Cardellini and Nagra give up nuggets of ER info
I caught up with both of them and asked them about how they think the year's been going so far and what's in store for each of their characters during the remainder of the season.
Nagra -- whose nickname, ever since her childhood days back in England, is "Mindy" -- had a funny assesment of how her character has developed this year. "(Neela) went from this nerdy braniac character to this like... she's kind of become the slut of the ER this year, I feel like," she laughs.
Cardellini, on the other hand, is happy that there's an infusion of new cast members, especially one that used to work with her on the late, lamented Feaks and Geeks. "Busy (Philipps) is doing ER (she plays the religious intern Hope)... I get to be mean to her! It's a total role reversal."
(By the way, Cardellini wishes her old show had been given more of a shot. "I think people now who are finding it on DVD have a really positive response, and I wish it would have gotten that chance on (broadcast) television," she said. But she's obviously happy where she is. "You know, its so funny; we used to be on NBC with Freaks and Geeks and now I'm on NBC with ER. It's like a horse of a totally different color.")
For both actresses, the upcoming episodes are going to be eventful. "Her child's really getting out of control," Cardellini says of Sam's son Alex. "(Sam) is struggling, being a single mother and working. (Alex) is going to get to the point where she's going to make a choice of what to do with him: Is he just being rebellious or is he heading down a really really seriously bad path?" Despite the presence of Kip Pardue as a possible love interest, she doesn't think any heavy relationships are in store for Taggart this year. "She's got her kid to worry about first."
According to Nagra, Neela is going to need to make some choices in the season's second half. "She's a very lonely character, and she's still trying to figure out her stuff with Gates, and what does that all mean, and does he have too much baggage? It's going to kind of get rocky with that situation," she says. "And then Shane's character, Ray, she's going to keep thinking 'What if?' He doesn't have any baggage, and he's there and he's interested in her. So I think she's going to be very conflicted about how she feels about things."
Both were saddened by the departure of Laura Innes, who had been playing Kerry Weaver since season two. Nagra felt her exit took the entire cast by surprise, but realizes she'll be back as a director. But she also doesn't think Weaver is quite done. "I'm sure it's not going to be the absolute end, because the story was left very open-endeed. Weaver was a brilliant character."
Apparently, Cardellini wasn't among the surprised. "We all knew there was a chance she was going to leave," she said. "I'll miss her. She's an awesome human being, and she's a great access. We're lucky because she also directs, so we won't lose her completely, thank God."
How do the actresses play such emotionally heavy roles? Nagra, whose character has had to deal with a husband dying in Iraq and an intense love triangle, takes it all in stride. "It's so great for me and it's so great the writers saw that potential. And whatever they throw at me, I deal with within the confines of Neela's character," she says confidently. "It's so much fun to see her kind of... Just to see her deal with it is very interesting to watch."
But a little Method acting doesn't hurt, either, especially in the case of Cardellini's harried character. "You know, I'll tell you, it's easy when I'm tired," she says with a smile. "Because she's an overworked, underpaid nurse who's a single mom, she's often tired. So some days, when I know I'm tired and I'm at work, it serves me well."