Cobie Smulders talks about Maria Hill's role in 'Ultron' and the 'Alias'-style spinoff she'd love to see
Cobie Smulders is the kind of woman you could become instant best friends with. She’s effortlessly cool (I don’t really like describing people or things as “effortlessly cool,” but no other phrase seems to summarize Smulders quite as well). She’s not as intense as her TV alter ego, How I Met Your Mother’s Robin Scherbatsky, or as serious as her Marvel character, Maria Hill, but she’s as confident as both of them combined. Her confidence isn’t that of a woman who never makes mistakes, but rather of one who’s willing to own it and move on when she does — something that’s at once more impressive and relatable.
Smulders has a small, but important role in the Marvel family. Her character, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, is Nick Fury’s right-hand human, emphasis on the human part. In a world exploding with superheroes, Smulders plays a normal (albeit whip-smart and highly-trained) woman giving her all to the Good Fight, and when you’re all isn’t a super suit or enchanted hammer, that takes a different kind of bravery.
When I met with her in her trailer on the Disney lot to talk about her involvement in this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, she greeted me warmly and complimented my backpack (“I have the same one. I love it!”) before inviting me to sit and making sure I was comfortable. When I checked that it was okay to record our interview, her sense of humor didn’t miss a beat.
“No, you have to remember everything that’s said, in your brain,” she joked before giving me the okay to record.
“Otherwise, I just have to make up everything you said,” I joked back as we settled in for the interview. “It’ll be a really interesting interview.”
“It’ll be a great one,” she said. “The best I’ve ever given.”
She did allow me to record the interview, but Smulders doesn’t need any fabrication to give a great interview; she does that on her own. She and I discussed Ultron, her role as a non-powered member of the Avengers team and what she’d like to see next for Maria Hill (spoiler: It involves wigs that would make Sydney Bristow jealous).
HelloGiggles: Well first of all, I saw the movie last night and it was amazing.
Cobie Smulders: Oh, thank you. I haven’t seen it yet. I’m seeing it on Monday. It’s so hard. You know, the first time I don’t think any of the press people saw it, because they were so, so secretive.
HG: I saw a press screening of the first one, but it was like the day before it came out.
CS: Yeah, but this time around, [all the press are] like, “It was great and this part was great!” And I’m like, “I don’t even remember.” I gotta see it though.
HG: Are you excited to see it though, and to see the final product?
CS: Yeah! I mean so much of these scripts are, you know, action-driven. When you’re reading them, it’s a page of exposition and fight sequences and then there’s like Captain America saying, “Watch out!” And then there’s another page of action, you know, so you can only imagine and try to picture it as much as you can and it’s a whole other thing seeing it on the big screen. Also, with these films, I feel at times it’s like two movies and the special effects team is doing one movie and then we’re doing another and then they splice them together. So, it’s like I get to kind of watch a movie that I’m in that I don’t really know anything about.
HG: Definitely. And it’s such a large ensemble, at this point, that there are probably lots of the scenes that you just weren’t around for.
CS: No, it’s so true, especially me. You know, my character is, she’s sequestered in Avengers tower like a princess — you know what, I just put that together. That’s a very interesting way to think about her. She’s stuck in a tower like a princess, except she’s like chosen to be there. Anyway, it’s been a long day.
HG: But she’s also like a puppet master princess, helping the Avengers.
CS: Yes! Yeah, so she’s sort of at the home base and they’re off saving the world. So, that saving the world part I get to watch myself.
HG: Yeah. Something I think is really interesting about Maria is that the Avengers universe is expanding so much, especially to include more female characters, but I think Maria’s really interesting in that she is one of the only ones we’ve seen who — and she’s very heroic, I think, in her own right, even though you say she’s sequestered in the tower — but she’s not introduced as a love interest or as a villain who comes over to the side of good. She’s very much, of her own accord, made a conscious decision. She’s not struck with powers or some strange situation, so how does it feel for you playing this character who, I think out of everyone in this universe, is one of the few who really makes a very conscious choice to be Team Avengers?
CS: That’s a very interesting thought. You’re right; she’s chosen to be there. She’s chosen to put herself in harm’s way and to be in this crazy, very difficult, stressful, terrifying world and I think it takes a very strong person to do that and I think that speaks to her character. And I think there’s also, you know, there’s the side of her personality that wants to be in charge and wants to be the highest of the high. Like, there’s president and I don’t wanna shoot for that, but I want to be somebody who gets things done and is a part of big decisions and knows all the secrets. I wanna know all the secret and I think that’s alluring to her as well. But you’re right, she’s not struck with superpowers. She’s decided to put her human body in harm’s way every day. I mean she’s a very, very tough broad.
HG: And I think that’s very special in this world of superheroes who have such incredible abilities.
CS: Yeah it is. And she’s one of the only humans. I feel like Tony Stark is human, but he doesn’t seem that way for some reason. Hawkeye and Black Widow are, but the way that you get to see them doing stunts, they do feel like they’re kind of little bit more toward the superpower side. But yeah, her and Fury are sort of the humans representing in this world of heroes.
HG: How have you worked with Joss to grow this character from the small appearance she had in the first Avengers to a character we’re seeing more and more throughout the series? I feel like Maria’s involvement, not just in the films, but with the team is growing each time we see her.
CS: I mean really it’s all Joss. He was the one who wanted to bring in the Maria Hill character when he signed on to do the first one and he’s always been a big fan of hers in the comic books. And I think you need Maria Hill in these movies. You kind of need somebody — I mean, you need somebody to do a lot of exposition, to sort of be like, “Here’s the deal. This is what these people are like. These are their powers and this is where they went.” You know, and you sort of need that human to give that dialogue to the audience, but at the same time she is kind of like an audience member herself. I feel like any human in that situation watching everything go down, it’s like she reacts to things like a human would because she is human and she bleeds and she, you know, feels and she struggles just like we do.
HG: That’s interesting and I think you’re right, she is kind of like a narrator to the audience. In Ultron there’s a scene where she’s explaining the twins and says something like, “He’s fast, she’s weird,” just distilling things down. What is it like to be that character?
CS: It’s a lot of memorization.
HG: Yeah. You have a lot of weighty dialogue.
CS: I have a lot of weighty dialogue, which at times I have troubles with. When we were shooting this film, we shot in London and I don’t know why, but I was like, “I can totally just fly back and forth to LA and I’ll fly into London for few days and shoot that scene and then I’ll come back.” And that jet lag was like [makes a sound best described as that of a cartoon spring] and my brain was just like, “Um?” But you’re right, especially in that one scene she is like, “I’m dumbing it down for everybody now.” But I don’t mind it. I think it’s fun. I think especially when you’re using Joss Whedon’s dialogue, it’s very good, it’s very quippy. It’s not that procedural. It comes with a little wink so it makes it more enjoyable to do when he writes it.
HG: Do you think we might get to see Maria get more involved in the action in any of upcoming Marvel movies?
CS: I hope so. I hope so.
HG: What would be your ideal way to get her involved?
CS: I’d love to explore, you know, it’s interesting that they have the S.H.I.E.L.D. show. I feel like they do a lot of sort of backstory on like what does it take to be an agent, like a really high-ranking agent, and I’d love to see more of her backstory. Also one of the thing that I love about the second Avengers film is that you get to see them hanging out. Like, this isn’t like we’re walking and talking and we’re explaining, like what the next mission is. It’s them and they have this great party scene where we’re all hanging out and you get to see them in sort of these more social environments, which I really think is cool for the audience and it’s fun to do as well. So I’d like to see, who is Maria? Like what her background is and where she comes from and also it’d be fun to see her like go on a mission or something like that, some sort of spy mission. Put a wig on.
HG: Alias style.
CS: Exactly. Put a wig on and like pretend to be somebody else for a second. It’d be fun.
HG: Yes. And speaking of that party scene, I love when they’re all trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, was there a deleted scene where Maria gets to try?
CS: No, Maria didn’t try. And I like to think it was her choice, but it was probably more like it’s just not gonna happen. Maria’s not going to. She doesn’t have a shot.
HG: But that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see in the blooper reel, just Maria picking it up easily.
CS: Like, “I got this, guys. I got this.” No, I had to do some ADR for that scene because there’s a lot of people talking over each other and they wanted to ad lib some sounds or whatever and I don’t know why, but it was so funny to me, just the idea that Maria is just like super drunk. Because you can’t really, like they cut around to all the dialogue so you get little pieces of her and it’s just like pretending, and Joss and I went through it one time and she’s just like yelling out things and she’s just completely sloppy. We did one version like that and it made me laugh a lot. But yeah, it’s very fun to sort of see all of them loosen up and have a good time.
HG: Yeah. And I love that she’s one of the few characters in the movie that has no problem just like talking back to Thor and Iron Man.
CS: Yeah, she has no problem and it’s an interesting thing with her character. She goes on to, at one point, take over S.H.I.E.L.D. when it comes back, when it gets back together and she has a really hard time with the idea of people with superpowers, and it’s a similar thing with Ultron, with using artificial intelligence. It’s like yes, it’s helpful, but in the wrong hands, it’s kind of disastrous. And same with superheroes and as we go into this world and more and more people are being revealed, it’ll be interesting to see how she reacts if they show that.
KR: Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., is there any chance Maria will show up again on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
CS: There’s always a chance she’ll be around. There’s always a chance.
(Image via Marvel.)