Cobie Smulders on Stumptown season finale cliffhanger, dream casting
On Wednesday's season 1 finale of Stumptown, Dex (Cobie Smulders) got closure on one mystery, only for another to come knocking on her door. After learning that she wasn't responsible for the death of her past love Benny, Dex tracked down the men who were, which led to a rough fight in the woods and ended with Dex shooting Benny's killer. Elsewhere, Hoffman (Michael Ealy), who risked his badge helping Dex, is stepping away from the force, while Grey (Jake Johnson) is hurt physically and emotionally, considering he was shot and then learned that his newly resurfaced dad is on the lam after pulling a job. But it looked like the episode would conclude in an upbeat way, with Tookie (Adrian Martinez), Ansel (Cole Sibus), and Dex gathering for a dinner to help Ansel win his girlfriend back. But when they answered the door, a shocked Dex could only manage one word: "Mom?"
To reflect on the finale and season 1 as a whole, EW hopped on the phone with Smulders, who like many of us was excited for some outside human interaction. We chatted about dream casting ideas for Dex's mom, how the events of the finale will affect Dex moving forward, and what she'd love to see from a second season (ABC has not yet renewed the series).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start at the end. Dex’s parents and what happened to Benny were the two big mysteries of the season, and we solved one, only for the other to come out of nowhere at the end. What do you think Dex’s mom showing up will do to Dex? I’m imagining a scenario where Ansel is happy to see her and Dex is very suspicious and standoffish.
COBIE SMULDERS: Ansel has been sneaking around my back, kind of arranging this whole thing, and I think he thinks that this is going to be the greatest reunion ever and everything is going to be fixed. I really liked the idea of pairing this conclusion of this pretty emotional event in Dex's life, finally getting the truth about Benny's death, finding those who are responsible, feeling the release of some of that guilt and darkness leaving her, and then she gets confronted right away with this other problem that she's been dealing with. I feel like the abandonment by her parents created a lot of her bitterness, and she has some deep, deep resentment, so when this is coming back up she's going to be forced to confront a whole other set of issues.
Any dream casting for Mama Parios?
I have not been thinking about that. [Laughs] I've been thinking about home school and helping small businesses. I have not thought about casting, I guess I should do that. I think Susan Sarandon would be super-fun. I think Mary Steenburgen is a good one. Maybe Mary McDonnell. I'm literally just choosing amazing actresses who have brown hair and blue eyes. That's about as wide as my net is going right now.
Do you think Dex will at least have some closure now with Benny's death? You had that great scene between Dex and Sue Lynn [Tantoo Cardinal] where Dex talked about not knowing who she is now.
I think there will be [closure], releasing some of the guilt of it. The second half of the season was about her learning the new information that she wasn't directly responsible, which I think has been something she's been holding on to for the last 12 years, that she's the reason why this person who meant so much to her is dead. So some of that will be alleviated, but it ends very violently this season, so I think she's going to have to deal with some of the issues coming from that. And Dex is still a person who has PTSD, she's still dealt with a lot of other things and she continues to survive and crawl her way out of situations, but I don't think it's going to be all roses after this. She'll still be struggling, and I personally would like to see her delve more into some darkness because of it. But we will see, we don't really have a plan in place.
Speaking of the deadly end, you've had a lot of fight scenes this year, including multiple in this episode, but the final one in the woods seemed like it was a lot of work to film, and probably pretty draining. What was it like working on that sequence?
It was both of those things. We shot them at night, and night scenes are always a challenge for the whole crew. We trained for it, I have an amazing stunt team and an amazing stunt double, Marie [Fink]. We do all the fight scenes together and Marie usually just gets thrown against things very hard, so she's much tougher and resilient than me, but unfortunately she broke her arm when we started shooting the night scenes, so she sat out and I did a lot of it. We also called in somebody last minute and she showed up an hour later and did a lot of the falls and throws for us. It was a little dramatic getting it done, but we did it. The thing that helped all of us was that these were our final two days of the show, so it was like, "Let's just get through these two days, let's get it before the sun comes up," and we were able to. I was very proud of all of us.
This arc had flashbacks to Dex and Benny [Sam Marra] meeting and falling in love. What did you enjoy about exploring that? You got to throw it back with your look and outfits. It was a bit of dark Robin Sparkles.
I know! It's always so fun to just totally change your look, just for yourself, just to feel like you're stepping into another world and another character. It was interesting shooting it, because we were trying to make some more dramatic choices in terms of the coverage, in terms of the angles, and that it is more from my point of view than a totally covered scene. It was really great to meet Benny in real life, and we had such a wonderful actor come in and play him. Just exploring that, playing a younger, innocent Dex, was quite nice and refreshing. It was just a lighter version and being able to show her in this more vulnerable, starry-eyed, so in love with this guy and so excited about this romance was a fun thing to play.
Having completed this first season, how are you feeling about the experience? There's obviously a lot on your shoulders as the lead, plus all the action, so I’m sure it was one of the more exhausting and rewarding times for you.
It was. I do feel like I've been running a marathon — and I'm not a runner. [Laughs] So it does feel like an accomplishment. I've certainly never done that much work on anything, and it's taken a certain amount of physical and mental endurance. But we have such an amazing cast and stunt team and writers, so it's a team effort. I think the thing that really helps you get through it is that you get to go to work and be with people that you like to be around, and so you take it day-by-day and time passes very fast when you're in a positive environment.
First seasons are so tough, because you’re trying to find your footing and discover what the show is. For me, the show clicked for me when I realized I wasn’t worried about what the case was and just wanted to hang with these people. Was there a moment when you felt like the show really hit its stride and became what you all wanted it to be?
I think when we found our groove probably after the fifth episode, which just goes with any production, like now all the crew knows each other, we know the rhythm of this, we're establishing the tone of the show. But the thing about our show is that it's such a mix of tones — it's action, comedy, and drama — so you never really feel like, "Okay, we got it now!" The moment that it's a super-funny scene, I'm crying. So it's kind of finding the perfect blend of those things, which I think we found that midway through the season. But it's a constant discovery because I like to think our comedy is coming out of situational things, not written as slapstick funny, there's no punchlines. It's more like, "What is happening right now," and we're all reacting to it, or we're not, which is why it's funny. So it's a constant exploration of finding the balance between those three elements.
While the Dex, Grey, and Hoffman dynamic seemed to be set up as a love triangle, the emphasis went away from that a bit, and I personally enjoyed all the different relationships established among them. How do you view those three moving forward? Grey was obviously ready to uproot his life to save Dex, while Hoffman had to establish boundaries.
I have always really thought of the relationship between Dex and Grey as somewhat of a love story in reverse, where these are two people who met drunk and slept together and then realized, "Oh, I like you as a friend, and this is somebody who I want to keep in my life, so I'm not going to be stupid and mess it up and make it romantic." To me, Grey and Dex are more like family. They're both somewhat orphans and they found each other and they both have this love for Ansel and that is their family unit. I've never seen it as anything romantic, but Dex is a borderline sex addict, so there is a line that she's going to be walking with any person, male or female. She's a very sexual person and she drinks a lot and she's very messy, so I think that any relationship she gets herself in she doesn't have a black or white, she just completely lives in the gray. Oh, Grey! [Laughs] So I think Grey is always the one who has to be like, "What are you doing? Back off, don't be stupid."
But with Hoffman, who is a cop and rational and by-the-book, I think that was maybe her attempt at having what people consider a normal relationship and she just wasn't able to do it, she doesn't function in that way. The Dex that is interesting to me is a woman who is fluid and not looking to be in a relationship, so my hope is that the next season, should we get it, is we get to see more of that.
What else would you love to further explore with Dex and this world in a possible second season?
With the introduction of the parents, I'm interested to see how that all plays out. I'd also like to see more from the supporting characters, like I'd love to see what Cosgrove's life is like. We have Camryn Manheim on our show and she's brilliant! I'd like to hopefully have a really interesting crime story line but then also bring in the supporting characters in a personal way.
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