Cobie Smulders on Her Love of Canada, Naps, and Marine Biology

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Cobie Smulders, former model and How I Met Your Mother and Avengers: Endgame star—now on big screens in Spider-Man: Far From Home—talked to Men’s Journal about falling in love, studying seaweed, and the beauty of naps.

But first, the basics:

Age: 37

Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia

Cobie Smulders’ 3 Things About Canada:

  1. Universal health care
  2. Hockey
  3. Six months parental leave (for dads, too)

Your character Robin, on How I Met Your Mother, was a very proud Canadian. Are you one in real life?

I’m from Vancouver, and I consider myself Canadian first. I do have a very deep love for my country and a lot of pride about it. I have a green card here, though.

Can you vote with that?

No, I need to apply for my citizenship. During the midterms, I literally drove my husband to the polls and sat outside on a bench waiting for him to finish. It was personally very sad.

Your husband, Taran Killiam, is a comedian. Was it important for you to marry someone funny?

I wanted a partner who was empathetic first and then who could make me laugh. I’m very drawn to someone who has a strong drive, who is creative and successful—not necessarily monetarily but who wants to have personal success, whatever that means for them.

I saw that you two got married between having your first and second kids. Why do it at that point?

We wanted to wait until she wasn’t a little baby, so she could be a part of it. We’re all one team.

I really strongly dislike being the center of attention. But I always loved pretending to be other people.

That’s sweet. You’ve been together a long time?

I’m going to get this wrong…15 years? Something like that, I think.

Did you know right away that he was the one for you?

No. I don’t know if that’s real. It’s such a romantic, lovely idea, and at one point in my life I was like, “Where’s my one?” But there’s so much pressure in that. I’m very glad I don’t have to date now. It seems terrifying with all these apps. I feel lucky I found my partner at 22.

Not everyone is ready for that at 22.

I’ve always been slightly too mature. I partied in my teen years and was burnt out by my 20s. By the age of 15, I was modeling, so I was going to a different country every summer vacation. As soon as I graduated high school, I moved to New York City. Then I survived ovarian cancer at 25. So I definitely had to grow up quick. I don’t know if you’d call me an old soul, but I’ve always been able to handle myself in bizarre scenarios.

Does your background in modeling make you more comfortable in front of the camera?

No. I hate having my picture taken. I don’t know why I’m an actor. I don’t even know why I was a model. I really strongly dislike being the center of attention. But I just always loved pretending to be other people. I think that that’s the origin of me wanting to become an actor. I just wanted to escape and be somebody else.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an actor?

My plan was to go to the University of Victoria, on an island off the coast, to study marine biology. I have such a love for the ocean. I’m an avid scuba diver and I work really closely with Oceana trying to fight climate change and plastic in the oceans.

When work is annoying, are you ever like, “People, I could be swimming with dolphins right now”?

Everyone immediately goes to dolphins, but I’ve always been like, “What about those interesting coral polyps over there?” The alternative version of my life would be me in a laboratory studying seaweed.

Let’s talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home. Peter Parker and his pals head to Europe.

It’s actually a comedy. Obviously, there are some serious, high-stakes things going down, but it’s about these teenagers on a school trip in Europe. They’re not always trying to save the world. You get to discover who they are in the day-to-day.

Did you have to train for it?

I don’t have any superpowers as Maria Hill. I’m human, but I’m a very highly trained human, so it was important for me to look like I knew what I was doing. For the first Marvel film, I had zero experience with any kind of stunts, and I was very uncomfortable with guns, so I hired a guy who trains SWAT teams to train me.

If you could give Maria a superpower, what would you pick?

Did you ever watch that show Saved by the Bell, where they had the timeouts? It’d be great for her to have a pause button to be able to freeze time and get a bunch of shit done. I feel like Maria’s constantly trying to control everything, yet she lives in an environment that’s constantly out of control. Wait, I would like that power, too.

What would you do during the timeout?

Probably nap. Just a lot of naps. Could you even imagine putting the world on pause so you could take a quick 20?