By People Staff
July 01, 2002 12:00 PM

If actress Linda Cardellini ever wins an Oscar, she can display it on the mantel of her first big prize: the $1,000 gas fireplace she won on The Price Is Right in 1997. “I was jumping up and down. I was saying, ‘Oh, I need that,’ ” recalls Cardellini. Alas, her supermarket savvy wasn’t strong enough to win her that black lacquer bedroom set: “It was the honey that killed me. To this day I don’t eat Sue Bee.”

Still, she’s creating plenty of buzz. After graduating from TV’s Freaks and Geeks to a small role in last year’s hit Legally Blonde, Cardellini, 27, scored the part of Velma in the much-hyped Scooby-Doo. As the brainy one in the Doo crew, she doesn’t vamp, “but because she’s Linda, she’s sexy as hell,” says director Raja Gosnell. “Linda’s like your best friend’s girlfriend.”

Or just your best friend. During the shoot Cardellini quickly fell in step with costars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard, who were already pals. “We bonded in the ladies’ room,” says Gellar. “I came out and said, ‘You guys are going to love her.’ They were like, ‘We know. We could hear you yapping all the way from the bathroom.’ ”

The garrulous gene kicked in early for Cardellini, who entertained her three siblings and parents, businessman Wayne and homemaker Lorraine, both 60, as a tot in Mountain View, Calif. “Before I could talk, I would try to sing,” she says. She found a bigger audience as a theater major at Loyola Marymount University, where she finally earned a degree last year. “My mom and dad always told me to take typing,” says Cardellini, who lives in L.A. and dates actor Jason Segel, 22, “so I would have something to fall back on.” That and game shows.