‘Stumptown’ gives Cobie Smulders new acting challenge

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Cobie Smulders can’t get away from the world of comic book-inspired productions. After playing S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in numerous feature films based on Marvel Comics, Smulders is now starring in “Stumptown,” a series based on the graphic novel series written by Greg Rucka. 

“Stumptown,” which airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC, has Smulders playing the strong and sharp-witted Dex Parios, an army veteran looking for work while dealing with PTSD. Her military training translates into a career as a private investigator in Portland (the city’s nickname is Stumptown).

The limited series comic book “Stumptown” debuted in 2009. Executive producer Jason Richman says the publication is a jumping-off place and an inspiration for the TV series.

“You try to hold on to as much as you can, but you’ve got to give it legs in a different way that works for a television show,” says Richman. “And Greg Rucka, who created the graphic novel, I think he’s very proud of what we’ve done here. We just wanted to honor sort of the spirit of what he created.”

Parios is different than any other role Smulders has played, and that was what excited her most about the part. Smulders loves that the character just goes with whatever she’s feeling at the moment.

“I also like playing a sexually ambiguous woman on network television. I like that she’s her own boss. There are really no rules for her, so that really excited me,” Smulders says. “We are still trying to figure out the tone of this character because there is a certain way of talking like a PI that is usually sassy one-liners. I don’t think that fits quite right all the time with Dex, but there is a moment or a place for it. Her humor comes situationally but there will be a lot of opportunities for physical comedy and a lot of funny lines.”

Another different angle for Smulders to play with is her character is grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Smulders spoke with specialists to better understand why her character would be avoiding the entire issue. She read first-hand accounts and talked to women in the military to understand the bravery needed both while serving and after their time in the military.

Smulders has great hope that along with “Stumptown” being entertaining enough to let her play the interesting character for years, the series will focus a light on people who are dealing with PTSD and show there aren’t enough services to assist them.

The Marvel movies gave Smulders plenty of opportunities to deal with big fight sequences. “Stumptown” also requires the Canadian actor to deal with a lot of action scenes. Both can be physically trying, but she has seen a big difference between the projects.

“This is a whole other beast. The thing about being in the movies is that you only have to be in good shape for a couple of months,” Smulders says. “I will have to be in shape for this show for the rest of my 30s.”

Taking on a role in a television series is nothing new for Smulders, who aside from the Marvel movies is best known for playing Robin Scherbatsky on the CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother.” Other TV work has included “Arrested Development,” “The L Word,” “Friends from College” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Along with the comic book movies “Spiderman: Far From Home,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Smulders starred in “Jack Reacher 2” and “Intervention.”

Landing the role on the ABC drama sets up the situation where Smulders and her husband, star of the ABC comedy “Single Parents” Taran Killam, are working on network shows at the same time. Smulders knows if she also had gone after a half-hour comedy, the work schedule would have been a lot lighter than the demands of a one-hour drama. It was her desire to take on a character that was so different that made her stick with “Stumptown.”

She and Killam have two young daughters who have to be considered in the mix. At the time of the interview, filming had not started on “Stumptown,” so Smulders wasn’t sure how the scheduling would work. Her plan is to deal with them both working at the same time the way she has with similar situations in the past.

“It’s all about being present in whatever you are doing,” Smulders says. “You have to be present when you are working and do your best work. Then when you are home, you are 100% at home and not thinking about anything else.”

 

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