Moviefone caught up with Smulders on an "Avengers" press tour, where she spoke to us about stunt love, gun love, and an unstoppable Joss Whedon love.
Were you a fan of "The Avengers" before you took the role? I was familiar with some of the characters. I had seen "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2"; but as soon as I got the call that I was going to screen test with Samuel L. Jackson, I immediately went on the computer to research S.H.I.E.L.D. and Maria Hill. [Laughs] She's a new character [in the movie universe], so I was able to take what was already established in the comic books and then, with the help of Joss Whedon, add to it as well.
How much did you work with Joss? And what was it like? I did spend a lot of time with him. Joss is an amazing man, and he gives you a lot of time even though he probably doesn't have it. He spent a lot of time with me, even though I have one of the smaller roles in this character-driven project. He was there every step of the way, and he wrote the audition scenes that didn't even end up in the movie! He was there at the screen tests, he was there at wardrobe fittings, he was there when we were discussing my bang length. [Laughs] You can imagine how much time he spent with the other characters in this film. I pretty much signed on because he was in charge.
Since your character is new, did you feel any pressure or like you had something to prove? Absolutely. In not only a new-character sense, but also in a actor-playing-with-really-huge-actors sort of way. I feel like all my answers come back to Joss, but that's how it is. He was so good at giving me confidence. First and foremost, I wanted to make the fans happy. I took what they said to heart, and I wanted this woman to look like she was in charge, that she was comfortable standing up to Nick Fury. I wanted to look like I could take someone down.
You did some of your own stunts, correct? A lot of it was me, yeah! [Laughs] I wanted to. There's something that feels more organic about watching a stunt that's done by you. There's also a feeling of accomplishment doing it yourself. I was kind of a pain in the ass on set sometimes because I'd be doing a scene with Sam [Jackson] and I'd insist that I get to shoot as many times as him. It's just cool. It's just bad-ass. The whole first scene, of me driving the Jeep, that's mostly me. I wanted to do more.
Did you have fun wielding a gun and wearing a skin-tight suit? Too much. [Laughs] The most important thing to me, going into this film, was training, and I wasn't given any. I hired someone myself and I started doing boxing, tae kwon do and jujitsu. I hired this great guy out of Los Angeles who trains SWAT teams. He helped me become more familiar with police protocol and tactics, how you would enter a room with a gun, all of these things that I really wanted to get into my mind so I could just focus on Maria when I got on set.
Had you shot a gun prior to this role? No. I shot prop guns on set, but that's it. The thing that I learned after spending an afternoon in the shooting range - which I think I'm never going to do again - was that I have a great respect for the weapon. I thought I was going to be filled with adrenaline, and that maybe I'd go buy a gun afterwards, but I just left going, "It's not for me." I know how they work now, I know what they can do. Of course, my character on "HIMYM" is a gun enthusiast, so they always have me doing goofy things like shooting the guns into the air, and I always looked at it as a prop. Until now.
"The Avengers" opens wide in North America on May 4.