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Linda Cardellini scares up very different role with 'La Llorona'

Linda Cardellini appears at the premiere of "The Curse of La Llorona" on April 15 in Los Angeles.

CHRIS PIZZELLO, INVISION/AP

By RICK BENTLEY | Tribune News Service | Published: April 18, 2019

It’s taken Linda Cardellini almost a quarter of a century, but she’s finally returned to the genre that helped launch her professional acting career. The initial starring role on television for the star of “The Curse of La Llorona” was in the series “Bone Chillers.” There’s no way the projects could be any different, as the TV show dealt with high school students battling a wide array of monsters, while her new feature film is based on a well-known Latin American legend.

The reason for jumping back into horror has to do with a trend that emerged in her recent acting roles. In the films “Green Book,” “Daddy’s Home Two,” “The Founder” and even the action-packed “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Cardellini was cast to play a wife. She quickly stresses they were all lovely roles, but she wanted a change.

“What was great about being cast in ‘La Llorona’ was to get a role where I could stand on my own,” Cardellini laughs and says. “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was a small part of me that was excited that she was a widow.

“I liked in this film being the one who had to take care of the children and didn’t have to depend on a husband or a boyfriend. And, the idea of being in a full-on horror film was exciting because I hadn’t done anything like this and it seemed like a lot of fun.”

“The Curse of La Llorona” unfolds in 1973 Los Angeles, where social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Cardellini) is dealing with a mother (Patricia Velasquez) who has turned her home into a fortress including locking her sons in a closet. The social worker sees the mother’s actions as a form of abuse, but the real reason for the woman’s effort is to keep La Llorona from taking her children.

Legend has it La Llorona is looking for replacements for the children she murdered centuries ago, and Tate-Garcia’s young son and daughter become the next targets. She turns to a former priest (Raymond Cruz) to keep her children safe.

The last element is why it was so easy for Cardellini to take on the role.

“A mother protecting her children is something very primal. Once you become a parent, your primary focus is keeping your children safe,” Cardellini, who has one child, says. “Also, the film is about three mothers, which I thought was unique about the script. My character is a faulty heroine who makes the wrong decisions in the worst situations. But, she’s trying her best.”

Executive Producer James Wan (“Saw”) says Cardellini is extremely talented and a huge presence onscreen, but when he sees her movies, he always forgets he’s watching her because she has a way of disappearing into the character.

Cardellini has a long list of acting credits, ranging from “Freaks and Geeks” to “ER” to “Mad Men,” that have helped her earn numerous acting award nominations including a Primetime Emmy nod. The California native has also been active as a voice actor on “Sanjay and Craig,” “Regular Show,” “Out There” and “Gravity Falls.”

“I have been so lucky to do so many things over the years in my career. The wonderful part about being an actor is that you get to do parts that are so different from each other. I have never liked to stay in the same lane. It always surprises me how many different things people bring up when they see me,” Cardellini says. “There are people who remember me for ’ER,’ ’Bloodline,’ ’Scooby-Doo,’ “Freaks and Geeks’ and ’Grandma’s Boy.’ You just never know.”

She was able to use her expertise compiled over years in “The Curse of La Llorona.” One of the suggestions she made to director Michael Chaves is a major connection to one of Cardellini’s past performances. 

Next up for Cardellini is another different role with the Netflix series “Dead to Me,” where she costars with Christina Applegate. She describes the offering that launches May 3 as a black comedy.

“Christina Applegate and I play unlikely best friends who are dealing with a lot of grief and secrets. It has been a great adventure,” Cardellini says.

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