CANNES, France -- Although she played nurse Samantha Taggart on ER, Linda Cardellini gets intensive care in personal finance: She has both a business manager and a cousin who's a financial adviser minding her money.
The Redwood City, Calif., native said she's happy to defer to others in an area that is not her strength. But even so, she's watchful: "You have to be careful how much you trust, and be careful that your hands are in most of it to keep an eye on things," she told The Price of Fame at the Cannes Film Festival.
Six seasons of ER (2003-2009) and two go-rounds as Thelma in the Scooby-Doo movies have given Cardellini the freedom to focus on snagging plum parts. She had the lead in the Cannes Directors' Fortnight entry Return, playing a soldier who comes home to an unraveling domestic life. She received positive notices for her authentic, glammed-down performance, and she hopes to use it as a calling card to transition into more films, she said.
"I always wanted to be a working actress," she said. "The idea that I am one is always exciting to me. I didn't have a benefactor. I was making minimum wage before I got my first acting job."
"Money Doesn't Make You Happy"
Cardellini has been making a living in show business since she was cast as Lindsay Weir on the short-lived series Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000). But she said that when the 2008 recession hit and ER was nearing the end of its run, she scaled back her life.
She traded her sporty gas guzzler for a hybrid. She adhered to an philosophy that was "more about having the needs instead of inventing the needs to have."
The 35-year-old actress predicted her success -- sort of -- in her diary as a 15-year-old. She revisited an entry in which she wrote that she wished to be married with children or be an actress "on the silver screen" and have enough money to take family to places where they could not afford to go. Fast-forward a decade, and when filming for Scooby-Doo was taking place in Australia. Cardellini took the two first-class round-trip air tickets she was given and chopped them up into 14 economy class tickets so family and friends could visit.
"Money doesn't make you happy, but it makes things easier," she said.
Cardellini remembers when she occupied the other end of the economic spectrum. As a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she scooped ice cream at the recreation center for minimum wage. But she found other forms of compensation: She got to make milkshakes for her friends and hang out with them, and her boss later became her publicist.
Five stories up on a Cannes rooftop, Cardellini can appreciate where she is now. "Acting is the greatest job in the world when you have a job," she said. "And when you don't have a job, you're sometimes suffering."