Cobie Smulders on ‘Secret Invasion,’ How the MCU Has Evolved, and Her Fans

Cobie Smulders has played Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since The Avengers, which was released back in 2012. Following her introduction, she has appeared in many projects and most recently can be seen in Secret Invasion. This interview will contain spoilers for the first two episodes.

In “Secret Invasion,” set in the present day MCU, Nick Fury learns of a clandestine invasion of Earth by a faction of shapeshifting Skrulls. Fury joins his allies, including Everett Ross, Maria Hill and the Skrull Talos, who has made a life for himself on Earth. Together they race against time to thwart the imminent Skrull invasion and save humanity.

I had the opportunity to speak with the actress over Zoom about her character’s death, the multiverse, Marvel fans, what she hopes Maria’s legacy is, how much being a female in the MCU has changed, and more! Keep reading for everything she shared.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

So, you really made me cry with that first episode.
Cobie Smulders: Well, it was emotional. It was an emotional send-off.

It was a heartbreak for me. Can you tell me about the mindset for Maria in that final moment? And then also, the fact that you got to do that scene with Samuel L. Jackson I thought was just really full circle.
Yeah, I mean, first of all, I feel like Maria is a character who has always been in the path of danger. So it didn’t feel too crazy for it to happen, I guess, because she has had her life on the line for a long time now. I think it’s purposefully intense, you know? I think that the question that I’ve been asked a few times today, is like, “Did she know, did she not? Did she know that it wasn’t really him or did she think that Fury shot her? Did she realize it was probably a Skrull before she went?” And I’m like, I don’t know, but I think that the question that Fury is left with is — that is why it was set up in that way is that that question will probably be nagging him for quite some time. Fury is somebody who’s lost a lot of people and I’d like to think that the loss of Maria Hill will be very hard for him to deal with, to cope with.

He and us all. I don’t know what you’ve been seeing on social media but
Not really, I mean, I’ve tuned in a little bit and it’s nice to… the most beautiful thing about playing this character in the Marvel world is just bearing witness to the amount of passion that people have for these characters and these stories and that people love to be in this world so much. It’s been really cool to be a small part of that and to really bear witness, like to go to Comic Con and to go to other conventions or just see somebody on the street and to really take in that kind of love and commitment is wonderful, especially because we wouldn’t be able to do any of this if there wasn’t excitement. And so, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, it’s a hard goodbye, but it also feels like this is the multiverse. I don’t know what’s coming and I certainly always knew that this was what was planned for this series, but I don’t know where we’re headed. That is not something I know, it’s just hard to figure it out.

Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL

I’m not gonna be the journalist that asks you if you’re really dead or not because I’m just gonna live in bliss that you are somehow coming back, that’s just how I’m gonna cope with it because like you said, the multiverse. Also, speaking of Comic Con, you gotta promise me you’ll come back to New York Comic Con one year. We want to see you there.
Oh, I have been to New York Comic Con! It was a while ago. Maybe the first Avengers or something, I’m trying to think of what it was tied to because it was specific. But, yeah, I have been to New York Comic Con. It was very, very fun.

I’m curious, were there any alternate death scenes for Maria or was this kind of the plan from the beginning?
I don’t know what other scripts were in play before it came to me, but it always played out in the way it was told to me in the beginning.

You’re obviously an OG and everyone was so excited to see you back on our screen for this series. What has been the most rewarding part of this journey and getting to be in a franchise, not only as big as Marvel but to pop up in so many different films and shows and to see the fan response? I mean, you were even in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
Yeah, I think it’s really the people that I’ve been able to work with. I’ve worked with some of the greatest actors, not only that, but some of the greatest crews, writers, and artists in my industry. That’s been wonderful. And really, again, to talk about just fan appreciation and the appreciation I have for the fans, like being able to engage with people in that way and be a part of something that creates… the thing that I love so much about these is that these films are inspired by comic book artists, and then we make these films and then these films inspire artists to create more art. So it’s just this wonderful, cyclical creative space to always be a part of. It’s one of my favorite things is to see the Maria Hill art or the art of the other characters that come from these productions, that’s been really cool.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

So, like I said, I was eight when I first saw Iron Man in theaters. At that time, women or young girls going to see these movies was not a thing. I thank my dad for bringing me because no one else in my age group — it wasn’t cool back then for females. And so, it’s been really interesting to kind of see it grow and obviously, now everyone loves it. What is it like for you to see the different fans that come up to you and to see your art impacting so many people?
It’s wonderful. I mean, and similar to you — that’s so interesting to think back to you of eight being like, it’s not the cool thing to see as a girl. At the beginning, it was just Me and Scarlett, we were the two ladies in an all-boys club, and just look how much that’s changed, it’s so wonderful. It is truly my favorite to be able to see that transition to have more diversity come in. I mean, even if you just think about it from me, as a character, I started Maria Hill in high heel boots and a one-piece freaking outfit, a tight form-fitting outfit and in the end there, I am in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt.

Even if you just look at that in terms of being a female through that and how much that is that has changed, it’s wonderful and as it should be. So that has been really cool, and getting to see all these new ladies come in and just freaking crush it, even in our show, we got Emilia Clarke, which is — she’s so talented, so amazing, and so great in this show. And then, we have Olivia Colman coming in, who’s this really dark perverse character. They’re bringing more women in, but also giving them more of a point of view, a stronger backstory, and more of a tie to the world. It’s wonderful to see it. It’s very exciting.

I have to say what it meant to me to see you and Scarlett come in and realize there was a place for me in this world, you both really changed the game for me and I hope you know that. If Maria didn’t die, what would you have liked to see for her? Was there anything you were hoping for? I wanted to see her character explored further, I think so many did and I’d love to somehow see you more stuff.
Gosh, what I’d like for her in her life is to take a vacation. But I don’t think that’d be too exciting to show on a series or a film. You know, just having a Mai Tai on the beach, I don’t think people would really tune in for that. I mean, I would like to see her in a relationship. I’m fascinated with — and it was kind of what I was getting a little bit of in the first episode of Secret Invasion is like, what do they do on their off time? What are they sitting around talking about, what is their version of a water cooler? What does that look like? The stakes are always so high in each Marvel production, but these moments, like these human interactive pieces, I find to be very interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of her backstory in that respect. Also, superpowers. I wouldn’t hate superpowers.

Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL

Which superpower would you have liked?
Oh, well, I think, she would benefit most from invisibility because she’s kind of like, covert ops. She’s kind of already trying to manipulate, so that would probably benefit. But I would like… it would just be cool to fly.

Is there one project that was a favorite for you to be a part of or to see unfold? And is there any that you would have liked to be in? I have an answer for that second one, I’ll tell you after.
Oh, I would love to hear your opinion on that. I mean, I think the favorite was probably the first Avengers just because it was so new. It was so secret, secret, secret, like walking everywhere in a freaking cape, you just felt like, this is something cool. Also, doing stunts, that was a first for me. The scale of production was very new to me and such an amazing cast, like meeting everybody for the first time and being so excited, intimidated, and everyone being so welcoming. I mean, it was very new and wonderful — and unknown, like unknown, you know?

And then, which one would I have liked to be in? Oh, I just would have loved to be in Wakanda, you know, Black Panther. I just want to go to Wakanda. I feel like Ross is there so it wouldn’t have maybe made sense story-wise. But let me think… yeah, I think I just want to be in Black Panther but I’m trying to have it make sense. Which one do you think works the best?

Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL

I’m biased, I don’t even know if it would work, but I would have loved to see you in Thor: Ragnarok.
Oh, yeah! That would’ve been fun. I see what you’re saying, humor-wise, I get that.

I just really wanted to see more of you with Thor and Loki — plus, Tessa Thompson!
Yes, I get that. There is also Civil War felt like it could have happened. I mean, listen, I’m so grateful for the many productions I’ve been able to be in, but there’s something about Black Panther that just feels like the coolest.

I imagine the set must have been… I can’t imagine stepping on a Marvel set. One day I hope I get to do like a set visit or something because I can’t imagine what a playground it feels like, I would be in awe.
It’s a playground and Sophia, if I ever come back, I’ll invite you and we’ll play together.

Before I let you go, I want to discuss Maria’s legacy. What do you hope it is?
I think there are traits that are very admirable that she has, you know, loyalty, determination, and just the need to protect others, and I do hope that in some way, little girls can see Maria Hill and they can be as tough as her, as smart as her, and see themselves in this world, which is a very hard, complicated world and see that there’s a woman’s place in it.