Since her nine year stint on “How I Met Your Mother” ended, longtime player Cobie Smulders has divvied her time between Marvel business — she’s played S.H.I.E.L.D. biggie Maria Hill in four projects so far — and indies. Earlier this season she cussed up a storm in Andrew Bujalski’s fitness-centered “Results.” In “Unexpected” she’s only slightly less grouchy as a young teacher who accidentally gets knocked up. Her crankiness over her changing body, coupled with the anxiety over trying to keep her career going, dovetails with her friendship with a low-income student (Gail Bean) who’s also expecting.
Elizabeth McGovern plays your mom here, and I’m sure everyone has said this but it’s really uncanny how alike you two look.
Kris was quite inspired by the movie “She’s Having a Baby,” in which Elizabeth McGovern plays the pregnant wife. She told me to watch it before we shot. Two weeks later Elizabeth McGovern was playing my mom. She and I have that Wonder Woman gene in us: dark hair, blue eyes and white, white skin. But it was weird. It really hit home when we were together for the first time that there’s a lot of alikeness. Listen, if I end up looking like that at her age I’ll take it.
This is very frank about what pregnancy is like for women. Do you feel other films haven’t really captured that?
None of them have gotten it right until now! [Laughs] I mean, even in ours it’s hard not to rely on the comedic elements of a movie dealing with pregnancy: the labor, the Lamaze breathing, the pregnancy cravings. I just don’t think we’ve seen a woman deal with the fact that she has to stop working, or feel like she’s losing her identity through pregnancy. When you’re pregnant and in a relationship, you have to ask, “What are you going to do?” or “When are you going to go back to work?” if you have a strong career. It’s different for everybody. I thought it was interesting portraying a woman who has such a strong drive to keep working, to be a part of the work force, to have a passion other than her family — to try and wrap her head around it while going through so many changes.
In America, at least, there’s still a fight to get more maternal leave, or even keep it at what it is.
I hope we can get to a place in our society where every job and every work force is understanding towards having a family — that a woman has to take a break, and that a man does too. Growing up in Canada we have paternity leave, which is amazing, as well as a healthy maternity leave. In this industry I’ve been lucky. You are self-employed. I love checking that box whenever I’m filling out a government form. It’s great if people want to employ you all the time. But if you’re actively looking for work constantly, it’s less so. There’s something very freeing about being on your own schedule, but there’s also something terrifying about taking time off.