Talking with the cast of ‘How I Met Your Mother’
By Susan Hornik
It’s hard to believe, but after nine seasons, the last episodes of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” will air. At the recent Television Critics Press Tour, the cast–Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, and Cristin Milioti–along with executive producers/co creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and executive producer/director, Pamela Fryman, all shared their thoughts about the show ending.
“I had been part of a couple shows that I loved being on and that I really liked and they got cancelled within the first season,” said Segel, who used to be on the much loved “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared.” “I really felt like there was no way you could equate quality with whether or not it lasted, so I was always ready for this show to be cancelled, and then the fact that we got along so well made it almost a sure thing to be cancelled. It’s just the best gift ever that it stuck around for so long. We lucked out. It’s been like a dream experience.”
This season, fans finally got to meet the Mother, played by Cristin Milioti (check her out as Leonardo DiCaprio’s first wife in “The Wolf of Wall Street!”) And while it was scary at first to join the cast, I could not have been more warmly welcomed here by everyone,” she said.
During the nine years working together, the cast bonded like a family. “We watched each other go through some really serious life stuff,” acknowledged Segel. “People have gotten married and have children. That’s a really special thing. As the characters evolved, all of our lives did as well, and some of it paralleled what we’ve kind of gone through as people. It’s been like ‑‑ this is the longest I’ve known any group of people besides my family. You have friends from way back, but you know, high school is four years. I didn’t go to college, but I hear it’s four years! ” he quipped.
And everyone was impressed with each other’s acting ability.
“One of the things that Barney gets to do the most is be super crazy, like he’s delusional for the majority of the show, and so I’m rarely listening to people in the scenes,” noted castmate Neil Patrick Harris. “I mean, the actor as Barney, so there were a couple moments when it gets very dramatic for him that I was really appreciative of the actors next to me. Cobie’s just amazing at that. She can turn on the drama and the emotion and be, you know, actively crying in a scene, and it’s so heartfelt, and I just can’t believe that we’re doing a multi‑camera show, and it really hits you in a guttural spot. And I think the same with Josh. Barney by definition kind of doesn’t listen to Ted! He ignores his advice, and he’s constantly sort of spinning stories and insulting. And then when we had our nice back‑and‑forth about Robin and had some really nice dramatic sort of argument scenes where we’re like really going at each other, it reminded me of how much he solidifies the show and how his sincerity and how his authenticity is really unique to the multi‑camera format. Usually you’re going for the joke, and in turn, he sort of was going for the intention, and it was a nice duality.”
Segel had equally glowing things to say about Hannigan. “For me, Aly and I have done a lot of scenes together over the past nine years, and one of the amazing things about the show is I don’t think it’s standard sitcom fare. The luxury of doing nine years is you get to see a relationship really grow and change and go through its moments, and wherever Aly has to do stuff ‑‑ real stuff about relationships– I feel like I’m acting against a partner who is forcing me to raise my game. She’s capable of anything, and that’s been a real pleasure. It’s been amazing. “
A reminiscing Radnor had an interesting experience while auditioning for the role. “You know, in the middle of pilot season, you’re getting so many scripts and going on so many auditions. I remember there was a speech about ‘I’m terrible at being single. I would be really good at being a husband.’ It’s kind of Ted’s iconic speech from the pilot. And I was working on it with a friend, and I looked at it, like, once. I didn’t even work on it, and I knew it word perfect, and I found that when the writing is good, it’s just good writing but it also psychologically makes sense; it’s a lot easier to memorize. And sometimes you think something’s good and you try to memorize it, and it just doesn’t stick. And I found that it was the easiest thing I ever had to memorize for an audition. I don’t know. It just felt like words that were coming out, and they all made psychological sense, and then, you know, then I started reading with Cobie, and that was great fun. She got to throw drinks in my face in front of a bunch of network executives, and here we are.”
It’s rare in Hollywood when a television director stays with the same show for every season, and yet Fryman did. “We talked about this great pilot, and we thought it would just be a wonderful thing to do, but I didn’t really have many expectations. And then we got picked up, and started to do it, and every episode was more interesting than the last. And then I fell in love in a gigantic way with everybody that you see sitting up here, and it’s never been dull, and it’s always been challenging, and they have forced me to do things that I never thought I would be able to do. It is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had, and there’s never been a moment when I’ve been bored. There’s never been a moment when I’ve taken it for granted. I am truly the luckiest person who is sitting up here, and I am a very small person because I won’t share the directing with anybody else, except for a few people along the way!”
Fryman added: “Every episode I read and I go, “How am I going to do that?” And somehow, with the help of all of these people here and all the people that you don’t see, who are spectacular behind the scenes, we get it done, and I would have been crazy to go anywhere else.”
Music has always been a big part of the show. “Craig and I met in a soul band in college, a nine‑piece horn section and the suits and everything,” said Bays. “We’ve always loved music. We’ve always loved writing music. We’re totally frustrated musicians. When you get a job like this and you suddenly have to fill 24 episodes, you start thinking, what do I want to see, and that was just something that kind of happened naturally. Something we’ve always done. Also, another part of that ‑‑ speaking of music ‑‑ is just using songs that we love as a soundtrack for this show. I think that’s been really fun.”
Still, the realization that the show is going to end soon has sunk in.
“I’ll think of a great song that ‑‑ there would be some Warren Zevon song that I just love, and then I’ll think, “There’s nowhere we can use that,” Bays said. “That’s where ‑‑ I don’t know. That’s where it starts to get real.”
The cast has enjoyed the musical number every few episodes. “I love it,” enthused Smulders. “I always get all the good stuff, I feel, “Robin Sparkles,” and also we just, through our relationship, I feel we’ve been doing dance numbers. For me, I like it. It kind of switches it up on set. I think the crew likes it, although our hours get a little bit more intense. It just provides a completely different energy on set, and for me personally, I’m never going to find myself on a sound stage singing a song. It’s not in my future. It’s just fun doing something different, and that’s one of the greatest things about our show, I feel, as being an actor on it, there’s constantly new things coming at you.”
For any Fiftyisthenewfifty.com reader who hasn’t seen the show, you might follow in Milioti’s footsteps: “I watched all eight seasons in three months! I did binge on it, and it is amazing to have it, like, at the surface, because I cried hysterically, laughed. It is amazing.”
“How I Met Your Mother’s” last episode will air at the end of March.
Susan L. Hornik has written almost every aspect of the domestic and international television and film business for the past 20 years. In addition to writing, her passions include animal rescue, writing a memoir, and striving to make a difference in the world.