By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
There’s a moment in STUMPTOWN when someone wonders about the folly of sending a plumber to fix the roof.
The reference is to Cobie Smulders’ character, Dex Parios, who - for reasons to be explained on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, when STUMPTOWN debuts on CTV - is sticking her nose into what usually would be considered “police business.”
But aren’t there circumstances in which it might be wise to send a plumber to fix the roof? The plumber might bring a fresh perspective, and spot something that all the so-called experts have overlooked.
“And maybe people TRUST the plumber more,” says Smulders, clearly warming to the concept. “Dex is a local, you know? Particularly with regard to the community that lives on the outskirts of the law, can Dex gain access to these people in a way that the police can't? Hopefully we nail it.”
Plumbers, roofers, nails - we assure you, STUMPTOWN is not a home-improvement show! Rather, it’s the most highly anticipated new drama of the TV season, not to mention a bold new direction for Smulders, who is best known for her role as Robin Scherbatsky in the long-running sitcom HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.
When we first meet Smulder’s Dex, she’s a sharp-witted U.S. Army veteran, suffering from PTSD, who drives a beat-up 1990s Mustang, and is aimlessly drifting through life in Portland, Ore.
“Dex is on a treadmill and won’t get off,” Smulders says. “She has a gambling debt. She is the sole guardian of her younger brother, so she has to be somewhat of a parent, which is not a role that she is necessarily great at, or would choose for herself. She's very sexually ambiguous. And she has addictions, too.”
But there are other sides to Dex that begin to emerge.
“She's extremely honourable,” Smulders adds. “I think that I'm always interested in characters who are willing to sacrifice - whatever that sacrifice is going to be. I just find that this is a woman who is constantly sacrificing, almost to a fault, because she can't look internally. She doesn’t want to look too deeply inside herself.”
Through a series of events that paint her into a corner, Dex surprisingly finds herself acting as something of an amateur private investigator. While she has zero experience in this game, she is instinctive enough, assertive enough, and quite frankly reckless enough to raise eyebrows among both criminals and cops.
Eventually Dex is presented with an opportunity to do some “unofficial” work with a police deputy name Miles Hoffman, played by Michael Ealy. Deputy Hoffman is wary of Dex, too, but he just wants to cross some difficult and irritating cases off his lengthy “to-solve” list.
“I think of Dex as always being six steps ahead of everybody, but she has no idea that she is,” Smulders explains. “She can figure out, 'oh, it’s THAT GUY who did it’, but then she loses him, or she goes about it in a way that is not successful. She's her own worst enemy, but she's extremely intelligent. It’s going to be ‘one step forward, two steps back’ with her. But Detective Hoffman has too many cases on his plate. He doesn't have the time to knock on all these doors. So you hire Dex to do it.”
Plumbing, roofing, investigating, you name it … Cobie Smulders is the woman for any job.