The Untold Story of Cobie Smulders: How a Canadian Actress Became America’s Sweetheart

Cobie Smulders had a few TV credits when she was working in her home town of Vancouver, Canada, but it was her move across the border that brought her to the role that became her big break. As most of you probably know, she played Robin Scherbatsky in the comedy How I Met Your Mother. Ever since, Cobie has been a fixture on both the small and big screens, showing just how talented and versatile this pretty lady really is.

Cobie Smulders
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After How I Met Your Mother ended after its nine-season run in 2014, Cobie’s career has continued to rise. She played the starring role opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and also has a hilarious role in the Netflix comedy Friends From College. As of 2019, she’s been heading her own hit ABC series, Stumptown. But there’s a lot more to learn about America’s new sweetheart, like surviving a devastating disease…

This is all things, Cobie Smulders!

She Used to be a Model

When Cobie was 12 years old, one of her friends was working as a professional model and encouraged her to enter the world of modeling as well. Her friend helped set up introductions at her agency, and it wasn’t long before Cobie found herself in the biz as well. By the time she was in her late teens, she was traveling the world as a+n in-demand international model.

Cobie Smulders as Juliet Droil in Veritas: The Quest
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At first, it was fun, but she came to realize that “it just really wasn’t my bag,” admitting that she “kind of hated” modeling. She decided to make the leap to acting, and aspects of her modeling experience actually came in handy when she did auditions. But she was also shocked by the process: “I’ve had the experience of people judging you physically for so long and I was over that,” she explained. “But then it was like, ‘Oh no, I have to actually perform.'”

Her Character Wasn’t Originally Canadian

Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother’s was arguably the most iconic Canadian characters on an American TV sitcom. Her character’s heritage gave the writers a wealth of material. Similar to South Park, these writers went to town with relentlessly poking fun at America’s neighbor to the north. But Robin’s nationality actually wasn’t planned.

Cobie Smulders as Robin Scherbatsky sitting behind a news desk holding a cup of coffee
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Rather, it was the result of a happy accident. Cobie explained in a Canadian TV interview that it wasn’t until the writers learned of her nationality that they thought of making her character Canadian as well. When the writers told Smulders that Robin should be Canadian because it seemed “exotic,” she said, “I’ve never been called that in my life, but sure, sure, let’s do it.'”

Out and Proud… For One Episode

In the first episode where Robin came out as an out-and-proud Canadian, Cobie said she was pleased that her character got to brag about her country’s “universal health care and our school system and all these great things that Canada provides.” But the pride was short-lived, as full-on mockery was unleashed in the next episode. “We had one episode, and from then on, just trashing our country,” she joked.

Cobie Smulders is wearing a Vancouver hockey jersey holding a stick and talking on the phone in an episode of How I Met Your Mother
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Not only was Cobie playing a Canadian character, but viewers also learned that Robin had a secret past as a teenage Canadian pop star: Robin Sparkles. Sparkles was best known for her chart-topping hit (in Canada), “Let’s Go to the Mall.” Yeah, it’s pretty funny. So how did Cobie really feel about it?

Being Robin Sparkles

Robin Sparkles became a fan favorite, showing up several times throughout the show. With time, Sparkles eventually took on a life of her own. Cobie told TV Guide: “I was happy that people enjoyed it so much. It became such an Internet hit, and there’s even a Robin Sparkles MySpace page, which I find hilarious.”

A film still of Cobie Smulders as Robin Sparkles and her high school friend Tiffany sitting next to her on a park bench
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Cobie also admitted that she loved the vintage costume, with its bedazzled acid-wash jean jacket that has Robin Sparkles graffitied on the back. Cobie actually loved the whole cheesiness about it. Speaking with The Star Scoop, Cobie gushed about her ventures into the ’80s as Robin Sparkles, saying, “It’s my favorite thing,” she said. “I love it.”

She Could Have Been Wonder Woman

Long before Gal Gadot was seen deflecting bullets with her bracelets in 2017’s Wonder Woman, a very different movie about the iconic superhero was in development. The film we know was directed by Patty Jenkins, but about a decade earlier, director Joss Whedon had a Wonder Woman movie in the works. One of the actresses rumored to be in the lineup for the title role? Cobie Smulders.

Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman, climbing up a ladder
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She told TV Guide that Whedon is a friend of hers. Reports indicated that she was his number-one choice for the big role. But in a 2007 blog post, Whedon wrote that he was no longer attached to the movie. “Sorry, Cobes,” he wrote. Cobie later declared that she would have loved portraying “such an amazing character,” but she also admitted that Wonder Woman was “very iconic, so it’s scary stuff… with big shoes.”

Cobie Agreed To the Avengers Before Even Reading the Script

While Cobie never got a chance to play a superhero in a live-action film, she was, however, surrounded by them when she got the role as SHIELD agent Maria Hill in 2012’s The Avengers. And the film’s director as her dear friend Joss Whedon. He offered her the Avengers role, and she immediately signed on without even looking at the script.

Cobie Smulders dressed as Maria Hill in an athletic jacket and a ponytail in the film Avengers, 2012
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If Whedon “says I can be Maria Hill,” she put it, “I’m going to do it.” Cobie ultimately reprised the role in other Marvel Studios movies, as well as in a few episodes of Agents of SHIELD. As she told the Toronto Star that she loved being a recurring member of the Marvel Universe. “You are constantly challenged,” she describes it. “It’s a new world for me, and so it’s really cool to go in and play and learn.”

She “Bombed” Her Audition for Lost

Before How I Met Your Mother, Cobie and fellow Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly met a decade before becoming a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cobie as SHIELD agent Maria Hill and Evangeline as Ant-Man character The Wasp made brief appearances in Avengers: Endgame. But the two Canadian gals met long before that.

Evangeline Lily in Lost
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The two wound up on the same flight to Los Angeles. They were both hopeful actresses on their way to Hollywood. Funnily enough, they were headed to the same audition. The role: Kate Austen in a new buzz-worthy ABC pilot for a show called Lost. As we now know, Lilly was the one who got the role of Kate. And it might be because Cobie bombed her audition.

Two Canadians in LA

“She owes me a lot because I went in and bombed the audition,” Cobie told E! News. “And she was like, ‘Thank you!'” But in a truly Canadian fashion, Cobie held no grudges, and the two ended up becoming friends in Los Angeles. “She took me under her wing, she let me hang out with her friends, she took me shopping in Venice, she let me stay at her place,” Lilly said of their friendship.

Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan in How I Met Your Mother
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It turns out that Cobie wasn’t the first choice for Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother. The network originally wanted a far more established actress to play the character. Jennifer Love Hewitt took a part in The Ghost Whisperer instead of HIMYM. After she took a pass, they ended up going with Cobie.”

Cancer Made Her Stronger

Cobie is now in her late 30s, but when she was 25 years old, she was on top of the world and living the American dream. But one day, during the third season of How I Met Your Mother, she received some shocking news. “I had tumors on both ovaries, and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues.”

Cobie Smulders
Photo by John Salangsang / BEI / Shutterstock

After undergoing a number of surgeries over the following two years, she finally beat the disease. However, she said that she doesn’t think she’ll ever feel like she’s cancer-free. Years later, she shared her thoughts on what she learned from the experience. “I think that going through [ovarian cancer] has made me a better person, a better mother, certainly able to tap into things in terms of creating characters.”

Married With Children

Cobie further explained that if there’s a “gift” to be received from getting over a life-threatening illness, it’s the gratitude she feels for simply being alive. Cobie revealed that she’s “now in a grateful place with it.” When asked if surviving cancer made her stronger, Cobie, said, “I’m a survivor and grateful for that. I will say it has brought me to this place of more strengths.”

Cobie Smulders and Taran Killam at the Star Wars: The Last Jedi film premiere in 2017
Photo by John Salangsang / Shutterstock

Amazingly, ovarian cancer didn’t prevent her from becoming a mother and making a family of her own. Cobie is married to a former Saturday Night Live star, Taran Killam, since in 2012 (after already being together for several years). The couple went on to have two daughters.

How the Funny Couple Met

Cobie was on Live with Kelly and Ryan in 2019, where she told viewers how she and Killam met, which was when they were just 22 years old. “We were babies, and we survived our 20s together. I don’t know how that’s possible, but we did.” She disclosed that they met at a birthday party that had been thrown for a mutual friend.

Cobie Smulders and Taran Killam at the Afternoon Delight film premiere in 2013
Photo by Broadimage / Shutterstock

The couple had their first daughter in 2009 and another in early 2015. Cobie kept her second birth announcement of low-key, casually dropping the news as she was promoting her pregnancy-themed independent film, Unexpected, at the Sundance Film Festival. “I’m in Sundance, and I have a three-week-old baby, so I can certainly relate [to the theme of the film],” Cobie told Bustle. “It’s my world at the moment.”

Tom Cruise Helped Her Prepare for Stumptown

In 2019, Cobie Smulders was cast as the lead actress playing a down-on-her-luck private investigator named Dex Parios in Stumptown. The ABC drama, based on a graphic novel, launched Cobie into a physical role. In the pilot, her character simultaneously fought two assailants in the backseat of a car while it was flying off a bridge.

Cobie Smulders and Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Photo by The Moviestore Collection Ltd / Shutterstock

“I took some hits in that one,” she admitted. During a press release, she said she felt well prepared for her role after receiving a crash course in stunt training from none other than Tom Cruise, who was her co-star in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. When she was working with Cruise, she learned about training, fighting, stunts, and how to do everything safely, “because he was such a pro at just doing everything correctly and really well.”

A Love-Hate Relationship with Action Roles

Through her roles in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Stumptown, and those in the Marvel Universe, Cobie Smulders is no stranger to fight sequences and stunt-heavy scenes. She enjoys doing the stunt work, even though it can get “pretty exhausting.” Working with Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, she had to do not only the stunts but also go through hours and hours of training and exercising.

Cobie Smulders and her stunt double dressed like her
Source: Instagram / cobiesmulders

“It was just insane, also a great experience, but I remember being in there like, ‘I can’t do this again. I can’t.’ It takes over your whole life,” she revealed. For her role in Stumptown, she was strapped into stunt gear, with pads and a backpack. She performed all the “hits and kicks” in the fight scenes, but uses a stunt double to handle anything that’s potentially more injurious, like getting thrown into walls.

Her Advice for New Moms

Any mom or dad knows that starting a family involves some major life adjustments. Cobie admitted in an interview with Parents that it was nothing like the fantasy of parenthood she imagined before actually having kids. Before having kids, she used to imagine what it would be like. She would picture herself as a stay-at-home mom, eating only “organic food that we’ve grown ourselves from our garden. And every month we’ll kill that chicken, and they’ll learn about the cycle of life.’ And it’s like no.”

Cobie Smulders putting on her earrings
Source: Instagram / cobiesmulders

But in the day-to-day realities of motherhood, her biggest piece of advice that she gives to her friends who are about to become moms: “Just flow with it. Just be present and let it happen and do your best.” Yes, Cobie agrees that being a mother “really is the hardest job in the world.”

She Rarely Wears Makeup

In a video for People’s “Most Beautiful” issue back in 2014, Cobie was asked when she feels the most beautiful without wearing makeup. Her response: “Probably when I wake up in the morning and start my day. I mean, I never wear makeup in my life, truly I don’t.” She revealed that the only time she wears any makeup is when she’s working or doing photo shoots or “something fancy.”

Cobie Smulders is holding a small Canadian flag
Source: Instagram / cobiesmulders

According to Cobie, the no-makeup look is what her husband prefers. She also expressed her belief that “women do look their best” without makeup. She keeps her skin-care regimen very simple: an exfoliating brush a couple times per week and a facial every few months. She joked: it’s “like getting your car washed.”

It’s “Too Soon” For a How I Met Your Mother Reboot

Fans of How I Met Your Mother are wondering if and when the cast of the funny show will be reuniting for a revival. According to Cobie, they shouldn’t really get their hopes up. “I mean, we were just on every week. Aren’t you sick of us?” she said of a reunion during a late 2018 Build Series interview. In her opinion, it’s just “too soon” for a revival.

Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Jason Segal, and Alyson Hannigan are raising their beer glasses for a toast while sitting in their booth
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But she wasn’t going to close the door on the idea completely. “Talk to me in 20 years… I might need a job!” Cobie believes that the show told the story it was set out to tell. She explained to The IMDB Show that she liked how it ended while also mentioning that she “would have liked to milk things more” in the final season.

How She’s Handling Social Distancing

When Cobie Smulders was asked how she spends her time during the social distancing phase of the Coronavirus outbreak, she said, “I’m a preparer, I have been following this since January. When that doctor started posting all those videos in Wuhan, I was like, ‘There’s something happening.’ I think I just kind of started freaking out and preparing for it mentally in February, and buying rice.”

Cobie Smulders and Taran Killam are posing in the park
Source: Instagram / cobiesmulders

In the Killam-Smulders household, they subscribe to a service called “What The Crap,” which is recycled toilet paper. So, by accident, they were well-prepared for the lockdown situation, at least in terms of toilet paper. But in general, she said she’s “mom-ing it up,” which involves homeschooling her younger daughter.

Saving With Stories

Cobie is also involved in the initiative that Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams started called Save With Stories. “I work with that organization a lot, and when the world shut down, I reached out to one of the representatives that I talk to at Save the Children, and I was like, ‘What are you guys doing? How can I help?’ Cobie recorded herself reading a story from her backyard.

Cobie Smulders reading stories for children on her Instagram page
Source: Instagram / cobiesmulders

The initiative collects money to provide food for communities, working with food banks, and providing help for families that are in need. Cobie has actually worked with them for a few years, and there’s a community very close to her in Los Angeles that she’s spent a lot of time with, organizing things for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

They Came Together

We’ve mentioned already some of the roles that Cobie Smulders is best known for. But she’s been in quite a few movies. One of them is They Came Together from 2014. The romantic comedy was one of those underrated films, even though it featured a familiar cast. Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Cobie Smulders and starred in this rom-com.

Cobie Smulders, as Tiffany in They Came Together, grinding pepper over her mean from a wooden pepper grinder
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What is it about? A small business owner is about to lose her store to a large corporation. During the struggle, Karen and Kyle realize that they’re basically living a quirky and outrageous romantic comedy. These wacky characters surely put a smile on everyone’s face – at least those who watched it!

Unexpected

This is another project that Cobie worked on, but this film came a year after They Came Together. Unexpected came out in 2015, and the comedy-drama stars Cobie alongside Anders Holm. It’s about a high school teacher who finds out that she’s pregnant, which happens to be at the same time that one of her most successful students also gets knocked up.

Cobie Smulders, pregnant, and Gail Bean in the film ‘Unexpected’
Source: IMDB / Dark Arts Film

Dealing with their unexpected pregnancies, they form a close bond. The movie is quirky and funny, as Cobie tends to act in those genres, and it didn’t get the best reviews, it’s still worth everyone’s time if you’re looking for a feel-good movie with Cobie in it that also has a unique and pure story.

The Intervention

This comedy-drama from 2016 stars Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Skylar Bernon, Natasha Lyonne, and Cobie Smulders, of course. It’s about a weekend getaway, involving four couples who spend the days together. But, a wrench is thrown into the plans (obviously) when one of the couples realizes that the trip is actually an intervention for their marriage.

Cobie Smulders in ‘The Intervention’
Source: IMDB / Burn Later Productions

This movie is another underrated one, despite the fact that it actually didn’t do badly with the critics. For such a comedy-drama with great actors and actresses, this movie is one that proves to be both cringy and hilarious at the same time. It seems like Cobie just likes to choose movies that go under the radar.

The Slammin’ Salmon and Delivery Man

This 2009 comedy came out way before Cobie Smulders was ever a famous star. Starring Michael Clarke Duncan, this movie tells the story of a Miami restaurant owner who is also indebted to a mob. Surely, it’s a troublesome predicament to be in. So what does he do? He creates a contest to see which waiter can earn the most cash in one night.

Cobie Smulders and Vince Vaughn in ‘Delivery Man’
Photo by Touchstone / Kobal / Shutterstock

Cobie Smulders plays one of those waiters, and the comedy is unlike anything you’ve seen before. As amusing as the plot is, the film is just as hilarious.

Another movie is Delivery Man from 2013, this time starring alongside Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt. Vaughn is the lead who plays an underachieving man who finds out that he’s fathered 533 children through his donations to a fertility clinic.

Safe Haven and Present Laughter

The drama romance Safe Haven from 2013 is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, it follows a young woman with a secretive past who bonds with a widower. Smulders has a role that fans loved. The movie is romantic, tragic, and pure. More recently, in 2017, Cobie starred in Present Laughter.

Julianne Hough and Cobie Smulders in ‘Safe Haven’
Photo by Nicholas Sparks Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

The movie only reached a small audience but still got a relatively impressive 7.6 on IMDb. Smulders stars with Matt Bittner, Kate Burton, and Cobie Smulders. The comedy follows a self-obsessed actor in the midst of a mid-life crisis. You know, because watching rich people deal with crises is always entertaining…

The Lego Movie

Smulders didn’t get to play Wonder Woman, but in 2014, she did get to be the voice of the iconic female character in The Lego Movie. The animated family classic did well with the critics and got a nice 7.8 on IMDb. Other voice actors include Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, and more.

Channing Tatum as the Superman Lego and Cobie Smulders as the Wonder Woman Lego in The Lego Movie 2
Photo by Warner Bros / Kobal / Shutterstock

But it looks like her most famous role, although brief, was that of Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers. In 2012, she made her debut in the role. The superhero action-adventure was definitely a big change for the comedic actress. Cobie appeared in six flicks from the Marvel franchise…so far. There could easily be more to come.

Cobie Smulders Was Pregnant During Season Four

So was Alyson Hannigan actually. The co-stars were both pregnant during the filming of season four of How I Met Your Mother. However, Hannigan’s character wasn’t supposed to be, so the writers had to find ways to hide her pregnancy in many of the shots. Later, Smulders herself discovered that she was also pregnant. You can even see that their characters were sitting down for a large part of that season.

Cobie Smulders giving Josh Radnor a high-five in a scene from How I Met Your Mother
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The only time you see Hannigan’s pregnant tummy was during the scene in which she wins a hot dog eating contest; her stomach was pretty big. After Hannigan gave birth, they wrote her off the show for just a few episodes. Barney told her the infamous “peanut butter and jam” joke.

For those who loved How I Met Your Mother, here are some more behind the scenes facts…

A Real Wedding Proposal Was in the Season Two Finale

In the episode, “Something Blue,” Robin freaked out when she found an engagement ring in her champagne glass, thinking Ted was going to propose to her. That ring actually belonged to a couple next to them that were eating at the restaurant. But they weren’t actors! Brooklyn couple Jana and Timothy were huge fans of the show, and Timothy turned to his comedy writer brother to plan a trip to the show’s set.

Timothy taking the engagement ring from Cobie to propose to his girlfriend
Source: CBS

His brother had a buddy who worked on the show, and Timothy’s initial plan was just to surprise her with a tour of the set. But his brother suggested that he propose to her while visiting the HIMYM lot. How cute is that?

There Was No Actual Studio Audience

Usually, you can assume that a sitcom with a laugh track has a studio audience watching, but that wasn’t the case for How I Met Your Mother. Since the narrative played around with time and frequently included flashbacks and flash-forwards, it was deemed as too confusing for an audience to sit and watch the process.

A shot of Enrique Iglesias and Cobie Smulders in How I Met Your Mother
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The show was filmed in a silent studio due to all of the different timelines and perspectives that required the actors to be in several scenes and shoot different sides of the story. Unlike most sitcoms that film an episode in a single day, HIMYM needed more time to complete an episode. It meant they had a longer production schedule. The laugh tracks you hear are actually from audiences at the episode screenings.

Victoria Would Have Been the Mother

Some of the controversies behind the show’s finale started from the fact that the last scene was filmed eight years before the series ever wrapped up and before the show’s creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas could have ever foreseen how their characters changed over time. While David Henrie and Lyndsy Fonseca shot the final scene as Ted’s kids from Season 1, Victoria was the only love interest in sight for Ted.

Ashley Williams as Victoria with Cobie Smulders in a scene from How I Met Your Mother
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In fact, the Mother dying and Robin being with Ted was always the plan, but Victoria would have been the Mother if the show was canceled in Season 1 or 2. Ted’s first major girlfriend in the show’s timeline, Victoria, came back later on, fueling all the speculation that she was actually the Mother. But the writers stuck to their old plot.

Conan O’Brien Appears in One Episode

That’s right, the King of Late Night (at least in my opinion) was seen in the background of one of the episodes. You can spot him passing the gang at MacLaren’s in a Season 7 episode called “No Pressure.” Although the show was known for including epic guest stars every now and then, Conan O’Brien personally requested a background cameo when he earned a spot on the show through a charity auction.

Conan O’Brien in the background of a scene at the bar in How I Met Your Mother
Source: imgur.com

While talking with Neil Patrick Harris on his own show Conan, he revealed that writers wanted to do more with him. The creators were saying to him: “‘We’re going to actually write you in as a character.’ And I was thinking, ‘No! I think it’s much funnier if I’m in the bar, in the background.'” He was right about that.

Barney Was Supposed to Be Very Different

Neil Patrick Harris revealed that the character of Barney was originally meant to be a “Jack Black, John Belushi type.” In his audition for the role, Harris committed to doing his own wacky version of Barney instead. He acted out Barney’s love for laser tag, even rolling around the audition room floor. It turns out that he did the right thing!

'How I Met Your Mother' cast - Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel
‘How I Met Your Mother’ cast – Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. Photo By Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

“As it turns out, they just didn’t have a real strong visual opinion of what the character should look like. I think they were fans of things I had done in the past, and I went at it with reckless abandon, which is what they were looking for more than a physical type.”