Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan – How I Met Your Mother Goes Home
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on June 10, 2008.
McGee’s Pub, a famous old watering hole in New York, is not the type of place that you expect to have a glamorous Hollywood screening party. However, on June 3, 2008, McGee’s was the site of an old fashioned Hollywood red carpet.
This wasn’t just a normal show biz event, though. It makes a certain amount of sense that the producers of the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother would choose McGee’s. You see, when creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were creating their series, McGee’s – which they frequented when they were writers on The Late Show with David Letterman – was the inspiration behind the characters’ favorite bar, McLaren’s.
Therefore, soon after the series was renewed for a fourth season, the producers thought that their old hangout would be the ideal place to have an Academy screening to suggest an episode for Emmy consideration – as well give participants the opportunity to have a Q&A session with creator Bays, series director Pamela Fryman and four stars of the show: Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan. (Co-star Jason Segel couldn’t make the event because he was working on a film project).
The series had a dramatic and turbulent season. Main character Ted Mosby (Radnor) has apparently found the love of his life (who may eventually become the mother in the title), played by Sarah Chalke of Scrubs. Newlyweds Lily (Hannigan) and Marshall (Segel) get used to married life while having to deal with Lily’s spending compulsion and their new money-pit condo. As all this was happening, the single friends Robin (Smulders) and Barney (Harris) stumbled into a probably ill-advised affair.
Add to this a series of high profile guest stars – including Chalke, James van der Beek, Danica McKellar, Mandy Moore, Busy Phillipps and a certain well-known pop star named Britney – and the sky is the limit for season four.
Before the Academy screening, Radnor, Smulders, Harris and Hannigan were kind enough to share a booth with us at McGee’s and chat about the show and their part in it.
I’m glad to see you suited up for this.
Neil Patrick Harris: Of course. How could I not? I’m glad to s… (stops in the middle of the word and looks me up and down, wearing a button-down shirt but no tie or jacket.).
I did not suit up. I apologize.
Neil Patrick Harris: Thanks for, umm, not suiting up. An awkward way to start the interview…
I know. I know. It was too hot.
Neil Patrick Harris: I feel you.
I’m sure you won’t remember this Josh, but I interviewed you during the first season.
Josh Radnor: Really? (I hand him a print out.) You know, I think I do remember this. Was it a good interview? Was this the first year?
Josh Radnor: I did this in my car on the way to work.
Alyson Hannigan: (looks at the sign on the table) PopEntertainment? What’s that?
We’re an entertainment magazine on the internet.
Alyson Hannigan: Really?
We’re based out of Philadelphia. In fact, I believe I read you stayed at a hotel there last year with your husband.
Alyson Hannigan: Yeah! Yeah, yeah! For Thankgiving. We had Thanksgiving in Philadelphia. It’s awesome.
Well, we’re in Chestnut Hill, right down the street from the hotel you stayed at.
Alyson Hannigan: Oh, it’s so amazing. Cute little area. I loved it.
Congratulations on the fourth season.
Cobie Smulders: Thank you. We’re really excited about it.
Josh, I remember the last time we were talking about whether or not you would come back for a second. So how cool is it that you’ve made it this far?
Josh Radnor: It’s pretty great. I mean, I sometimes maybe don’t appreciate our good fortune because so few shows work. Very few comedies are working. Sometimes I just step back and go: wow, this is pretty great. I wish I could be more articulate than that.
What’s it like to be back in New York for real – after playing being in New York for so long?
Cobie Smulders: This is one of my favorite cities on the planet. Every time I come here I try to see as much theater as humanly possible. I went to four shows this weekend.
What did you see?
Cobie Smulders: I saw Gypsy, Mary Poppins, August: Osage County and In the Heights.
Neil Patrick Harris: Oh, I love New York. We film the series in LA, so we’re there seven and a half months out of the year – with a few breaks, but we’re pretty much there the whole time. So, we have an apartment here in New York, and as soon as we’re done the wrap we head east and spend as much time as we can. I just love it. I mean, even… I was seeing a play called Boeing Boeing yesterday – a matinee and the night before we’d seen a musical. When the curtain goes up and it’s ten after eight and I’m watching the show and I’m in this world that I don’t know. All these people are in costume and they are really committing to this unique world. All of these thousand people are watching. I thought – this is happening in 50-75 places… all at the same time. That happens every night in New York. Sometimes it’s Ibsen or Shakespeare or Legally Blonde. It’s all over the place. There’s something that’s wonderful about the creativity. The authenticity of that I think is remarkable.
Alyson Hannigan: It’s fantastic. I adore New York. It’s such a great city. It’s a wonderful place to be. It’s one of my top three favorite cities in the world.
Josh Radnor: The real thing looks better, as good as our set and props department are. The real thing is great. We keep having this fantasy that we’ll be here doing exterior shooting. But we’ll see.
What have you been doing while you’re here in New York?
Alyson Hannigan: Well, I did some shopping yesterday. You know, to make sure that I know what Lily experiences when she’s in New York.
Did you put it all on credit?
Alyson Hannigan: Yes. Yes. I put it all on Lily’s credit card. (laughs) I wish. No, it’s just a short trip. I have family here. We got to see them last night. We spent the weekend in New Hampshire. My husband had his high school reunion, so we did that. So we only have like two days in New York.
Have you ever visited McGee’s before?
Cobie Smulders: I have. We came here actually right when we got picked up for our first thirteen episodes. We were in New York for the up fronts and then we came here afterwards. The bar that inspired our creator.
Alyson Hannigan: I haven’t. This is my first time. I’ve heard a lot about it! Very excited.
Neil Patrick Harris: I have never been to McGee’s. But Josh Radnor got hammered here one night. You ought to ask him about that.
Josh, I heard that you got really drunk here once.
Josh Radnor: (mock indignation) Who said that? Lies! Lies! Oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s true.
So, do you remember the place at all?
Josh Radnor: I remember this place. Totally, yeah. It’s funny. This is McLaren’s.
So whose idea was it to hold the screening at McGee’s?
Cobie Smulders: I think it was probably Fox’s, but… I’m sure that their publicity department is aware of this bar and they thought it would be a really cool site.
So where is Jason, anyway? Home slacking?
Josh Radnor: He’s filming a movie.
Alyson Hannigan: Jason is filming a movie, so he is in LA. And I’m sure he’s drinking somewhere.
Do you get recognized on the street?
Cobie Smulders: No, no, I’ve never had that. I usually skate right on by. I hardly get recognized. I never wear makeup. I tend to stay in my Venice neighborhood, which is all surfers and artists. (laughs) I haven’t had anyone… I mean I get recognized but not in that way.
Is there anything you are looking for your character to deal with in the new season?
Josh Radnor: Well, it’s interesting, the thing is that they are trying the two sides of Ted right now. There’s the romantic, sensitive side. Then there is this – he’s still got some dog in him and ready to party and everything. So it was really fun to play that this season. It seems like, he seems pretty serious about Stella, but he’s got a major little devil on his shoulder, also.
Alyson Hannigan: I don’t know. I’d like to see what’s going to happen with their apartment. I just love when they really deal with the relationship. They’re just such a great couple. I love when they explore that and celebrate it. And there’s more stress involved with their relationship now because of the debt and the crappy apartment. So it’ll be interesting to see where that goes.
Neil Patrick Harris: I want more physical comedy. I’m hoping to be slapped quantifiably more times than I was this season.
Well you still have a few slaps left coming from Marshall.
Neil Patrick Harris: I have three slaps left. (Ed. note: Actually, two.) This last season at the end I had two episodes where girls slapped me silly all the time and I couldn’t have been happier. And that was off set. That was between takes.