Cofilin protein is involved in regulating the actin cytoskeleton during typical steady state conditions, as well as during cell stress conditions where cofilin saturates F-actin forming cofilin-actin rods. Cofilin can enter the nucleus through an active nuclear localization signal (NLS), accumulating in nuclear actin rods during stress. Here, we characterize the active nuclear export of cofilin through a leptomycin-B sensitive, CRM1-dependent, nuclear export signal (NES). We also redefine the NLS of cofilin as a bipartite NLS, with an additional basic epitope required for nuclear localization. Using fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) and Förster resonant energy transfer (FRET) between cofilin moieties and actin, as well as automated image analysis in live cells, we have defined subtle mutations in the cofilin NLS that allow cofilin to bind actin in vivo and affect cofilin dynamics during stress. We further define the requirement of cofilin-actin rod formation in a system of cell stress by temporal live cell imaging. We propose that cofilin nuclear shuttling is critical for the cofilin-actin rod stress response with cofilin dynamically communicating between the nucleus and cytoplasm during cell stress.