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Linda Cardellini Biography

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Birth Name: Linda Cardellini
Born: 06/25/1975
Birth Place: Redwood City, California, USA

Born June 25, 1975, in Redwood City, CA, Linda Edna Cardellini was the daughter of Lorraine and Wayne David Cardellini. A brief appearance singing in a school play sparked her love of performing, and Cardellini went on to take acting lessons and appear in additional productions. Determined to become a professional actress, she moved to Los Angeles after graduating high school and was cast as Sarah, a high school freshman investigating paranormal activity on the Saturday morning series "Bone Chillers" (ABC, 1996). Although the creepy anthology was short-lived, Cardellini quickly fleshed out her résumé with TV guest spots on everything from "3rd Rock from the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001), "Pacific Palisades" (Fox, 1997), "Clueless" (ABC, 1996-97; UPN, 1997-99) and Step by Step" (ABC, 1991-97; CBS, 1997-98). Amusingly enough, Cardellini's TV debut came in 1994, when she won a fireplace on "The Price is Right" (CBS, 1972- ).

Photographing younger than her real age, Cardellini made her film debut as the fast-talking oddball Heather in the Kenan & Kel kids' comedy "Good Burger" (1997) and also appeared in an episode of the goofy duo's self-titled show (Nickelodeon, 1996-2000). Tackling darker material, Cardellini played a high school student trapped in the hellish "Strangeland" (1998), the horror debut of Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider. The memorably creepy box and poster art featured the actress with her mouth sewn shut. She took a small role in the forgettable college comedy "Dead Man on Campus" that same year, crossing paths for the first time with another up-and-comer named Jason Segel. She continued to work steadily on television and in film, notching a notable and lengthy arc on the much-loved tween staple "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000) as the girl who briefly (and scandalously) inserted herself between Generation Y supercouple Cory and Topanga (Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel). Cardellini's big break, however, came when she was cast on a new series mining both the comedy and drama of a 1980s-era Michigan high school, "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000). The actress starred as Lindsay Weir, a young woman searching for meaning as she leaves behind her former "good girl" persona to question her faith in religion and society while befriending a group of glamorously troubled slackers and tough kids, including James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen and her previous co-star, Jason Segel. With an amazingly talented cast, sensitive, sharp writing, and an achingly poignant eye for even the smallest detail of the most minor character, the show was beloved by critics yet struggled to attract an audience.

One of the most notable traits of the extraordinary show was the complexity and depth of Cardellini's character; the actress presented one of the most realistic and wholehearted portrayals of a teenager on television. Created by Paul Feig and able to elicit guffaws and tears in the very same episode, the series became a cult favorite and prompted many critics to write impassioned articles on its behalf, enshrining it as one of the all-time best shows on television. Despite its short run, "Freaks and Geeks" took on an almost mythical status in Hollywood, and many of the cast and crew - including executive producer Judd Apatow - would go on to shape an entire era of Hollywood comedy. One of the most poignant through-lines of the series was the ill-fated romance between Cardellini's and Segel's characters. Life imitated art, as the two dated in real life as well. Their break-up and Segel's painful recovery from it would inspire him to write the bittersweet roman à clef "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008), which became a major comedy hit and made him an overnight star.

Buoyed by her success and armed with a recent theater degree from Loyola Marymount University, the actress rose from the ashes of "Freaks and Geeks" to the big screen with a small but juicy role in the Reese Witherspoon smash "Legally Blonde" (2001) as a murderous stepdaughter memorably undone on the witness stand by Elle Woods's knowledge of perms. Even more impressively, Cardellini brought the famously dowdy animated character of Velma Dinkley to surprisingly sexy life in the successful big-screen re-imagining of "Scooby-Doo" (2002), a role she would reprise in the 2004 sequel. Cardellini found the long-term TV success that had previously eluded her when she joined the cast of the powerhouse "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) in 2003 as the tough-as-nails single mother and nurse Samantha Taggart. Replacing Maura Tierney's Abby Lockhart character as the show's main nurse, Cardellini's character struggled to free herself from an oft-returning, abusive ex-husband. The actress stayed with the show until its decade-long run finally ended.

She hit another career high with a small part in the Oscar-winning cultural phenomenon "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) as Cassie, a waitress who attempts a flirtation with the closeted gay cowboy Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger). Along with her castmates, Cardellini earned nominations for ensemble acting from the Screen Actors Guild. Although she did not benefit the way many of her co-stars did from the post-"Freaks and Geeks" rise-to-power enjoyed by Judd Apatow, she did star as the up-for-anything female lead in the good-natured, Apatow-esque stoner comedy "Grandma's Boy" (2006). Cardellini appeared in the Western miniseries "Comanche Moon" (CBS, 2008) and proved her comic fearlessness with killer voiceovers on both the cult fave "Robot Chicken" (Adult Swim, 2005- ) and the short-lived family parody "The Goode Family" (ABC, 2009). After returning to the stage in 2010-11 to star in the regional comedy "Dr. God," Cardellini supported Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer in the indie crime thriller "Kill the Irishman" (2011). Sticking with the independent film world, she delivered an acclaimed performance in the war-themed drama, "Return" (2012), where she played an Army reservist who struggles to rebuild her life and relationships following a tour of duty in the Middle East. Cardellini's subtle performance was praised by critics and earned her an Indie Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress.

In 2013, Cardellini joined the cast of the Emmy-winning drama "Mad Men" (AMC 2007- ) as Sylvia Rosen, the middle-aged wife of genial heart surgeon Dr. Arnold Rosen (Brian Markinson). Sylvia's torrid and emotionally ambiguous affair with her upstairs neighbor Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was one of the key dramatic arcs of the show's sixth season.

By Jonathan Riggs