Maya Erskine stole a Tom Cruise trick for her “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” action scenes: 'We did run like hell'

The actress, and series co-creator/showrunner Francesca Sloane, reveal their inspirations, from "Chinatown" and Hitchcock to Sigourney Weaver in "Alien."

Maya Erskine had just had a baby, so an action series wasn't really something on her radar. But then, Mr. & Mrs. Smith came calling.

"I was always wanting to do things out of my comfort zone, and when this came up, it was like, Oh, this is definitely out of my comfort zone. Am I even capable of doing this? Anytime I ask myself that, that usually is a good sign that I should do something," the Emmy nominee says EW's The Awardist podcast. "I didn't expect to do something like this, but I'm so glad I did."

The action-packed Amazon Prime Video series is inspired by the 2005 movie that starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Here, co-creator/star Donald Glover and Erskine play assassins John and Jane Smith, strangers posing as a married couple sent on risky missions around the world.

<p>David Lee/Prime Video</p> Donald Glover and Maya Erskine on 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

David Lee/Prime Video

Donald Glover and Maya Erskine on 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

"We watched a lot of thrillers and espionage films," recalls co-creator/showrunner Francesca Sloane. "We really watched a lot of French Connection — we really wanted that level of action, that grounded nature of it, the slowness of it that then builds to something. And most importantly, we wanted New York to be a character. So funny enough, we watched a lot of Woody Allen for it as inspiration."

Related: Donald Glover and Maya Erskine leaving Mr. & Mrs. Smith? Not so fast, says EP

The Talented Mr. Ripley was on the viewing list for the Italy-set episode featuring guest star Ron Perlman — "We wanted that lux feeling in terms of the style and the pacing," Sloane says — and Hitchcock served as inspiration for episode 3, set in the Italian Dolomites. Chinatown was even a touchstone. "We wanted different flavors for each, but still a through line of consistency in terms of who these characters are."

<p>David Lee/Prime Video</p> Donald Glover, Ron Perlman, and Maya Erskine in 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

David Lee/Prime Video

Donald Glover, Ron Perlman, and Maya Erskine in 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

Erskine turned to an unexpected piece of pop culture history for research.

"One of the first things that I rewatched was actually Alien and Alien 2, because Sigourney Weaver — it's not assassin or spy — but her character, I just remember how she played it," the Pen15 co-creator explains. "Because there were going to be a lot of scenes where I couldn't reveal what I was feeling but had to have something going on under, I just wanted to see how she played it. She has such a steely exterior, but there's so much fear under, and she has to have so much composure in every scene and be so strong. I thought that was such a good inspiration for Jane, even if it's not anything like it."

But then, it was time to hit the gym, which the actress admits she wasn't looking forward to but "grew to love."

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best in TV.

Related: Donald Glover says he and Maya Erskine 'became like a married couple' filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith

"When it comes to strength training or being in a really overly masculine gym, it scares me. I cried the first day I went into this gym because I was like, I'm not this person and I will not be this person!" she says, laughing. "But it was actually really valuable and important for me, and I challenged myself so much and grew and was able to do pushups and things that I just could never imagine I could do. I got so strong. And especially after my body felt so foreign to me after having a baby, I wasn't even in my body; I had to get in. The strength training totally put me there and made it possible for me to play Jane."

<p>David Lee/Prime Video</p> Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

David Lee/Prime Video

Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'

Erskine says another actor unknowingly also provided her some help for their action scenes, especially the finale as John chases Jane through New York, across the High Line, and eventually back to their brownstone as they both try to kill each other.

"I’m not a runner, but let me just say this: I became one that week. I was also sick that week. I had a cold, and it cured it," she shares. "But in the first episode we run, and Donald, he was running as part of his training in the beginning, and so he had to slow himself down so that we could stay in the same tracking shot, and it wasn't looking fast. So I did steal the Tom Cruise run, which is lifting your hands — it does help. It's interesting how film can make it either look faster or slower, and you also need to stay in line with the camera. So there's so many things to think about, but in that last episode, we did run like hell. I was wearing Mary Janes. That was crazy."

Related: Mr. & Mrs. Smith review: The rare reboot that gets it right

Listen to Erskine and Sloane's full interview on the Awardist podcast, below, where they also reveal their favorite guest star of the season, the story behind Erskine's casting after Phoebe Waller-Bridge left the project, and more.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.