Fresh off of hanging up her Robin Sparkles headbands on How I Met Your Mother, playing a planetary defense agent on Avengers: Age of Ultron, and having her second baby with husband Taran Killam, an astonishingly svelte Cobie Smulders has been making the rounds at Sundance with not one but two movies. First to premiere was Kris Swanberg’s quiet but memorable comedy Unexpected, featuring Smulders as a 30-year-old high-school teacher, Samantha, who finds herself struggling with accepting her impending motherhood at the same time as one of her best students, Jasmine (played by newcomer Gail Bean) also discovers she’s pregnant. Next up was Andrew Bujalski’s Results, where Smulders plays a personal trainer with an inability to make human connections, who finds herself in a weirdo love triangle between a slouchy divorced-guy client (Kevin Corrigan) and her ripped gym-owner boss (Guy Pearce). We spoke with Smulders about filming a movie about pregnancy while pregnant, why she hates running, and her big plans for lactating.
Did you notice there’s a roach of a joint on that table over there? Someone’s been tokin’ up.
I love it! It’s Sundance, it’s crazy. How has Sundance been for you, doing okay?
Yeah, I got some sleep.
You got some sleep? I’m exhausted. And I don’t even, like, party. Like, I wish I was exhausted because I was out last night going crazy. I have a 3-week-old here. So it’s just a total different world.
You brought a 3-week-old to Sundance? I suppose it would’ve been impossible not to.
A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You know what I mean?
But if it’s just been three weeks, how do you look this skinny?
I don’t know. I work a lot. I have another child, so I have to chase that child. Breast-feeding, I don’t know? I got lucky this time around. I think it’s mainly stress. It’s just the best diet ever.
Your hair might go gray…
Yeah, yeah, you’re an absolute wreck, you’re gonna die ten years younger, but you’re going to look great!
How weird is it to be promoting Unexpected, a movie about having a baby, having just had a baby?
When we were shooting it, some parts of it felt very relevant to my life, like with what was going on then. Maybe I hadn’t quite accepted it yet — that I was having another child — but especially the birth stuff, I was like, “Yeah, I remember this, I remember how this felt.” And even just dealing with the balance that women have to go through with being a good mom and also trying to have a career and trying to be successful — that really spoke to me most about this one character. I also really loved the dynamic between the two women in it and this relationship that kind of came out of nowhere. It’s very unusual, but because of their pregnancy, they have this bond, and they have this thing that they relate to each other with.
Well, in a lot of ways the 17-year-old student Gail Bean plays is more mature about motherhood than your character.
Yeah, that’s what I love about it. She’s got her shit all figured out, she knows exactly what she wants to do. It would be so nice to be like, "Oh, I just want to sit home with my kid." And just be like, "This is enough for me." I would love to find that peace. And she [Gail Bean’s character] has that. She’s like, “I just want to be able to be home with my kid, and I’m not going to be able to go to college, and that’s okay. Because I’m going to be the mom, and that’s my thing.” And the character of Sam is just battling with it so much more than this teenager.
I don’t have kids, but I think I would battle with it entirely.
Yeah, I do, too. It’s hard because you want to have it all. And I think that especially we as women were raised by a generation of women who were like, “We can have it all. It’s all about women’s lib and all this stuff.” And it’s really hard. It takes a lot of work, and I feel like some days you feel like, “Oh my God, I can do this” and do everything, and then other days you just can’t.
Do you get annoyed with the conversation about “having it all”?
I guess it means something different to everybody. Because, can you really have it all? Are you really ever satisfied?
Are there men that ever ask you that question?
Yes, that’s true, too. But I feel like, I don’t think I’ll ever be in a place where I’m like, “I’ve got everything,” even though I have everything. By the way, I have food and shelter. That’s literally all you need, right? But I feel once you get in that trap of “you can have it all,” you keep adding on the things to the list of things that you want to have.
Were you at all pregnant during the making of Unexpected?
Oh, I was very pregnant with my 3-week-old.
Were we seeing your actual belly then?
Some of it was, some of it wasn’t. Yeah, we just shot this movie like two months ago. It was insane. I can’t believe we’re sitting here talking about it.
Do you feel like you kinda got cast because you were already pregnant?
Well, I kind of think it gave me like an edge up on the competition, but I think it could have gone either way because there were definitely some days where I was showing more, especially towards the end, than I was playing. But it all kind of worked out. Because with pregnancy everyone’s different, like one person at four months is very different than another person at four months. But yeah, we got to use a lot of real belly shots, which makes it look a bit more realistic, hopefully?
Yeah, I was like, “That looks super real.”
Because it was.
So give me the timeline of what you’ve been up to this past year. You finished How I Met Your Mother …
Finished How I Met Your Mother.
You cried a lot.
I cried for about three weeks, I got myself off the couch, and I shot the second Avengers film. And then I did Results, and then I did Unexpected. I was pregnant during Results as well.
And yet you’re in super-shape in Results. So ripped. Were you Method about training to play a trainer?
I was very Method about it. The thing about being pregnant is that I could only go so far, I had to obviously be safe — there’s a thing where you have to keep your heart rate under a certain thing and you can’t get overheated. So I had to pull back a little bit. But my character in the film, a lot of her stuff is she just runs, so I had to get running. I’ve never been one of those people who’s like, “Once you get past that runner’s block, you start getting that runner’s high.” I’m like, “What the fuck is that? I’ve never experienced that before.” Like, that’s bullshit to me. I’ve never been running and have been like, “Oh man! Oh, wait! I got this now. I can go for seven more miles.” I cop out at 20. I’m like, “This is dumb.”
But 20 is a lot of miles!
No, 20 minutes! And that’s like, four blocks.
I’m totally with you.
I’m not a big runner. I’m like, Pilates. Got it. I just discovered SoulCycle like the rest of America. And I like that. Because it’s 45 minutes and you get it done, and you’re in and you’re out. But yeah, I had to do lots of running, and I also did a lot of weight training because I wanted to make my arms look as muscular as I could because I couldn’t really do any ab stuff. Lifting weights was interesting because it was the first time I’d done that that I think the first time in my life I was like, “Oh, I feel strong. Like, I feel like strong and I feel capable.” I was very empowered by that, because I hadn’t had that strength before. I literally had all this energy and I was just lifting shit, throwing it around. And that was really cool. So I’d do like an hour of cardio and an hour of weights.
What drew you to Results? Because it’s such a quirky movie.
It’s super quirky. First of all, I’m a big fan of Andrew [Bujalski]. He does such interesting projects. And then I read the script and read that Guy Pearce was attached to it, and that was sort of like, “Guy … I’m in. I’m in.”
And he’s so ripped in the movie.
He took it way further than I did. I’m like, “Hey, I’m going to hit the gym later, you wanna meet up and go together,” and he’ll be like [mimics Australian accent], “Oh, I was already there two times today. But I’ll go with you.” Oh my God, dude, come on! We’re supposed to both be like, pretty fit, but you look ripped. But yeah he really went for it.
Have you been angling to host SNL?
Not angling. I mean, dreaming about it since I discovered the show at 13.
Don’t you have any pull with Taran?
[Laughs] No, I don’t think so. I mean, listen, it’s almost every actor’s dream to host SNL, and to do it with my husband would be ridiculous.
Have you heard that Jason Segel is getting Oscar buzz already for his David Foster Wallace movie?
Oh, really, for this movie? Oh, I’m so excited, that’s amazing. I haven’t seen it, I don’t think I’m going to get to see it here, because I’m swamped with this stuff, but yeah, I’m going to see it as soon as I can, as soon as it’s in theaters.
Do you get back together with your How I Met Your Mother cast often?
Well, Neil [Patrick Harris] lives in New York, Josh [Radnor] is in New York doing a play, which I’ve seen. I’ve seen Josh a couple of times, I see Neil all the time, Ali [Hannigan] is back in California, as is Jason. I was supposed to see him this weekend, but we weren’t able to see each other. But we keep in touch, calls, texts, we all love each other and we try to see each other whenever we can. We’re all very busy.
What’s next other after this for you?
Well, I’m in New York and I’m going to try and stay in New York for a little bit. We’ll see. I’m angling to do a play, I would love to do some theater. That’s like my next mission.
And more TV?
I don’t have any TV plans, I don’t have any future plans yet, really. I’m going to try and stay in one place for a little more. Just try to stay in one place and lactate. That would be nice.