourself but it's hard, because if you feel insecure, as everybody feels at times, it's hard to do; especially because you want to hide that insecurity when you're in this business. But I look to my friends and my family. If I make a mistake, you have to realize that that's part of life and you need to get through it and get over it.

What do they tell you to make you feel better?

LC: That they love me. And that always helps because somehow that might mean that you're a good person. And then you have to remember that at times, if you make a mistake and you perhaps say something silly, that that's not the sum total of who you are as a human being, that there are different facets to life and there is more to you than just your job or just your image.

How was it to work with Seth Green, who plays Coolsonian Museum curator Patrick Wisely?

LC: Seth and I had a great time. He's a great guy and he's a great actor and he's so easy to work with. He's so open as a person and as an actor that you feel, especially playing characters like this, it's fun. And if you can't have fun doing it, then there's something wrong if you're taking it too seriously. But he and I just had a great time because our characters are so innocent in some ways and so smart and so involved with each other but a little bit awkward, so it was really fun to play around with that and when we did the scene in the van, where I'm in the red leather outfit which obviously Velma is very uncomfortable in, but trying to make a good impression, we sat there and they would let the camera roll and we would just go back and forth and joke around and improv and that's actually where the line came out of where I move in the seat and there's a- an unkind sound that comes out. We were joking around with each other and I said, "Oh, that's my suit, I swear." That's where that line came from and it's funny because now it's in the trailer. It was improvised.

What should younger viewers take from the message of changing yourself to attract a guy?

LC: I think the bottom line is you can't change yourself into something that you're not to please somebody else. And that if you try, you're just going to be untrue to yourself and really uncomfortable and you might lose the person who's interested in your because they're probably interested in you to begin with for who you really are. People can sense that and I think it's hard because inherently people want to be like and you're willing to do things to impress people. And the bottom line is if you're going to feel uncomfortable, then people are going to sense that. It'll scare people away.

When you initially read the script for the sequel, did you guess the ending?

LC: Well, I remember I would talk with James Gunn while the script was being written and I'd say, "Don't tell me who did it. Don't tell me who did it because I want to be able to read it and see if I can figure it out." And ultimately, there's so much unmasking that I think it's always hidden who's Œdunnit.' And I didn't know who had done it.

Was the dance sequence choreographed?

LC: The first part, where we all danced- - there's one part where we all danced together. And that was choreographed, but then after that, we were able to do whatever we wanted. Which for me was incredibly fun because it's at the end of the movie; so Velma's able to really let loose. She sort of feels the music and is filled with joy and I had the best time, but the next day, woke up and my muscles were so sore.

Was it easier to work with special effects this time?

LC: Yes. And I think it's always hard because it's very technical. The thing that made it easier in the sequel was that we actually knew what Scooby would look like, because that's the majority of the special effects that we have to work with. The first time through, we weren't sure what he would come out to look like because it was a year later before he was actually finished or even close to being finished. So there were different variations but we had no idea how he would behave and how he would look in the space with us and how we would look with him. So I think after seeing the first movie, we had a better idea of how it would be and what we needed to do to make things work.

Are you signed for a third?

LC: Yeah, I am. If it happens, I'd be excited. Especially now, because I have such a different role, a completely whole different world from what I do now on ER that it's really fun to be able to do both things and people have no idea that it's me and I think that's great.

How hard was it to join the established cast of a long-running TV series?

LC: It was daunting. Definitely it was daunting, but I got the job and you cannot be a stranger for very long there, because you work so intensely and so hard with these people. And they're great actors that you just have no choice but to jump in and hit the ground running. Otherwise the patients will die. Even though they're fake, they might die.

Can you talk about the DVD for Freaks and Geeks?

LC: I'm really excited that it's coming out because people who got to see the show had to look pretty hard to find it. And we have so many great fans that now I think it'll be nice to see it available to other people. It comes out in April and we did tons of commentary. It has a lot of extras on it. Even they had Judd and Paul had fans do a commentary, which I think is really neat because we had amazing fans. They're so devoted. We did tons of commentary and they have our auditions on there. They have behind the scenes footage. There was always a camera running behind the scenes. It's so funny because you see someone like John Daley who played my little brother Sam on the show. At the time, he was 13 or 14 years old. Now, he's on the commentary and he's got the deepest voice in the cast. He's six feet tall, and he's a totally different person.

Hard to see audition?

LC: Yes. I went in there wanting to be cast and so I went in with no makeup and I remember wearing stuff that made me look really frumpy and baggy so that she wasn't body conscious at all because it was this girl who was supposed to look like she was a teenager from the Midwest who really didn't care about how she looked or how she was perceived at this point in her life. The funny thing about it is when you audition, you don't ever expect that that will come to see the light of day for the public. So it's pretty funny that it's coming out, but I'm proud of it. I got the part and I'm really proud of that.

Is it vindication for the series?

LC: Yeah, it was entirely because of the fans because they petitioned, exactly. And to me, I think that's amazing. The show has yet to die. It still is alive for people and it still- - lots of times, the thing I get asked about most is that show because it's funny because it's considered by networks and the business people a failure in some ways. But it is such a success with people who like it. It's just amazing how something like that can catch on and stay in people's minds.

What was your favorite stunt in this movie?

LC: I have to say that my favorite scene was there was a scene where the pterodactyl ghost comes and attacks Mystery Machine, and what happens is we all get pulled out of the Mystery Machine on a carpet and it's dragging behind us on a road. So we shot that in Vancouver and we were actually on the road dragging behind the van. I mean, the real hairy stuff, I left to the professionals. I don't want to take their job. But we had some harnesses on, but it was really fun because it was the four of us, Matt, Freddie, Sarah and I out there really doing the thing and grabbing each other and holding on. We had a great time.

Was the car moving fast?

LC: Yeah, it was actually pretty fun. When I was a kid and I wanted to be an actress, I thought one of the best things would be to be able to do the stunts. And be able to do things that you would never be able to do safely in real life and so for me I think that's great.

How do you make sure to keep your game up and not slip into the comfort zone?

LC: That's a great question. I'm constantly asking myself that because I don't like to be complacent at all, which is a double edged sword because sometimes you can be making yourself unhappy for no good reason. But I think you just have to constantly question yourself and challenge yourself. If you start to be comfortable, try to look for something else that makes it interesting to you. Or challenging.

Is it difficult learning the dialogue of ER?

LC: It is. But we're lucky because we have doctors around as advisors, and we can ask them. At any time, we can call them, any time of the night and ask them how to pronounce things or how you feel when you're doing certain procedures or what the mood is like. And that's really great because not only do you learn how to pronounce it, but you learn how to function while pronouncing it.

Was there strange dialogue in this one too?

LC: Yeah, I almost think that Velma's are harder because- - Velma's words are harder because lots of times, they're fictitious. So you don't really have a frame of reference. You can't really ask somebody how is this pronounced but there has to be a way to do it so that you can remember and have some sort of consistency. But we were sort of I think sometimes James Gunn's own personal language.

What did you do during downtime in Vancouver? Did you hang out together?

LC: Yeah, we did, which is really nice. I mean, you don't always find that. Matt would have us over to his place or we'd play games or lots of times there's really some beautiful things to do in Vancouver. When I wasn't by myself and able to hang out with the cast, my family would come and visit. They had never been there, so we'd take them and do things like that.

What's the difference when you see the finished movie?

LC: Yeah, I guess there is. Because things are edited and it is a different story when you actually watch it up there because you forget, really, what it was like when you were on and off the set. When you see it all together, you think oh, that's what we were doing. But it's very fragmented while you're filming so it's fun to see it put together. A 12 hour workday sometimes makes up for one minute of film time, if even.

Do you feel Scooby's presence on the set?

LC: We do because Neil Fanning who does his voice will be on set with us and especially the second time around because Neil ended up being the actual voice in the cartoon. He was there with us on the first - - not the cartoon, the film. He was there with us on the first Scooby Doo doing the voice off screen and we weren't sure that he would actually be the final version of the voice and now that he is and he does such a great job, we know what he's capable of and he'll improv with you as Scooby Doo off [camera]. He does such a great job sometimes that it's hard to keep focused on thing air when he's off to the side doing such great things as Scooby, so that's always a challenge.

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