Stumptown - Cobie Smulders interview

The star of How I Met Your Mother and The Avengers spoke to us about playing Dex Parois in Stumptown.

Stumptown - Cobie Smulders interview

Don't think we've ever seen a female veteran with PTSD on screen. Could you talk a little bit more about the research that you did?

Yeah. We had a woman who we all talked to, who worked for the Obama Administration, and was - I think was a therapist - and an amazing resource. Me, personally, I read a lot. I've played women in military roles before, so I've had a lot of experience just talking to women who have been in service, which is always such an amazing experience. And in terms of PTSD, I mean, this is something that happens. And this character's PTSD is very, very severe, and she has a very severe case, but was able to - you know, I've had experiences in my own life that creates trauma, and whatever comes from that is your own personal experience. And so, I was able to live from that and bring it into this character as well.

Did you learn anything specifically about PTSD from talking to these other people?

Yeah. Well, I think it's, you know, it's different for how people react to it. Everyone has, sort of, a different way that they experience the symptoms. In terms of this character, we talk about that she witnessed an explosion; a very significant death. And I think it's as simple as similar sounds happening and having a physical reaction from that. And the exciting thing about this show, for me, is that she's choosing not to address any of these issues. And I think that a lot of people skate through life doing that. Bottling things, and putting things in a drawer and closing it, and not acknowledging that they need help. And so, it's an opportunity to, in this show, you know, showcasing somebody in that position; somebody who is not dealing, and that not being successful in her life.

Do you see yourself in this character in any way? Do you like to gamble and beat up guys?

[Laughs] Oh, who doesn't like to gamble? I like to gamble. I don't lose all my money. I go in with, like, $100, and I say, "This is it." I can't ever imagine Dex saying that. Do I see myself? Maybe, in a distant way. Not really. Not really. She's much more fun than I am.

Would you be friends with her?

Yeah, before she, probably, does something to me, and I don't trust her. [Laughs]. And, then, I'll look back, and I think I'd try to help her out. But, yeah,she's - you know, she really only has one real longstanding relationship, and that's with her brother. And that's really the only person in her life that she can be very vulnerable with. Certainly, on the level with the character of Grey, but she's tethered to - in a positive and negative way to her brother. And that's really her lifeline.

When you say she's fun; she doesn't look too happy to me.

Yeah. That's a good observation. [Laughs].

I mean, what is the fun part about her, for you?

Well, I think that, you know, she's, kind of, up for anything. I don't know if anyone has any friends - I certainly do - where they're, like, "Let's go do this; let's go over here; let's keep drinking; let's stay out all night," and you're, like, "Whoa, I have children at home, and I can't do that." And she's just - she's up for anything, but she always pushes it too far. She's the last one standing, and there's no one around to hang out with after that. [Laughs]. So, yeah, I think she tends to go a little too far; drink a little too much; spend a little too much on the tables and suffers that because she's supposed to be this responsible caretaker for her brother. She's, like, the one who is with him; who is responsible for him, and I think that's a challenge.

Was it easier for you to do this part in regard to violence and martial arts, in a way, and did the "Jack Reacher" movie help you train for it, and so, was this easier for you?

Yeah. When I did "Jack Reacher," it was the - I had done other movies before, but that was - I mean, we trained for probably about six weeks before we even started shooting. So, it was a whole thing. So, I learned, probably, the most about stunts, about fight skills in that time, but this will be - like, I'll have to just extend my strength for eight months, you know? But the thing that's exciting to me in terms of the choreography in this show is that she's not great. Like, she's not a highly skilled - you know, she's been out of the military for 10 years, you know? Like, she's rusty. And that's been the best part about working out these sequences, where a lot of the times, like, she gets the guy because she's lucky; not because she's more skilled than they are. And she has this tenacity about her where she's always getting back up, and she's swinging while she's falling down. And so, sometimes, she gets really beat up. And I think that that is something you don't really get to see, is a woman taking a hit in the face, and then, coming right back up, so it's a different, sort of, action - it's different from an action - it's different- the action is different. There it is. [Laughs]. We found it. We got there. We got there.

How much improvisation can you do on the set?

Oh, I don't know. I mean, Jason does - Jason and our writers do such an amazing job with our scripts, first of all, so there's not too much. But when you're in a scene with somebody, there is an energy where you want to make it seem more conversational. So, there are changes being made in that. And, obviously, Jake is - everyone here, actually, is really great and able to do so. So, I think if it makes sense to the story and it makes sense to the scene, we'll probably be playing around a little bit. It keeps things interesting.

What drew you to the role?

I think, for me, I get to play a woman who is her own boss; makes her own decisions; who is allowed to be flawed; who is allowed to own those flaws, and who can, sort of - who's not tethered in a relationship, and is undefined, really. That's the exciting thing for me.