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April 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, April 02, 2004

St. Francis High grad lands in Hollywood St. Francis High grad lands in Hollywood (April 02, 2004)

Linda Cardellini plays Velma in "Scooby-Doo" films

By Julie O'Shea

When Linda Cardellini showed up for the audition, she was the only one dressed in costume -- an orange turtleneck, skirt and a pair of geeky black glasses, borrowed from a friend.

She read through her lines in a high-pitched voice and when it was over, she left thinking there wasn't a chance she had gotten the part.

"I really didn't get the sense they liked me," Cardellini recalled in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

Not only did the casting directors like her, but Cardellini, a St. Francis High School graduate, nailed the role on the first read. The audition was for one of cartoon land's most-loved nerds: Velma Dinkley, the brains behind Mystery Inc. in "Scooby-Doo," the live-action movie. Last month, she reprised the role when "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" opened nationwide March 26.

Cardellini, 28, has come a long way since landing a bit part in "Rebel Without A Cause," which was staged at St. Francis during her freshman year.

The Redwood City native has made Hollywood stand at attention, first gaining recognition as Lindsay Weir in the short-lived NBC series "Freaks and Geeks," then landing the role of nurse Samantha Taggart, a struggling single mother, on "ER" in October.

But regardless of all the glitz and glamour that comes along with acting stardom, her friends here at home say Cardellini is still that same bubbly, fun girl they knew so well growing up.

Fame has "not changed her, I don't think," said Julie Markley, a Spanish teacher at St. Francis whose sister has been best friends with Cardellini since kindergarten.

"She's just very -- Linda," Markley said. "I mean, I've just known her for so long."

Laura Rose, St. Francis' drama teacher for the last 19 years, remembers Cardellini as being one of the "very best students I've ever had."

Cardellini was about 10 when she was handed the role of an old woman in a community theater production of "The Music Man." The experience cemented her career path.

"That was it. That was all I wanted to do, and it was going to be kind of hard to stop me," said Cardellini, who had just flown home from a whirlwind "Scooby-Doo" publicity stint in London on Sunday.

Cardellini went on to star in and direct several high school productions during her time at St. Francis, including "Grease," "The Wiz" and "Dracula."

"She's just a really wonderful person; always excited to be on stage, to be part of theater," Rose said. "If anyone could make it, she would, just based on her talent, of course, but also her personality."

After graduating from high school in 1993, Cardellini moved down to Los Angeles, where she studied theater at Loyola Marymount University. And the roles just started pouring in -- "Legally Blonde," "Dead Man on Campus" and guest spots on "Boy Meets World," "3rd Rock from the Sun" and "The Twilight Zone."

"She's incredibly talented, there's just nothing else to it," Markley said of her childhood pal. "People just fell in love with her."

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]


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