Cana­dian Co­bie Smul­ders wins role in Net­flix’s new Friends From College

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BILL BRIOUX

NEW YORK — The way they were laugh­ing and hors­ing around dur­ing in­ter­views, you’d think Co­bie Smul­ders, Fred Sav­age and Ni­cholas Stoller re­ally were “Friends From College.”

In­stead, that’s the ti­tle of their new Net­flix com­edy, which de­buted Fri­day.

Fact is, Smul­ders — still best known for “How I Met Your Mother” de­spite ap­pear­ing as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in sev­eral in­car­na­tions of the Marvel “Avengers” se­ries — never at­tended college.

The Van­cou­ver na­tive reg­is­tered at the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria. Her orig­i­nal plan was to be­come a marine bi­ol­o­gist, but af­ter mod­el­ling through high school she was bit­ten by “the act­ing bug.”

Smul­ders was just 22 when she landed the role as Cana­dian-born re­porter Robin Scherbatsky on “How I Met Your Mother.” The CBS com­edy en­joyed a nine-sea­son run that ended in 2014.

Her new role, as Lisa on “Friends From College,” calls on the 35-year-old ac­tress to be the ju­nior mem­ber of a group of Har­vard chums. Hold­ing onto friend­ships while head­ing into their 40s — de­spite one or two se­ri­ous ob­sta­cles — is the premise of this edgy new com­edy.

The first episode finds Lisa and her hus­band Ethan (Kee­gan-Michael Key) mov­ing to New York and re­unit­ing with the rest of the gang.

Trou­ble is, Ethan has been car­ry­ing on a long dis­tance af­fair — since college — with suc­cess­ful de­signer Sam (An­nie Parisse).

Sam’s ac­tress friend Mar­i­anne (Jae Suh Park) is tired of keep­ing the adul­ter­ous cou­ple’s se­cret. Mean­while, lit­er­ary agent Max (Fred Sav­age) has to give his buddy Ethan the bad news about his lat­est book. Nick (Nat Faxon) is the gang’s slacker pal.

Sam’s busi­ness­man hus­band (guest star Greg Ger­mann) is de­tached enough to see this group in all their petty, com­pet­i­tive glory.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and writer Stoller di­rected all eight first-sea­son episodes. Smul­ders says the Lon­don na­tive was the main rea­son she signed on for the se­ries.

“I just re­ally love his work. I’m a fan,” says Smul­ders, who at­tended a ta­ble read for Stoller’s 2008 fea­ture hit “For­get­ting Sarah Mar­shall.” His other work in­cludes writ­ing and di­rect­ing “Get Him to the Greek” as well as writ­ing the most re­cent Mup­pet fea­tures plus “Cap­tain Un­der­pants: The First Epic Movie.”

Shoot­ing the se­ries in New York also suited Smul­ders, who lives there with hus­band and for­mer “Satur­day Night Live” player Taran Kil­lam and their two young chil­dren. Then there was the script: “The char­ac­ters were in­ter­est­ing and the writ­ing was re­ally good. It was a no-brainer, re­ally.”

The se­ries draws from Stoller’s own ex­pe­ri­ence as a Har­vard grad. He met his wife Francesca Del­banco — co-cre­ator on the se­ries — at a play­writ­ing work­shop while at­tend­ing the Ivy League in­sti­tu­tion.

Stoller says he’s never felt the need to at­tend a Har­vard re­union be­cause he sees his core friends all the time.

They’re a fairly coed group, he adds, “which ba­si­cally means ev­ery­one dated one an­other at one point.”

What Stoller ob­served is that while his old friends all seem to “re­ally love each other and care for each other, they might be kind of de­struc­tive to be around. My wife and I have weird, re­gres­sive re­la­tion­ships with all of our friends from college.”

BAR­BARA NITKE, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cana­dian Co­bie Smul­ders and Kee­gan-Michael Key in “Friends From College.”

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