Cobie Smulders Interview: "How I Met Your Mother" Star on "Alright Now," Family and Volunteerism
Image attributed to Cobie Smulders
Cobie Smulders starred as Robin Scherbatsky in the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) and portrays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in the films The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home scheduled for release July 5, 2019. Currently, she can be seen in the Netflix original comedy series Friends from College.
Smulders also stars in the feel-good comedy Alright Now, written and directed by Jamie Adams and featuring Richard Elis, Jessica Hynes, Noel Clarke and Griffin Dunne. The film follows Smulders as a rock musician (Joanne Skye) who drunkenly enrolls in college after she breaks up with her boyfriend and her band falls apart. It hits theaters and VOD on September 7, 2018.
"I do what I can. I kind of hit a wall in terms of just the way things are going, and I said that I just have to do something. So I just went to my own community, and I volunteer. I work with families, and I help the youth in my neighborhood through Save the Children, which is an amazing organization, not only nationally but internationally."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Alright Now is very entertaining! How did you become involved in the project, Cobie?
Cobie Smulders: Well, Jamie Adams, who’s the director, just sort of approached me about it. I was right away intrigued and very mystified at how we were going to shoot a movie in five days that was completely improvised in Cardiff in England. It was really because of those three challenges I decided to take it on and also the idea that I was going to have to try to attempt to learn how to play the guitar and play this kind of wild, flawed, most-of-the-time drunken character. It was all too compelling. I just had to do it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was this the first time you worked on a film that was completely improvised?
Cobie Smulders: Yeah, the first time where there wasn’t a script at all. I mean, we had a basic synopsis of where we were going with the storyline and what we talked about in each scene generally. But no dialogue was written beforehand. We all met each other there in Cardiff. We stayed in this old house together, and it was like acting camp, like a camp for actors. It was hilarious and so much fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): No rehearsals at all?
Cobie Smulders: No rehearsal, but we went until we sort of found something that worked. Then we would hone in on that moment or on my dialogue, finesse it and make sure that we had coverage of it on both sides. That was one of the things we realized or I kind of realized more than halfway through. When you’re shooting, you do coverage, and I always said, “Oh, I should be going last.” If you go first, you figure it out on your turn and then when the person turns around, they know exactly what to say back to you (laughs). So it’s a little more beneficial to go towards the end of each shot in order to know exactly what you’re doing. Going first is always a bit scary and a bit more of a risk.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In the beginning of the film, I flashed back to Robin Daggers (How I Met Your Mother) (laughs).
Cobie Smulders: Yes. Definitely. Definitely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you describe Joanne Skye?
Cobie Smulders: I think she’s a little bit of a woman child. She has had a taste of fame. She’s had a taste of getting all the attention and being the top dog, and she really enjoyed it. I think she doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality and is living from moment to moment. Then time catches up with her, and she’s able to be present for a moment and look around to realize that she doesn’t really have anybody who she’s close to in her life, and she’s not in a place she wants to be.
She’s looking for something real, so she decides to enroll in this university and meets this lovely, nice guy. She’s probably just come out of a string of terrible relationships and is finally finding somebody who will treat her the way she deserves to be treated. Yeah. She goes through this journey of finding herself throughout the film.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I thought Richard Elis (who plays Pete) was amazing. Had you worked with him before?
Cobie Smulders: Yeah. He’s so sweet. No. I had never met him. He’s done a few of Jamie’s movies, so he’s worked with our director a lot. He’s the sweetest man.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It was shot at an actual college in the UK?
Cobie Smulders: It was. I can’t remember the name of the college off the top of my brain, but we shot it in Cardiff. It was like the local college. They were very excited we were there, and we were able to use the entire facility, which was very helpful to us because we only had five days to get it done, so it was nice to be centralized in one location.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your singing in the film was great, and by the way, very nice guitar playing.
Cobie Smulders: It was okay. It was okay on both fronts. But the guitar was definitely a challenge. Halfway through, I told Jamie that I think we’re going to have to make it where we have to say some kind of lines where it’s like Joanne doesn’t even know how to play the guitar and she’s learning because she has always been the front woman.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you now interested in the guitar?
Cobie Smulders: Oh, I’ve always been trying to learn the guitar, I think, my entire life. I lack the time, and I definitely lack the drive and just trying to do it every day to practice. I play piano a little bit, but the guitar’s always been a tricky instrument for me. But I keep trying.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any siblings also in show business, Cobie?
Cobie Smulders: No. Nobody in this business called show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were your parents supportive of your career choice?
Cobie Smulders: Yeah. I was doing theater when I was younger. I didn’t do it professionally, meaning that I wasn’t making any money off of it, but I was doing theater in the local theater. In high school, I was in a theater school. But they were very supportive. They probably would’ve been supportive in any choice that I made. But it was certainly an irregular choice for my family who are mostly doctors and accountants. But they were nothing but supportive of me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was modeling for you sort of like something to do while you were looking for work as an actor?
Cobie Smulders: No. I mean, I started modeling when I was very young when I was about 13 years old. It was always for me a way to earn and save up money for college. So I would travel somewhere every summer. Then when I graduated high school, I moved to New York City and tried to keep pursuing it. Then eventually I just realized that it was not for me. It wasn’t stimulating enough. So I decided to move back, and I started doing some theater again. I realized, “Oh, maybe I can turn this into a career.” Lucky for me, I could. But, no, modeling was always just a way to make money, although I never did, so it was just an unsuccessful way for me to make money (laughs). But I was able to do a lot of traveling and have a lot of experiences that I probably wouldn’t have been able to had I had stayed in my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.
It definitely opened my mind to have more of an international world view of which I’m really grateful. I was in Europe, too. I spent time in Paris, Italy, and I went to Japan and Greece. I traveled all over the world. So I was really able to experience cultures that I hadn’t experienced before.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Even though the series just ended in 2014, there has been speculation of a How I Met Your Mother spinoff or reboot.
Cobie Smulders: I don’t know if there’s online chatter about it, but nobody’s had a serious conversation with me about anything. But it feels to me very soon (laughs). I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that we were working on it doing those characters. I don’t know. Who knows? It would be sort of up to Carter (Bays) and Craig (Thomas) and our director of all the episodes, Pam Fryman, to come up with an idea that we would all like and that the audience would be happy with. I haven’t heard about anything. But I’d like to spend as much time as possible with all those people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sometimes the fans can’t let go of a hugely popular show when the actors are saying, “There’s really nothing left to say.”
Cobie Smulders: Right. Maybe if some fans got together and came up with a good storyline, they should pitch it because I honestly don’t know what it would be.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I enjoy your criticisms of Donald Trump on Twitter.
Cobie Smulders: Oh, great!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m in a red state.
Cobie Smulders: How’s that going for you? (laughs)
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) Well, we need to spread the word so that there will be change.
Cobie Smulders: Yeah. I hear you. I appreciate it if that’s what your standing is on it because that’s what we need right now. We need people like you to talk to your neighbors (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you fearful of this presidency?
Cobie Smulders: It’s always sort of hard for me to talk about because I’m not actually technically American. I am Canadian. But I love this country. I would love to see it become an equal country for everybody to have the same rights, to be treated the same way with no bias on anybody regardless of how they look or who they are or what their gender is. I just want people to be nice to each other again. I feel like there has been so much negativity created and so much hatred towards everyone, and life is hard enough as it is. If everything is going fine, life is challenging for others.
I do what I can. I kind of hit a wall in terms of just the way things are going, and I said that I just have to do something. So I just went to my own community, and I volunteer. I work with families, and I help the youth in my neighborhood through Save the Children, which is an amazing organization, not only nationally but internationally. I went to them and said, “What can I do? I’m going crazy because I’m getting into a dark place because I just feel like I’m losing my faith in humanity. How do I stay sane, and how do I stay positive?” I found a lot of peace in going out and volunteering my time and helping others who are in a rougher situation than I am. I felt joy from that, like selfishly I benefitted from that. That’s how I’m combatting everything that’s going on.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Giving back is so great, and in turn, it does bring joy to the giver. It certainly can be a two-way street.
Cobie Smulders: Yeah.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you say to your two young daughters about what’s going on in the world?
Cobie Smulders: Well, luckily they’re not old enough to be on social media. They’re not old enough to be on the internet. It is a protective existence at this moment, which is really great (laughs). I’m glad I don’t have teenagers in this time because I think it affects your entire psyche. But I teach them my general beliefs which are to be a good, decent human being, to speak up if there’s injustice, to be the one to speak up and help somebody and be the one to stand up for yourself. It’s wonderful because they get to see all these women coming into office who will be standing up and speaking their truth, and it’s always something I’ve told them but now they actually get to see it happening. So I’m very grateful for that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): At this point in your career, can you pick and choose the roles you want in order to balance the time you spend with your family?
Cobie Smulders: I wouldn’t say that I was just getting buried in Oscars (laughs). I would say that I definitely keep everything in my mind when I go into a project, and it has to be worth it, not only for me but my family as well. Gone are the days when your life is, “That’ll be cool! I’d like to work with that actor!” It’s now like, “Okay. I’d like to work with that actor, but also that director, also the writing’s really good, also it shoots somewhere nearby or it’s an amazing project and I can’t give it up.” I definitely consider my family as my first priority, and I put them before any major job decision.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of major projects, Maria Hill is alive and well!
Cobie Smulders: Is she though? Who knows?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Can you tell us?
Cobie Smulders: No, I cannot because I like my job. I like working for Marvel, and I’d like to continue working for Marvel. So I have learned over the last decade to shut my mouth when I need to shut my mouth.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) Believe it or not, I get that a lot.
Cobie Smulders: I’m sure.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What else is coming up?
Cobie Smulders: We obviously have Alright Now coming out very soon. I just finished the second season of Friends from College, which is on Netflix, and that’ll be out around Thanksgiving. We just wrapped that at the beginning of the summer. There are other things I don’t have the confidence to talk about yet because you never know if things are going to happen or not (laughs). But those are the only other major things for sure that will be on a viewable place.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I love Friends from College, and Sarah Chalke (How I Met Your Mother) joins season two!
Cobie Smulders: Yes. That was very exciting! I love her. It was really cool to work with her again.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is your dream of becoming a marine biologist still in the back of your mind, Cobie?
Cobie Smulders: Yeah. I was just thinking about it when I was up in Vancouver. I was just there about a week ago, and I was like, “What am I doing? I should be here. I should be in a boat looking at kelp specimens.” So, yeah, I think about it all the time. But quite frankly, I haven’t done any schooling in a classroom since the 12thgrade, so I don’t know how I would do in a classroom these days. But, yeah, I’d love to. Maybe when things settle down a little bit more, and I find myself with lots of time on my hands, I’ll consider doing something, if only by correspondence.
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