Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
January 18, 2006.
sitcom as an art form had reached a low place recently, but suddenly in the past
year there is a stirring of new life in those old bones. There are still
too few funny series out there, but in 2005 a group of shows have
reminded us that television comedy can still be comic. New series like
My Name Is Earl, The Office and the sadly quickly axed Kitchen
Confidential have all shown interesting ideas on how to fix the
sitcom by subverting it. Probably the best
show of all is the new CBS Monday night
comedy hit How I Met Your Mother.
How I Met Your Mother
is framed as a reminiscence. In the year 2030, a man named Ted Mosby
(voiced by Bob Saget) is telling his obviously bored kids a long, detailed
account of his life and the situations that led to him getting married.
The show is all flashbacks to
the current day as Ted and his friends navigate life and
love in the singles scene of New York. Ted’s gang includes
the lothario Barney, played by former Doogie Howser,
MD star Neil
Patrick Harris and his happily engaged roommates Marshall and Lily (Jason Segel of Freaks and Geeks and Alyson Hannigan of Buffy: The
Vampire Slayer and the American Pie movies). Their world is
populated with murderous Moby look-alikes, slutty pumpkins, samarai
swords, half-boobs, airport security checks, mysteriously
appearing pineapples, perfect-match
dermatologists, nightclubs so noisy you need subtitles and
Top Gun flight suits. The latest person to make her way into this
tight little group is Robin (Cobie Smulders of The L Word ).
She is the
woman of Ted’s dreams – however she is not the mother of the show’s title
– future Ted breaks that
news in the first episode of the series. Which
leads to some interesting questions. Who is the mother going to be?
And why isn't it going to be Robin?
Starring as young Ted is
the biggest break yet for stage veteran Josh Radnor, who had previously
done one other TV series (The Court with Sally Field) and appeared
in one movie (Not Another Teen Movie). Radnor had done serious
time on the boards in productions like The Graduate on Broadway
with Kathleen Turner and Alicia Silverstone. He
also recently performed the play The Paris Letter in Culver City,
California with How I Met... co-star Neil Patrick Harris, Ron
Rifkin and Patricia Wettig.
took a break from filming to fill us in of the
series and his career.
I just have to say
before we get started that the show is terrific. It’s my favorite new
sitcom of the season.
Okay, good. You
couldn’t say that on the record? (laughs) You didn’t want your
readers to know you’re a fan?
course; on the record then, I hope the show continues to do very well. I
think it’s fantastic. So anyway, Josh, how did you first get involved in
I just started doing
musicals in high school. I got dragged down to… I was actually asked to
sit in the audience with a friend of mine who was auditioning. My friend
Debbie, she was very nervous to go down there. She said, “Just sit with
me. Just sit with me.” I sat there and I watched everyone get up onstage
and I thought, jeez, I think I can do better than this guy. (Laughs)
So I ended up auditioning and I got one of the leads. I just never looked
back. I kept doing it. All through college, I would go away every summer
I was at a different theater. Then I went to NYU for grad school. I got
out a few years ago and just kept doing it. I wasn’t discovered in the
coffee shop. (chuckles) I just kept going.
You have done a lot of
theater, probably most well known was
The Graduate with Kathleen Turner and Alicia
Silverstone. How did you get that role and what was it like to finally
make it onto Broadway? Most of the other things you’ve done have been
I was actually living in
LA at the time. I was doing this short-lived series with Sally Field
called The Court. That show was canceled. I think, like the day
before we were canceled my agent called and said Jason Biggs is leaving
The Graduate for three months and they’re going to recast. It was in
the summer – it was June, July and August. You know, potentially the
world’s greatest summer theater job. So I put myself on tape and the
director saw that in London. I went back to New York two weeks
later. I auditioned once for the casting people. They brought me in to
read with Kathleen and Alicia. Then, I have one more call-back. I was
the only one there, so I was starting to feel pretty good. Then I got the
job. I had two weeks of rehearsal, (laughs) and then I was
suddenly starring on Broadway. The experience of doing it – it just feels
like you’re doing a play, it’s just there are more seats in the audience,
somehow – just the kind of sensory feeling of doing that. So the actual
playing the role didn’t seem as weird as walking up to the theater and
seeing my picture out front. You know a gorgeous Broadway theater… And
then, coming out afterwards and having all these people wanting your
autograph, which was, I can assure you, totally new to me. (laughs)
It was great, because I’d sign all these autographs and then I’d round the
corner and I was totally anonymous again. Then I’d come back the next
night and do it again. Yeah, it was great. It felt like a real natural
progression, of course, this is great, I feel ready to do this.
Like you just mentioned,
How I Met Your Mother is actually your second series; you had also been
in The Court with Sally Field. How did you get cast for that role?
I went on tape in New York, because I was here doing a Law & Order. I got a
test deal from the tape. I flew out. I think I came in late at night, I
woke up the next day and I went right to network. And I got it.
(laughs) I wish these stories were a little sexier. Most of my life
has been walking into a room, shaking some hands, doing an audition, going
further, doing it again and hearing you got the part or you didn’t get the
part. Then you do the job and you end up talking to Jay. (laughs)
That seems to be how it’s gone. That was an amazing experience, because I
didn’t have much experience on camera at all. Then I got to be around
Sally Field and Pat Hingle and Craig
Bierko and Diahann Carroll and Chris
Sarandon and Miguel Sandoval – these amazing, amazing actors. It was like
this kind of on-camera class for me.
your TV guest starring roles had previously been more dramatic, on stuff
like ER, Six
Feet Under, Judging Amy, Miss Match and Law & Order. Do you
find comedy or drama harder to do as an actor?
Well, I always have
loved doing comedy. It’s been something that I have always gravitated
to. Although, when I’m doing a comedy I want to do a drama and when I’m
doing a drama I want to do something funny. I don’t think of them as
being that different. The kind of basic principles are still in place.
With comedy there are certain rhythmic things you need to pay attention to
a little bit more, perhaps. Especially this role is kind of – you know
the show itself is a hybrid, but Ted is almost a hybrid character. I
described him to somebody as an independent movie character who is trapped
inside a sitcom. He gets these long scenes that are a little more
serious. I think he’s really – I don’t know. Ted Mosby – you’re a
mystery to me… (laughs) He’s an interesting guy. I really love
playing him. I don’t totally think of it as a sitcom. Maybe because we
don’t tape in front of an audience, it doesn’t feel
What attracted you to
How I Met
I was trying to be very
picky about television, especially in pilot season. The first thing I did
in LA was a pilot for the WB that I got replaced on when it went to
series. (The show was Off Centre, which ended up starring Eddie
Kaye Thomas of the American Pie movies.) Which, in
hindsight was the best thing ever. I wouldn’t have been able to do
The Court or The Graduate. All this stuff worked out. But it
was a sitcom that I saw a few episodes (of) and thought, wow, I’m really happy
not to be on this show. (laughs) This is not something that I
would want to do. A lot of times I’ve found in this business that the
universe kind of moves that way. These things kind of get contextualized
and you realize, oh, okay, I see how that works out perfectly. With a
series, it can potentially go for years. Most of them don’t, but because
I did something that I thought, oh that could have been terrible at my
agent’s urging, I was really trying to be selective. I wasn’t even
particularly looking to do a sitcom. The one I
got replaced on was a sitcom and maybe I had some kind of unconscious
allergy to the form. Because I thought well that door got closed to me
and I’ve had all this success with the dramas. I remember I just got the
script and I was intrigued by the title. I sat and I read it. I called
my agent and said, yeah, I’ll audition for this. I was actually the first
person they saw on the first day of auditions. It just felt like
something that – you know, you feel so many doors close and then when
they’re not, there’s a kind of effortless… you just keep walking through
these unlocked doors. This whole process has been that. It’s been kind
of like, oh yeah, here, you’re cast. And here, we’ve got these great
people to be in the show with you. We’re going to make the pilot. Okay,
now the series gets picked up. Now the series gets picked up for the back
nine. And now, keep going, keep going…
Neil Patrick Harris,
Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan are all actors who have been around in
different good roles over the years. This show is the first time I
remember seeing Cobie Smulders. What is the ensemble like to work with?
Is it comfortable?
It just was. Neil and I had just done a play together in LA, like a month
before. So I had worked with Neil. Alyson and Neil have known each other
since they were teenagers. Jason – I’m a huge Freaks and Geeks
fan, so I was thrilled to work with him. Cobie and I went through the
whole audition process together. So, there was a kind of comfort that was
happening right away. We also had a great director and great writers.
(Series creators) Carter (Bays) and Craig (Thomas) are just these great
young guys. I don’t know. It’s one of those mysterious, happy
accidents. It all seems to work out.
Ted is such a romantic
and Barney is so cynical, how do you think they became such close friends?
Do you think there’s a certain symmetry to the fact that they get along
together so well?
I have a Barney in my
life, and I’m not like him, so I think that makes sense. I don’t know.
There are a lot of mismatched friendships. Ted needs Barney somehow and
Barney needs Ted somehow. You know we have that
episode where we go to Philadelphia and even though Barney drives him
crazy, there’s a kind of sense that you always get an adventure out of
it. It’s never boring. He probably does end up meeting a lot more women
because he hangs out with Barney, because Barney has little-to-no shame.
He’ll get them entangled in all sorts of things. And for whatever reason,
Barney really needs Ted. (laughs) Barney is really much more kind
of hardcore about keeping them together as a team. He wants to be my best
Yeah, he’s always
jealous of Marshall…
Yeah, when I call
Marshall my best friend, yeah… (laughs) They’re really great about
keeping these kind of running themes going.
relationship with Robin is fascinating, too, because by every sitcom
convention it would seem that Ted was in love with Robin and they would be
hooking up. Yet in the pilot episode, the voice over says that not only
don’t they ever get together. How important is it to the show to keep the
two of them apart?
Ted and Robin apart?
Well, we’re a little ahead of you in terms of what we know. I don’t want
to say too much. I want you to keep watching. They certainly are kind of
drawing out that tension. Yeah… I don’t want to spoil anything.
(laughs) They’re aware of that. The writers
always say to me
very sweetly, “It’s almost a shame that Robin can’t get together with
Ted, because we just love the two of you guys together so much.” And I
love working with Cobie. So we’ll see…
Throughout the series
you have met a series of women who seem like they may become the mother of
the title, but it never seems to be the right one. In the last episode
that aired, they showed Ashley Williams
(previously of the
series Good Morning Miami) at the end and kind of hinted she may be
it, but the show has done that before and you never saw the girls again.
Right. Well, actually,
she will be in a few episodes.
Do you think we’ll ever
meet your future wife, or she’ll just be one of those classic unseen TV
characters like Bob Sakamato or Vera?
That depends on the whims of Les Moonves and company, whether they will
keep us on the air. My idea is if we do get
– God forbid
– canceled, we can do
a kind of Serenity (a movie based
on the canceled Joss Whedon space series Firefly). You know, do a feature,
release it in the theaters and resolve the tale.
Yeah, and maybe the
mother will end up being the slutty pumpkin?
Yeah, maybe she’ll come
back, who knows? The convention they’re using is kind of wide open
for stories for a really long time.
So, do your friends now
go up to girls in bars and do the “Have You
Met Ted?” trick on you?
No, no one has done that
to me. In Columbus, a girl came up to me and said, “Have you gotten a lot
of ‘Have you met Ted?’” No. (laughs) No one has done that to
me. I wouldn’t hang with people who’d do that.
Has your life become any
clearer now that you realize that someday you will grow up to be Bob Saget?
I met Bob Saget. He’s a funny man. No, that hasn’t made anything
clearer. I’m just as confused as ever.
Patrick Harris is very funny in the role, but between this and
Harold and Kumar, do you think he is trying to get
distance himself from all of those Doogie Howser mentions?
He’s just a really
talented guy. He can do lots of different things. I think
– just like any good actor
– kind of experimenting with range and what
he can do. He’s been doing so much theater over the years. I
haven’t really talked to him if there’s any kind of intentional
he’s doing. I just think it’s fun to see this guy who played this
very iconic character so many years ago, pull a different rabbit out of
his hat. It’s fun, for whatever reason.
He’s so nothing like Barney, but he really is so great at playing
that guy. I don’t know if there’s anything behind it other than an
actor being an actor.
Speaking of child stars,
your character lived out a youthful fantasy of mine by having a one night
stand with Winnie Cooper.
Were you a fan of
Years and what was Danica McKellar like to work with?
Of course. It was
great. She was totally sweet. I guess she’s like a math genius or
Yeah, that’s what I
It was great. It was
certainly surreal. Though, so much of my life since I’ve been an actor
has been surreal. Because you grow up watching these things and it’s
weird to see someone that you only know from TV and film and be, not only
working with them, but rather intimately. It’s weird, but I never get
really starstruck or anything. I just kind of assume, oh, there’s the
girl who played Winnie Cooper. Fantastic. And then I move on.
You mentioned earlier
that when you were doing
The Graduate, people
used to wait to get your autograph.
Well, I don’t know if I
was the draw. (laughs) Kathleen and Alicia were also there.
Have you hit the point
in your career where people start to recognize you on the streets?
I’ve been getting more
and more. Definitely, when I went back to Columbus
for Thanksgiving, there was a lot of it. I was just in San Francisco and
people would say stuff. And now a little bit more in LA. People are a
little more reserved in LA, just because there are people on TV all over
the place here. But all of it’s been really nice. Just people say, hey,
I love the show man. Like nothing crazy. I don’t feel hounded or
anything. What I’m saying is I’d like more people to come up to me.
(laughs) I’d like your readers to all come up to me. No, don’t tell
Okay, I’ll make that the
lead. If you see him in the street
Do you have any ideas
for the show that you’d love to see them do – either about Ted’s character
or more generally for the show?
I talked to them a
little bit about – and they liked this
– they actually had this idea, having Ted go through a phase where he’s not so romantic and wanting
something. That he goes through a phase where he gets a little cynical
about it. I think that would be really interesting. I don’t know how
sustainable it is to just have him mooning
over all these girls. Because, he sometimes treads that line between
romantic and stalker. (laughs) So, you know, you’ve got to be
careful. In the early days of a lot of shows the characters are a little
more broadly drawn. And I think our characters are really, all things
considered, very complex and multi-layered. But, yeah, I’d love to see
him get a little more prickly or a little – just kind of become less Ted.
(laughs) Go for something else there. We’ll see. I pitched them
one little idea. Barney insists once and for all that Ted’s going to wear
a suit out and go out on the town…
You’re going to suit up…
And I do and all the
women pay attention to me and not Barney (laughs) and then he
doesn’t want me wearing suits anymore. So, we’ll see. I don’t know. I’m
not on the staff of the writers.
Ideally, over the long
haul, how would you like for people to look back at your career?
Oh, man. What a
question. I did have a very funny experience. I did one film a few years
ago called Not Another Teen Movie. I was reading a review of The
Kennedy Center Honors right when the movie got released. Jack Nicholson
and Julie Andrews and some other people were being honored. They talked
about their first experience in movies. They said Miss Andrews had such a
classy start to their career. Others, like Mr. Nicholson appeared
Hells Angels Bikers, whatever that movie was…
No, it wasn’t Easy
Rider, it was a movie literally like Hells Angels Biker Chicks
or something. (It was a 1960 potboiler called The Wild Ride)…
Oh, okay, and come to
think of it, he was in
Little Shop of Horrors,
Right, yeah. But they
said something like, “Which leads to a frightening thought. Somewhere in
Not Another Teen Movie a Kennedy Center
nominee for 2050 might be lurking.” I cut out the article, because I
thought, what a great thing to keep in mind. Just because I was in this
movie, hey, I can get a Kennedy Center honor. (Laughs) I just thought it was a funny thing
to stumble across. I could be all; hey it’s all right to be in Not
Another Teen Movie. I don’t know, I write, I’d love to write stuff,
lots of plays. Just kind of improbably continue succeeding in this
business that you’re not supposed to succeed in.
Are there any
misconceptions you’d like to clear up?
About you, the show,
your career, anything you want…
Oh, man. I think
these are great questions. I just don’t have great answers. (laughs) No. I
try to be clear about stuff so I’m not misquoted. I trust that you will
be faithful to all the idiotic things I’ve said.
Yes, I promise that I
will not misquote you. In fact, I’ll send your publicist the link.
can check it out yourself.
can write in and say, “I never said that. (laughs) It was
The whole thing was a trap!”