Seven years after her guest bid for “Mad Men,” Linda Cardellini is enjoying her first Best Comedy Actress Emmy nomination for “Dead to Me,” which pulled back the curtain a tad in Season 2 to show why the perennially optimistic Judy is the way she is despite all the secrets and lies.
“It’s always rooted in trying to get the person next to her to feel better and to feel loved, which is something Judy wants for herself so badly. So she gives it out, hoping to receive it,” Cardellini told Gold Derby earlier this summer (watch above). “I think whenever she’s with somebody, it really is her trying to feel earnest in the moment, even if she is lying. It’s a fun balance to play because in her mind, in the moment, she is never really lying. And in the first season, she does so much lying. For me, it’s always fun to play a glimmer of truth because the audience is in on it with you, so you can see the cracks in her veneer if you know her secrets. … Judy’s done a lot of bad things and knows it. And she’s trying so hard to keep her soul intact. So that is sort of her struggle always — is to keep her soul intact while she’s reconciling herself with all these terrible things that have happened to her and that she’s done.”
As Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy try to conceal Steve’s (James Marsden) death and their involvement in it, Season 2 introduces Judy’s incarcerated mother Eleanor (Katey Sagal), who was, well, far from being a mother of the year candidate. Along the way, Judy starts a relationship with Michelle (Natalie Morales), which may just be the first loving relationship she’s been in.
“She’s trying to get somebody to love her and who is maybe the hardest person to love her, and I think that is sort of a mirror to her mother. I think she feels if that person loves her, then maybe she is lovable,” Cardellini explained. “She sort of turns down relationships that are more loving and more accepting. Michelle and her have this beautiful relationship where Michelle really sees her for who she is and loves her.”
The cruel irony is that it can’t really last (for now) because of Judy’s secrets and Michelle’s own romantic past, which Jen had to point out to her unlikely BFF. “I think your best friend, if they truly know you and see you, they know exactly when you’re in love and they know exactly when you like somebody. And I think that’s something that Jen and Judy have,” the actress noted. “Their relationship is so strong and I love that Jen is rooting for her and at the same time, of course in true ‘Dead to Me’ fashion, it can’t be. She’s the first person to say she can’t have that relationship. … It’s just sort of impossible for her, which is the tragedy of Judy.”
The season ends on another cliffhanger after Steve’s semi-identical twin brother Ben (Marsden) drunkenly crashes his car into Jen and Judy after finding out Steve is dead. Season 3 will be the third and final season (this interview took place before the renewal), and Cardellini is excited for creator Liz Feldman and the writers to blow her mind again.
“I guess Ben is pretty drunk, and he just got that news on the telephone. His mother doesn’t know yet. There’s that whole portion of it. Then there’s us in the car and we’ve been hit pretty badly. I don’t know physically what happens to us. I don’t know what is happening,” she said. “My mother’s in the picture now. There’s a lot of loose ends that could be really fun to see how they incorporate themselves into the next season.”
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