As promised earlier this week, a collection of up-and-coming actresses screen tested opposite Samuel L. Jackson yesterday for a role as Nick Fury's sidekick in The Avengers, the massive superhero movie that starts shooting in April. Today Deadline claims that not only do they know the identity of the character they're vying for, but which current TV star is the frontrunner.

"Cobie Smulders has emerged as the front runner for the role of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill," Mike Fleming wrote this morning, pointing out that Avengers director Joss Whedon had actually eyed Smulders to play Wonder Woman when he was planning a take on that character. Smulders currently stars as Robin on TV's How I Met Your Mother and had limited mire experience before that; playing Maria Hill would be a monumental step forward for her after six seasons of steady, hilarious work on TV.

As for Maria Hill, a character Jackson described as "a new character who's with me all the time," she's a character who has made appearances in the Avengers comic book universe, acting at one point as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. before Tony Stark got the gig. Here's how comics author Joe Quesada has described the character (as quoted on Wikipedia, naturally):

"[Hill] is such a strong personality, she's like a force of nature and quite frankly, while perhaps not immediately loved by all involved, she's certainly as strong and imposing a figure as Nick Fury. Right now I feel that people view her as the outsider but [while] I don't think she’s any harsher than Fury has ever been, what's different is that we aren’t quite clear about her motives".

Smulders has proven her comic chops time and time again on How I Met Your Mother, and she's got to be pretty fearless to take on the goofy Robin Sparkles character so many times. But is she up for playing someone with power over all the superheroes? And can she manage to stand out in such a massive cast? She seems as good a candidate as any of the other actresses up for the part, and if Joss Whedon trusts her, that's enough evidence for me to go on.

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