Linda Cardellini plays a little game when she’s out in public. The actress tries to decide which role fans want to talk about before they finally approach her. It could be fans of the critically acclaimed “Freaks and Geeks.” There are also plenty of Scooby-Doo lovers. And she spent several years on the NBC medical drama “ER.”
“I can get recognized three times in a day, and it will be for three different reasons. I never know what someone is going to say,” Cardellini says. “A lot of people just yell, ‘Hawkeye’s wife.’ ”
That started happening after she was cast in the monster summer hit, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
The process is going to get even more complicated as Cardellini stars in “Daddy’s Home,” a comedy also starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg that opens on Christmas Day, one of the biggest movie-going days of the year.
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In the light comedy, Brad (Ferrell) is the overly sensitive stepfather to Sarah’s (Cardellini) two young children. Just as he is beginning to win the youngsters over, their biological father, the cool and tough Dusty (Wahlberg), shows up for a visit.
The two men begin a battle to win over the attention of the children.
It would delight Cardellini, a Redwood City native, if “Daddy’s Home” becomes the big role for which she gets recognized.
“This is a great movie to open Christmas Day, and that’s so exciting. It is rated PG so it is for the entire family who goes to the movies then,” Cardellini says. “It is really, really fun.”
The way Cardellini explains it, if the audience has just one-10th the amount of fun seeing the movie as she had making it, it will be a hit. The role was a “dream job” to her, she says, because the chemistry with her co-stars was great.
She also loved the family aspects, from the way the fathers fought for attention to the young actors who played her children. And shooting on location in New Orleans during Mardi Gras was both fun and productive. She admits that she brought home two garbage bags full of beads, toys and other items she got during the Mardi Gras parades.
For the record, she kept her modesty up and her shirt down because, Cardellini says, she only went to the family-friendly areas of the parade routes.
The only thing in “Daddy’s Home” that could be perceived by outsiders as a negative is that Cardellini’s character is the only sane adult in the film. She’s OK with playing a mother who has to be the serious one because the character is so smart and clever.
“I think she was also very cool in her younger days,” Cardellini says. And speaking of younger days, the actress turned 40 this year (but looks 25).
She got started acting at a very early age and moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to work in TV and film. Her long list of credits includes “Clueless,” “Boy Meets World,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Goode Family” and “Mad Men.” Along with her Christmas Day movie, Cardellini can be seen in the Netflix series “Bloodline.”
“Daddy’s Home” gave her a chance to do a lot of improvisation. There are long scenes where the actors didn’t use the script that she hopes will be included with the DVD release.
She’s also done several voices for “Regular Show,” created by Hanford High graduate J.G. Quintel. “That show is so cool, and the guys behind it couldn’t be nicer,” Cardellini says.
The diversity of her career has been a combination of her going after different projects and being drawn to good scripts. She says she doesn’t like to repeat herself when it comes to her work.
That’s why she has a hard time telling what a person will want to talk to her about when she gets approached.