Final Bow: How Broadway Met Cobie Smulders in Present Laughter
Among all of this season's Broadway debuts, Cobie Smulders had a tough assignment ahead of her. A veteran of How I Met Your Mother and the Avengers film series would share the stage with the likes of theatrical heavy hitters Kevin Kline, Kate Burton, and Kristine Nielsen in Noël Coward's Present Laughter.
Yet Smulders acquitted herself impressively for her first outing on the Great White Way, standing out with her vampy turn as the fiercely independent Joanna Lyppiatt. It's a performance that earned her a Theatre World Award.
With the curtain falling on Present Laughter July 2, Smulders looked back on making her Broadway debut among this A-list company and described how it made her "strive to be better."
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say?
It's my favorite line, and it's also the one I stumbled on at the beginning because it's so wordy: "Nothing but artificial politeness and slightly frigid tolerance." Now that we're almost done, I'm relishing it, whereas before, I was just trying to remember it and get the words out.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
Before the beginning of Act 2, Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, Siobhan (who does our hair), Madison (who's one of our stage managers), and I have a really private dance party right before I walk onstage. I had to learn I can't get too into the dance party, otherwise I'm entering out of breath.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show, and how was it handled?
At the end of the first act, Kevin Kline and I are kissing and then the curtain falls. One night, we're kissing and it's super-quiet. Normally, the music comes up and people clap. I was looking upstage, and Kevin was at my ear going, "The curtain hasn't fallen." And he said, "Maybe we should take this upstairs." And we ran up the stairs and there was this terrifying silence. This is why you do plays with Kevin Kline or people who have done this for decades: They're masters and they think of something in the moment, not just, like, "Curtain! Curtain!"
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
Somebody gave me a comic book that had my [Marvel] character, Maria Hill, in it, which I was grateful for.
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
Neil Patrick Harris. He's kind of a family member. Josh Radnor. Annaleigh Ashford came last night, and I had seen her in Sunday in the Park With George and I was mesmerized. I had one of those great moments where I was like, "You just saw me onstage, so I can approach you to compliment you and not feel like a total dork." Annaleigh was a big one for me.
6. What is it like to make your Broadway debut in a cast of heavy hitters like Kevin Kline, Kate Burton, and Kristine Nielsen?
At first, obviously, it was intimidating. Then I realized how nice, giving, and encouraging they are. I was so lucky. I could learn from these people. They've been so supportive. Initially, it was, like, "Holy sh*t, I have to keep up and maintain this performance over all these shows against these people." Then I realized it's not a competition, a "who does what better." You're surrounded by such talent that it only makes you better, or strive to be better.
7. Which one of Susan Hilferty's Tony-nominated costumes do you wish you could keep?
We've just been told we can't keep anything, but I want my bathrobe. Honestly, it's the only thing I would wear. The dress is too fancy, the power suit is not conducive to my lifestyle, but the robe has a lot of memory for me in it. I'm still vying for it. I think we have two, so there might be one I can sneak out. We'll see.
8. What is it like to be a Canadian actor on Broadway in a season where Canada is so well-represented with Come From Away?
It's exciting. I remember that whole story and feeling a lot of pride in my country and also not very surprised, because we as a nation are very kind and welcoming. I haven't seen it yet. I'm going next week after we wrap. I saw a little bit at the Tonys and it was like a warm hug in the theater.
9. How does your Present Laughter character, Joanna Lyppiatt, compare to your How I Met Your Mother character, Robin Scherbatsky?
They're two peas in a pod, a little bit. The thing about Joanna is that she really is a modern woman who's stuck in this time where women aren't allowed to have careers or a great deal of independence unless they're extremely wealthy. So there is a world where Robin is the modern-day version of Joanna, in terms of her need of independence. I never compared them before, but I see that now.
10. If you could do a show with your husband, Taran Killam, what would it be?
When I think about it, I think about it in terms of our life now: Who's with the kids? We kind of did that game when he was doing Hamilton for a minute and I was doing this. Maybe in 15 years, we could do a Virginia Woolf and just scream at each other and pretend to be drunk. Or really drunk. Maybe we could do a musical. He studied musical theater and is a musical-theater dork. But he'd be the one who'd have to sing, and I'll do the songs where you talk-sing. Or I'll be the comic relief and just talk.