30th Sep2013

Interview: Neil Patrick Harris & Cobie Smulders talk ‘How I Met Your Mother’

by Phil Wheat

With Season 8 of How I Met Your Mother coming to DVD today we got the chance to sit down with the cast and crew to discuss the series’ history and its forthcoming final season… This time round we chat to Neil Patrick Harris (Barney) and Cobie Smulders (Robin) about the latest developments on the show and what its like to be filming their final season…


As this show has progressed, have you guys been rooting for Barney and Robin to make it as a couple?

Neil Patrick Harris: I have. I’ve been actively trying to make that happen. I talk to the writers and I was pitching it, and I’d try to do little things in our scenes together where I gave her an extra look and an extra glance or would stare only at her during a whole scene just to see if anyone was noticing. I thought there was a nice wrinkle about Barney liking the chick that Ted wants. Though really I was just hoping that I’d get to ‘F’ her once and get it out of my system, but it was a good ‘F’. It was a capital ‘F’!

Cobie Smulders: I just grabbed you!

Neil Patrick Harris: We had good chemistry. And I love doing scenes with Cobie, she’s super fun. She’s Canadian, you know. They’re cool.

Cobie Smulders: It’s all about being Canadian. I agree with all that Neil said. I think when she was in a relationship with Ted and it came up, and they were like, “You’re going to hook up with Barney,” I was like, “No way. That is not cool. They’re like best friends!” I got kind of weirded out by it. Then I just feel like in life these things happen. That’s one of the things that I love about our show: a lot of our writers take from their own personal experiences. At the beginning of the show, Carter Bays is Ted and Craig Thomas is Marshall. It is based on their lives. So it’s very much filled with their own life experiences. So I went that way in my mind of like, “Listen, this stuff happens when you’re a close group of friends, people hook up and it happens.” Then, once we got together, I really enjoyed working with Neil. I enjoy our scenes so much, and I feel like it’s a very interesting and comical pairing. People are always asking, “Who would you rather be with, Ted or Barney?” But Barney and Robin are just so different that I feel for both of them to decide, “All right, this is it,” is just such a wonderful choice.

Neil Patrick Harris: You always answered Barney, right?

Cobie Smulders: No. Ted.

Cobie Smulders: But it’s a hard thing to end, with Ted.

Neil Patrick Harris: I saw a lot of people being a little tired of Ted still hoping that Robin would be the one after we knew that she wasn’t the one. I’m embellishing on what Cobie said, but I think it’s nice that they’re actually playing it out like it would actually play out. Sitcom emotion tends to just end and they’re not together and then they move on, but there are feelings that do linger and even though the voiceover Ted, older Ted, has said that she’s not the mother, he still thinks that there could be something between the two of them and that doesn’t happen only once. That may happen three or four times. I like the realism of that in the confines of a multi-camera structure.

When you’ve played these characters for so long, for so many years, does the character and yourself ever bleed into each other?

Cobie Smulders: I’ve played Robin for so long now, the character has changed and morphed, and they try out things – like she yells at Patrice all the time, she loves guns but then she’s super emotional, then she’s super insensitive – so I’ve been able to have such an arc of the character, which I think is rare on TV. So I think that there’ll always be little parts of her that go on to other roles that I play. Robin was not a Canadian when I signed on for the show. She became one because apparently according to Carter and Craig, we’re exotic! Those were literally the words they used to me in Season 1. They were like, “Well, you know, I just feel like it’s really exotic,” and I’m like, “I have never in my life been called exotic!”

Neil Patrick Harris: I was thinking about that very question earlier – in the shower of all places – because I’m often asked, “Do they write Barney based on you?” but I think weirdly the opposite ends up being more true. Obviously we have conversations with the writers and they get to know how we talk and what jokes we sell better than others, so they write towards that, but I think it’s made me freer to be more of an extrovert and have a not-give-a-shit kind of attitude, having played Barney. Because you have to, as Barney, not only not care what people think, but go above and beyond that and just own things. I think before the show I was probably more hyper-introspective about what people were thinking and how I came across, and Barney has informed me in a way that I care less about that. So that’s good.

Could you talk a little bit about the proposal? You were messing with the audience…

Neil Patrick Harris: That was a long arc and I was concerned about it because all of a sudden Barney’s dating Patrice, someone that he would openly mock in previous seasons. They said, “Trust us, we have a whole thing.” I made them sit me down and explain what it was. It’s a whole long arc, even to explain that the last five episodes in a row were all one big long play, and we filmed extra little bits of scenes to pay off later. I still thought, “I get what you’re doing, but I’m worried that the audience at home are not going to like it, because there will be too many episodes in a row where they’re going, ‘Are you kidding me?’!” And yet it paid off so well. I just thought that was such a sweet thing: that playbook, the final play. So sweet for Robin and gave her such a great, wonderfully worded speech at Barney that ends with a yes to a proposal. That’s how Carter and Craig continue to keep the show fresh and good.

Was that scene emotional for the two of you while you were shooting it?

Neil Patrick Harris: Kind of. I think a proposal is different from a wedding. We knew it wasn’t goodbye. We knew it was a continuation of more stuff to come and we’re not actually becoming a couple, so in that regard it wasn’t emotional, but I liked that it was solidifying a future between the two of us just as actors.

Cobie Smulders: I also feel like the way it was played out, it was such a surprise for Robin – I went from pining after Barney to letting it go, to then getting really jealous. There was so much going on that when it happened – I think we had a few more episodes after that, right? – I feel like even in those episodes it was like, “Yeah, we’re engaged…” like we were still trying to figure it out between us.

Neil Patrick Harris: It was a stunner.

You obviously all get along on the set, the cast are really good friends. Do you make each other laugh a lot? Are there a lot of bloopers that will end up on the DVD gag reel?

Cobie Smulders: I break all the time. It’s actually something that I am working on. Right? Neil can attest.

Neil Patrick Harris: It’s tricky because when something’s really funny you don’t want to break because that’s the take you want them to use, and the minute your mouth starts to turn then they have to cut. And yet you don’t want to say, “Don’t do that funny thing that you’re doing because it’s making me break!” So you have to get into a whole headspace about it. But a fit of giggles is hard to squelch.

How are you feeling about the show coming to an end next season?

Cobie Smulders: How are we feeling emotionally about it? They are heightened emotions. We did our first interview where someone asked, “What are you going to miss the most?” and I was like, “I’m going to miss these people,” and I literally started to cry. On set it hasn’t quite sunk in. But I feel like it’s going to be just a really intense time for everyone.

Neil Patrick Harris: I’m a little more part robot. I compartmentalize things and I’m not a fan of goodbyes so I haven’t really contemplated it that way. I don’t want to spend the time that we have left on the show lamenting its demise, because we’re not there yet. So even though it’s run eight, now nine seasons, we still have 20-some odd weeks to do this and I want to make sure that we’re enjoying it as opposed to being wistful about it. But I’m trying to take it in more. Cobie said that earlier, that she’s trying to take everything in, in a different way, and I’m trying to do that. But this show has been an embarrassment of riches.


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