The leaves are changing colors. Kids are going back to school. The air is cooler and the nights are getting longer. You know what that means? Fall TV is finally here, baby!
And while many of our returning favorites are coming back swinging, this season brings with it a plethora of fantastic new offerings, destined to become future classics. One of the most promising newcomers is ABC’s new procedural action-comedy, Stumptown. Stumptown, based on the Oni Press graphic novel of the same name, follows the grand tradition of classic P.I. shows from Mannix and The Rockford Files, to recent hits like Veronica Mars and Jessica Jones. It centers on troubled former Marine veteran, Dex Parios, as she struggles to pay the bills by becoming a private investigator. The hard-drinking, hard punching Dex, played to perfection by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, The Avengers), is one hell of a character—Complicated but charming. And Smulders instantly gets you to fall in love with her from the very first punch she throws on screen!
That’s It LA was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of this highly anticipated show, where Smulders, along with fellow co-stars, Michael Ealy, Camryn Manheim, Adrian Martinez, Cole Sibus, Tantoo Cardinal, and executive producers Ruben Fleischer, David Bernard, and Jason Richman, treated us to a screening of the first episode, and a rousing panel discussion talking about the episode and the future of this exciting new series. Here’s what they had to say:
Describe Stumptown in one-sentence:
Richman: Adventure. It’s really an adventure. This has just been such an incredible experience working with so many talented people. A cast and balance you just don’t see on television. And to tell the kinds of stories that involve Dex and her journey—it’s just been a dream.
Smulders: You can’t do one sentence…It is such an unusual show. It’s a mixture of action, comedy, and drama. And in each scene all those things are being played out. Amazing characters. Really cool setting – the city of Portland. It’s sort of non-stop, and a lot of fun to watch!
Ealy: I’m going to do a run-on sentence. I would say Stumptown is highly representative of its protagonist Dex, in that it’s extremely scrappy, resourceful, funny, heartfelt, and at the same time has the best soundtrack in the history of television! Period!
Manheim: I would say it’s about a bunch of misfits who are very loyal, honorable, honest people trying to do the right thing, but they -particularly Dex- are so f**ked up. And we somehow get all swirled in her tornado, and it’s not always a bad thing because sometimes when the tornado is done, there’s havoc everywhere, but sometimes good deeds and good things come out of it. So we go along with the wind and the ride of her twirl.
Bernard: I think what originally drew us to the graphic novel was its simplicity in trying to capture the human experience. I think doing it through the lens of positivity – every character is trying to do their best…the characters are three-dimensional human beings, which you don’t always see on network TV.
Cardinal: To me it’s about diversity. It’s about a bunch of people I’ve met here and there. You don’t normally see them all in the same bunch or at the same party. But it’s diversity in the sense that this is a scope that you might find on the street or places that you go…and for me I’ve been kind of lonesome for a real look or experience of people from different worlds all coming together and doing this thing, whatever it might be…and how they mix together.
Sibus: For Stumptown it’s action packed, funny, and sweet!
Martinez: It’s a good freaking show!
Fleischer: For me, I feel like there’s a throwback quality to the shows I grew up loving—Those classic P.I. dramas from the 80s that were flawed, and funny, and there’s a nostalgic quality that I love.
What about the graphic novel seemed right for an adaptation, and made for what you thought would be a great show?
Richman: Well I love detective fiction and I love detective shows. I grew up on them. And what I recognized by page 3 of the novel was that this character did not exist as a P.I. on television…why did this character not exist? So I went looking to find this character. And there were versions of them. Superheroes. High concept ideas….but there was no just normal human being, just doing this job…Where’s the character? That doesn’t have a superpower. That’s just human. And she’s so incredibly relatable to me…And she doesn’t always get it right. She fails a lot. But she fails forward…The other side to it were the complications. The relationship she has with her brother. Never seen anything like that. She suffers from PTSD…and the rich characters in the world and the ones we invented fill out a tapestry.
Cobie, what for you intrigued you about Dex and getting this opportunity to play her?
Smulders: Jason was very eloquent about it. She’s complicated. I think when you decide to do something over the course of multiple episodes, you really have to enjoy that character and see a lot of opportunity in growth and change. And this is just a woman who’s in the middle of that. We meet her and she’s at this point in her life where she doesn’t have any direction. And the idea of playing a woman who has to face some major things—PTSD, addictions—she has to face all these things which I think takes an enormous amount of strength. And she does it bravely. And she’s put in these situations where she’s supposed to fight for others, and she’s very good at that. But whenever she has to put herself first, it’s very difficult for her to do. So I’m just excited to be on an adventure, and really stay with this character and watch her evolve over time.
What would you say we’ll see on a weekly basis? A case-of-the-week or is there going to be an ongoing mystery to it?
Richman: It’s a combination of both. We created a show that has procedural stories, but they’re character driven stories, and each of those stories will bring to the surface something Dex or the other characters are dealing with.
Michael, a lot of these cops would be turned off or annoyed by this wannabe P.I., but obviously Hoffman’s kind of drawn to her a bit, kind of intrigued. Why do you think that is?
Ealy: She cleans up well (he jokes). You know I think one of the things I found interesting about the show in general is that we don’t present the female lead as a catch that’s looking for love. We go the total opposite way of that. And I think Hoffman’s interest in Dex is complicated, and it’s kind of a slow burn…Not that slow, but a different slow…I’m still finding what it is that makes these two work. And a lot of it is recognizing some of yourself in that person.
Cameron, you’re character’s not as drawn to Dex. What appealed to you about signing on to this show to play Cosgrove?
Manheim: Well I’ve learned a lot more about my character through the subsequent scripts…What I do know is that she’s flawed like everyone else. She’s not just a talking head. She’s not just a lieutenant. She has a husband and children and moved to Portland for a better life. She came from Philadelphia where streets were tough, and thought maybe she would have a simpler life here, and she was mistaken…I loved the script the moment I read it. I sometimes have trouble reading action scripts…But it was so exciting. I wanted to know what was going to go down. And I love Dex. And what I love about our relationship is that it’s not like a typical female relationship where I feel she’s infringing in my territory. I think that she’s dangerous and can compromise investigations, so I’m worried about that. But when I start to realize her heart, and loyalty, and insight is so good, she accepts her a little more. And I love seeing female relationships that aren’t just based on competition, but based on real merits…And I get to work with these incredible people. It was just a no brainer. I love the show. I’m so proud of it.
Tantoo, your character obviously has an adversarial relationship and history with Dex. What can you say about how that relationship will develop, and how Sue Lynn will factor going forward?
Cardinal: I think Sue Lynn has a lot of respect for Dex. I think that I understand why she is how she is, and I think I may have had something to do with it, but I can’t be all responsible for it. But I know her well. And I’m in a world where it’s important that I know the people I can trust. And I see her and have known her a very long time. And it’s just by the luck of the draw that she’s not my daughter. And I made that choice—a political choice, and a choice for my nation. So she had to go by the wayside. But there she is…and every once in a while I really need her to be there.
Jason, what has Jake Johnson, who couldn’t be here, brought to the show?
Richman: He brings a lot of humor. He’s incredibly resourceful as an actor. He immediately fit into the tapestry of the show. But he has a really complicated story…He’s hiding something big. What I found was interesting was that he loves that part of his character.
Cole there’s a few scenes between you and Jake. What have you liked about working with Jake so far and building that relationship?
Sibus: I would say it was very amazing that I got to work with Jake Johnson. I watched New Girl and I loved it. I would say Jake is one kind person to hang out with. And me and him got together and talked for a long time. [It was great] getting to work with him and with Cobie Smulders, from Avengers!
Adrian, we get to see a little tease of Tookie. What can you say about your character and how he’ll factor in going forward?
Martinez: He needs the likes (he joked). Particularly from Dex. He looks up to her. He’s kind of like her guardian angel. She’s out there like a loose canon. And he’s looking out for her. And for me that was the emotional hook of the character. Because you have to have something to ground you. And we all have someone that we’re looking out for and taking care of. And Dex used to work for Tookie. He cares for her.
Cobie what was it like to film the opening scene in the pilot in the car?
Smulders: It was super intense. We had these two actors and, man, we really crushed those guys. We shot the car stuff in Portland which was really cool. We shot the pilot—half of it was in Vancouver, and some of it was in Portland. And it was wild. We had an amazing stunt team. And it was really challenging and fun really to try and fit in all that action in that car…it has zero back seat!…It was very challenging, but a fun challenge, and filled with great comedic moments. And really that scene is accessible because of the commitment from those two.
Stumptown debuts on Wednesdays at 10pm on ABC starting September 25th!
About the author: When not saving the world from apocalyptic circumstances, Mike Manalo is a mild mannered freelance reporter passionate about attending comic cons, premieres, and screenings. Hobbies include being obsessed with comics, movies, and all things nerdy!