'Mrs. Doubtfire' Sequel Confirmed With Robin Williams On Board

Interview: 'How I Met Josh Radnor'

January 15th, 2009 10:48am EST favorite Add to My News
Josh RadnorI fully admit this particular column is going to be anything but non-partisan. Regular readers will know that I am an unabashed fan of CBS's Monday night sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Once even going so far as to declare it the best show on television. So, it comes as no surprise that I was absolutely thrilled to have this long conversation with the series star, Josh Radnor, who plays the lead character, Ted Mosby.

Josh Radnor and I discuss New York living, the awesomeness of co-star Neil Patrick Harris and the back story behind Neil's People Magazine interview when he decided to come out, Star Wars, his favorite episodes, the sudden departure of Sarah Chalke (Stella) and even some behind the scenes political messages hidden within the show.

Also, I must say, I always thought that I was the biggest fan of How I Met Your Mother. It is actually quite great and refreshing to find out that Josh's love for the show runs much deeper. At times I felt like I was just talking to passionate fan and would have to remind myself: Hey, I'm talking to the actor who plays Ted.


Mike: So, you grew up in Ohio, correct?

Josh: That is correct.

Mike: See, I grew up in the Midwest, too, later moving to New York. I believe you lived in New York for awhile?

Josh: I did, I went to grad school at NYU and lived there for a few years.

Mike: Well, it's funny because your character is also from the Midwest who moved to New York and I was wondering ... see, I love the show; everyone I know that that moved from somewhere else in the country to New York loves the show. If you got a complete breakdown of the demographics of How I Met Your Mother, do you think that demographic would be eighteen times higher than any other demographic? Do you think you have the Midwesterners in New York covered?

Josh: I don't know ... I'll tell you that I never feel kind of more well known than when I go back home to Columbus; it seems like everyone watches the show. One of my theories (laughs) is that it gets cold there so people stay in and watch more television during the winter and maybe they get hooked on certain shows.

That's a (laughs) nice theory but ... I think there's something very comforting about the show and there's a myth about New York that there's such a thing as a "New Yorker" -- and those people are around -- but for the most part it's just people that have come from all over the world and all over the country and are trying to make a go of it. I think it speaks to that group of -- I don't know what you would call them -- like "American immigrants," that come into New York. And Ted, more than any of the other characters, is, I think, in love with the romance of New York. He loves being from Ohio, having come to New York. And even adopting his (laughs) disdain of New Jersey -- which is pretty fierce...

Mike: Yeah, I want to get into that (New Jersey disdain) in a second...

Josh: Yeah, it's a kind of affectation and we know from college Ted that he has a few of those. Yeah, I don't know, I think people like the show for a lot of different reasons; I don't know if they're all geographic (laughs).

Mike: Again, this is just my theory, but, I almost feel that the reason it strikes a chord more with people that are, as you call them, "American immigrants" that moved to New York, as opposed to native New Yorkers that have lived there all their life, (is because) too many shows based in New York focus on characters that have lived there forever and complain about the city. As you just said: Ted has a romance with the city and I think a lot of people that go out of their way to move here, myself included, have more of a romance with the city as opposed to focusing on its hassles. I think that is unique.

Josh: Yeah, I think the show is incredibly romantic and not just about romance. You know, Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) go through stuff, but ultimately, that's an iron clad bond they have. It's romantic about the city, it's romantic about friendship, it's romantic about a certain time in your life. It's self-aware enough to know that people are cynical and that's a kind of mode a lot of people of our generation, but it's over-arching M.O. is sincerity and nostalgia. It's kind of interested in subverting a lot of assumptions of what people that age are supposed to be like; in that way it's more honest of what people are like.

It's like the media kind of tries to create this generation of people as being much more disaffected than they actually are. I think the last election kind of disproves some of that ... did that make sense?

Mike: Yeah it did, completely. See, I always felt a special bond with the show because I remember being in a bar, I think in the East Village maybe late summer 2005, I'm paying the bill and the bill was stuck to a coaster; it's late at night, I grab them both. Well, it was a coaster of How I Met Your Mother with the original promo picture with you sitting on the couch. I remember the next day thinking "What's this?" because it hadn't premiered yet. So, I gave it a chance and ... I hadn't lived in New York that long and I think the thing I found so interesting about it was that it uses the city as a character. At the time I was dating a girl in Brooklyn, in the pilot episode Ted goes out to Robin's (Cobie Smulders) place in Brooklyn and Ted starts talking about catching the F train. Of course I was like "Yeah! The F Train ... I do that, too!" The writers seem meticulous in making sure things are right, even the subways. Like, when Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) runs the marathon and gets stuck at the 86th and Lexington station. To me, a show like Friends was great for what it was, but in my opinion it could have taken place anywhere.

Josh: Yeah, see the thing about our show is that it rewards people who stick with it. There are certain terms that are recurring ... like when Marshall says "lawyered." It's like the way friends actually speak to each other; there's a kind of code and I think the writers really nail that, that kind of insider language of how friends speak and as an audience member the more you watch it, the more you feel a part of that club.

Mike: One thing I think is extremely realistic: When I go out with my group of friends, or my girlfriend, eighty percent of the time we will just go to the bar downstairs, basically on our block, which is what you guys do with McLaren's and that's realistic. Even in a show like Seinfeld, they always ate at Monk's which was, what, 25 blocks from where they lived?

Josh: I know, I remember in New York, to some extent L.A. is like this, but maybe it just speaks more to human nature, this feeling of: OK, you've got five restaurants within spitting distance of where you live and three bars and (laughing) you really don't want to go anywhere else.

How I Met Your MotherMike: Right!

Josh: If you've got friends that live near you it's like: Let's go to the bar!

Mike: The biggest complaint I get, usually, is my girlfriend complaining that we need to go to a different neighborhood. Then, we will argue about it for 20 minutes then realize: wouldn't it be easier to go to the place right here where they know us? And that's exactly the way it works on the show.

Josh: Maybe it has something to do with living in a metropolis and trying to make them manageable; trying to scale them down a little bit.

Mike: A criticism, always, of where Monica and Rachel live (on Friends) was the size of their apartment, especially in the West Village. When (HIMYM) premiered, when it was Ted, Lilly and Marshall living together ... one of my friends lived on the Upper West Side with two roommates and their apartment was about that size. Maybe a little less spacious but not so over the top that: oh, there is no way they could have this apartment with three people living there.

Josh: Yeah! That's another thing that I think is really real about our show is that we talk about money. You do not live in New York and not talk about, or worry about, money. I remember being in grad school and getting $100 out of the ATM and you would feel like there must be a hole in your pocket because you would walk three blocks and it would be gone, like, where is all this money going?

And, you know, Lily has her shopping problem and Marshall had to take the job at the soulless bank to help them out ...people worry about money in New York and I think it's almost an offensive blind spot in television that no one worries about money. Especially in this day and age, it's a concern of everyone, I think it's disingenuous not to address it.

Mike: When How I Met Your Mother came along, you're looking at scripts for pilots and I'm assuming there is a lot of times you're like: Well, I'm not sure, but, maybe, this could catch on. Did you see this (HIMYM) and go: OK, I have no doubt this is going to be good?

Josh: You know, it's weird ... you actually don't have that much clarity going forward because, especially in pilot season, if you have good representation you get, kind of, buried in a mound of scripts. You're reading them fairly quickly. This one came along, I think, in January so it hadn't gotten crazy yet. I remember reading it ... the only power you have at a certain point in your career is the power to say: No, I'm not going to audition for this.

I try to be pretty selective about what I audition for, I never was one of those people who went in for everything. So, I kind of treated myself a little fancier (laughing) than I was.

How I Met Your Mother was my fourth pilot in five years and I had every conceivable thing happen in pilot land, except for our show to be picked up. I got replaced on my first one; the second one, they shot six and they aired three; the third one I did for NBC never got picked up; then, How I Met Your Mother came along.

So, in a weird way I kind of felt like just statistically something had to give? But, also, I know I had a really good feeling about the part; I had a really strong connection. I felt like I know how people could screw this up ... and I know how not to screw it up. That's what I felt like. Especially that, kind of, iconic speech at the end (of the pilot) where Ted says, you know, he's a "lousy single person" and he'd "make a great husband." I kind of knew where that speech lived, emotionally.

There was another pilot that wanted to test me, it was not for the lead but it was another ensemble show and I couldn't tell if it was good or not. One of my agents said,"I really love How I Met Your Mother, I think that's the one."

When things are working, the doors just keep opening; there's an effortless flow to the whole thing and that's how this whole process felt. I got it -- Cobie (Smulders) and I were the first people cast -- and I came home and I reread the script, because I hadn't looked at it in awhile and I reread it and thought: Oh man, this is excellent. This is quality television. And then, I talked to (creators) Carter (Bays) and Craig (Thomas) and they said, "we just cast Alyson Hannigan," and I said, "Oh, she's terrific. Fantastic."

And then Neil and I, very weirdly, had just done a play together out in L.A. -- this John Robin Baitz play called The Paris Letter -- and I mean, literally, like a month before ... and then I heard he got the part and I called him and I was like, "Are you kidding me," and he's like, "I know, Isn't this weird?" And then the final person who got cast was Jason Segal ... and I'm a huge Freaks and Geeks fan and I was suddenly like: wait a minute, this is like a really classy thing I've stumbled into.

Once we all got together and filmed the pilot, we all had this quiet confidence; no one really wanted to talk about it too much because actors get really superstitious, but, you just had the feeling, like: Oh ... I might be seeing more of these people. Once I saw the pilot cut together I thought: Man, the network would be really idiotic if they didn't pick this thing up. And just leaving myself and my desires out of it ...

Mike: Right.

Josh: As objective as I could be I thought: This is a really good 22 minutes of... something. And I remember having drinks with Craig and Carter and Jason, it was after the network run-through, before we shot the pilot, and Craig -- who's very ... they're both kind of adorably romantic like these characters, you know, they're just very earnest, who honestly have not changed a bit through all this -- Craig said, "lets just make a great pilot, that's all we need to do right now; just make a great pilot." Sometime in the second season he turned to me and is like, "Can you believe how long they're letting us get away with this thing?" (Laughing) just this giddy feeling that no one is stopping us ... like we keep making this television show.

It's really gratifying. I have this feeling that -- I'm a big music lover; I keep using music analogies -- I kind of have this feeling that you're making music in a garage, you send out your demos and you know they're good, and you get some early encouragement ... and then at a certain point it feels like, I don't know, you explode on MySpace and get signed to a label. It feels like somehow, for so long, we had this core group of fans that really supported us and felt like they were discovering us... and I don't think we've gotten too popular that the hipsters have to renounce us...

Mike: (laughs) That's a good point, actually.

Josh: I think we're still in that sweet spot that if you're a "cool person" you can still love us.

Mike: I think the last time I checked you guys were around 34th now which is ... I'm assuming you aren't as worried -- as you were seasons in the past -- of renewal.

Josh: I don't know. Everyone was more worried than I was but I realized it was because they had all bought houses before I bought houses. Once I bought the house I was like: Wait a minute! I hope we come back!

I always have this quiet confidence about the show. I don't know where it came from, it's just this instinct that something was going to keep us around for awhile. I don't know, nothing, you know, super mystical or anything; just this instinct we had something. And, you know, the way people respond to the show started to show me that it wasn't a show people felt casually about. The people who love How I Met Your Mother are a little bit insane about it ... and, that's just great.

Mike: It rewards constant viewing. You can watch a stand alone episode and understand what the point is ... but it also rewards people that ...

Josh: Yeah, exacty. It moves really fast, you'll miss certain things ... but like they say: I would rather be, you know, a smaller number of peoples' favorite show than everybodys' twentieth favorite show. I think when you get too popular you start worrying about pleasing everyone and the best shows are just shows that really stick to what they know how to do; I think we've been able to do that thus far. While also figuring out more twists on things and how this thing can grow ... yeah, it's a pretty cool show (laughs).

Mike: Before we started (the interview) you mentioned a column that I wrote about your show (defending How I Met Your Mother as the best show on television) and I think that was the one where I went off on the title, a bit. It's its own brand now...

Josh: Yeah, how it might be the only thing keeping people away.

Mike: And not so much now, but I want to get your feelings on that, not now, but when it first started.

Josh: You know, sometimes I tell people the name of it and they, kind of, recoil; like: What the hell is that? And then I say: Well, it's a flashback from the future; so, it's a father in 2035 who's telling his teenage kids the story of how he met their mother back in 2005 or 2008 or today. And then they go: Ohhhhh. When you know what it is, the title is actually quite sweet. But, if you have no idea, it's incredibly weird and slightly dirty. Again, it's like a band who has some weird name like "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah," you stop thinking about what it means and just go: Oh, did you like the new "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" album? (laughs)

Mike: I am a huge fan of "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah."

Josh: I didn't get their second, I like their first a lot ... neither here nor there. Names are weird until they're not.

Mike: Right.

Josh: You don't really think about it, your like: Is How I Met Your Mother on?

Mike: Yes, you don't really think about the title anymore, it's is its own entity now.

Josh: I also have this feeling, because a lot of people have discovered it on airplanes and with the DVD -- I guess the DVD's are selling very well -- I just have this feeling that this show will have a very long life post us being on the air every Monday. Because, it does seem like one of those shows you have to be a little bit initiated into. Someone has to tell you: You gotta watch this show. Someone you trust. And also the syndication will be playing (on The Lifetime Network) ... It's like Freaks and Geeks, so many more people know that show than ever watched it when it was initially on.

Mike: That's completely true.

Josh: Eighteen episodes total I think.

Mike: You mentioned Neil Patrick Harris, he's hosting Saturday Night Live this week (last weeks January 10 episode), right?

Josh: Oh, yeah, he is.

Mike: I have a friend that works at Saturday Night Live -- not in the cast, in a different area -- but I was talking to her when they made the announcement a couple of weeks ago and I was like: Oh my gosh, Neil Patrick Harris is going to be hosting. Her actual reaction was. "Oh, that's cool he was on ..." and she didn't mention How I Met Your Mother, she mentioned his old show. This frustrates me. Why mention a show that was on 17 years ago?

Josh: Well, that's a hard thing to shake; it was so iconic. To be honest, I feel if we stay on, and we are, you know, 34th, but if the people who love us just continue to be crazy about us ... I just think we are in a really great place.

Mike: The character of Barney is almost becoming iconic as well; he's almost done it twice. I don't know if it's quite there as far as Doogie Howser is concerned, but it's almost there. Given a couple more seasons ... that's hard to pull off: Creating two characters that become that known in the mainstream.

Josh: Absolutely

Mike: One question -- and this is one of the few serious questions -- when Neil did the People Magazine interview, was there any concern that people in the mainstream would not relate as well?

Josh: You mean when he came out?

Mike: Correct. Was there any concern around the production because of the character he plays -- I mean, it didn't happen which I am extremely happy about -- but, was there any concern it would.

Josh: No. I mean, not among us. What we were all going through was ... Neil, I guess he was kind of, in the blogosphere, he was kind of being outed a little bit and he was just trying to stay out of it because it was becoming a real headache.

Mike: I think he handled it as well as he possibly could. I mean, your private life is your private life, but, as you said, it was being talked about so I will handle it with as much class as possible.

Josh: Yeah, which he did. I don't know. It might have been ... I don't know, I've always thought that thing was silly, this idea that gay people can't play ... because certainly a lot of strait people play gay characters. Especially Barney ... he's like this crazy, hyper, stereotype of heterosexuality. I think in some ways, Neil's being gay helps him play Barney. I think there's certain things he's asked to do that I would (laughs) feel so weird about doing and he just ... he has such a playfulness about him.

There are no rules for Barney; he exists so far outside social norms that I think he just feels incredibly free to be as (laughs) horrible as he can be ... where sometimes I feel -- and it's not a bad thing -- I feel that I owe it to Ted and the conception of Ted to keep him a little more... And partly it's the character and partly it's being the eyes and ears of the audience, a portal for the audience, to enter into this. I can't kind of go crazy. Sometimes he drinks too much and gets a little out there, but, for the most part he's the more centered character so ... this is veering away from your question. I don't think it crossed our minds; I think we wanted to keep him safe.

Mike: I have a good friend that works for the LGBT Center here in New York, she has met him on occasion and absolutely loves him. She states he is one of the nicest people you could possibly meet.

Josh: We talked about it when we were doing this play, because as long as I've known him he's been out personally. But, he had concerns which were completely valid. It wasn't about, so much, keeping this thing private ... he wanted to be an actor and not a spokesman. He felt that he would have to become politically active -- which, I think, on some level, he would be happy to do -- but you don't want it to detract. Who was it? I think Dustin Hoffman said: The more you know about me, the harder it is for me to do my job.

Mike: That's a great point, actually.

Josh: You're playing different people -- and we are in a culture where people seem to want to know everything about people who are in television and movies -- and it's very difficult to go from role to role ... the more people know about you ...this extends far beyond sexuality.

I think he handled it with such grace, we just wanted to unite around him, we all did and no one thinks much about it anymore.

Mike: Do you personally have a favorite episode?

Josh: Do I have a favorite episode? I have a bunch actually. For some reason I'm incredibly fond of that episode where we said goodbye to Marshall's Fiero.

Mike: (laughing) Yeah, that is a good one!

Josh: "I Would Walk 500 Miles" plays, like, 40 times. That episode just really makes me laugh. For some reason I really like our season openers; I like that Mandy Moore, Enrique Iglesias episode where Robin comes back from South America with him and I get the butterfly tattoo.

Mike: See, that's a perfect example of rewarding the viewer because, how many episodes did you get laughs from the butterfly tattoo? That lasted well into that season.

Josh: Yeah. Yeah. The other thing that's not so subtle (laughs) but you can kind of get it if you were writing a paper deconstructing How I Met Your Mother, based on gender norms. It's like Marshall and Ted are the girls and Lily and Robin are the guys. You know, they're tough, unsentimental, not -- Robin at least --not super interested in relationships and children. You have Ted and Marshall who are just like these total softies who want all those things.

Mike: Even Barney, possibly, now with the Robin arc.

Josh: Yeah, exactly. But, he's just from outer space, anyway. So, yeah, the whole thing is all kind of flipped on its head. Even, Ted's middle name is Evelyn; Robin's middle name is Charles (laughs) ... so that's not so subtle.

What are my other favorite episodes? I'm trying to think ... I actually love the one Britney (Spears) was on. Sarah Chalke and I had an amazing time working together and that two-minute date we did was about as fun (an episode) we've done.

Mike: I was going to ask about the two-minute date episode because a lot of people in the blogosphere were painting that episode as a "stunt" because Britney Spears was in it. And, she was a minor part in that episode. That episode was so solid I almost forgot she was on the show.

Josh: Yeah, the episode wasn't written around her. I think the second one she was on was written around her?

Mike: That one was, yes.

Josh: Yeah ... no one from the show went to her, her agent sought the role out for her. It wasn't an episode about that character. It was a sweet, funny little role and I thought she did a nice job. That episode, I'm glad a lot of eyeballs were on it because I think it's an example of what our show does really well.

Mike: I thought that was really smart because that episode got so much attention -- because she was going to be on it -- and it was so smart not to center the episode on her. It drew more people into it and people would learn: Hey, I like this show anyway ... she wasn't that big of a part of the plot to begin with, maybe I will watch this show again.

Josh: It was as deft a handling of that situation you could have possibly done, I thought.

Mike: So, Ted loves Star Wars. Does that translate with you as well? Or is that just Ted?

Josh: I did have that ... what's Han Solo's ship? The Millenium Falcon? I did have that, I had the action figures, I was certainly into it. But, I think I dropped it around the age of nine or ten? I didn't carry it into adulthood with me and I tried ... I remember in New York I went and saw Episode I, or whatever, when they started making them again. I just thought it was brutal!

Mike: I have to agree on those.

Josh: Yeah, so , no. I've never been a crazy sci-fi person. That's something about Ted that I actually enjoy playing that. It's really fun to play things like a comedic obsession that you don't share (laughs). You know? You can just, kind of, get into it. That was really fun, all that stuff to play with her (Sarah Chalke) and Marshall how we were just insane about that movie. And again, it's a generational touchstone that the show really nails. The inside humor with references to The Goonies or Field Of Dreams, these movies that are...

We had something that was cut that I told them we had to bring back because someone said: "OK, here's the situation," and everyone went, "my parents went away on a weeks vacation." (laughs) Whatever that was, the Fresh Prince song?

Mike: (laughing) Yeah, "Parents Just Don't Understand."

Josh: Yeah. Is that what it was? The Fresh Prince?

Mike: Umm, yeah, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.

Josh: DJ Jazzy Jeff ... exactly. It was just like a throw away, it wasn't anything, it had nothing to do with anything; but, it just let you know: oh, these people grew up at a certain time.

Mike: This just popped in my head, but, -- actually my favorite episode this year was "The Fight."

Josh: I like that episode, I thought that was great.

Mike: But, last season I thought one of the most brilliant flashbacks was ... I think it was the episode where Ted had an online date.

Josh: Oh, yeah yeah yeah ... that's actually one of my favorites, too. "Blah Blah."

Mike: Yes, and everyone discusses how they met each other. On the Ted and Barney first meeting...

Josh: They reference the pilot.

Mike: Right! It had been so long that I forgot and then, one night, my girlfriend was like, "Hey, let's watch the (How I Met Your Mother) DVD" because she had not seen the first half of the first season. I saw that scene in the pilot and thought: wow, they flashed back, (three) seasons later, to something that happened in the pilot. That's fantastic.

Josh: Yeah. Carter and Craig juggle a lot of cards; they keep a lot of cards in the air. Or, balls in the air -- I'm not sure the metaphor you use -- but, they seem to really remember things. Like there was even a thing about... Do you remember the pineapple incident when Ted kept saying he was vomit free since '93?

Mike: Yes, yes.

Josh: And then they had him vomit again but had to deal with that, so someone said, "You weren't vomit three since '93!" (laughs) I don't even remember if that actually made it, but they had to deal with the fact that they said "vomit free since 93."

Mike: Again, those are rewards for long time viewers.

Josh: Yeah, exactly.

Mike: I've watched with people before and they're like, "why did Marshall just slap Barney across the face?"

Josh: Right. But, if you know what that means, what that's about...

Mike: Yes, it's fantastic.

Josh: Yeah, that "Blah, Blah" episode ... it's always good when get these set pieces that kind of involve everyone. I loved, also, the "sandwiches" (laughs).

Mike: Well, yeah, the "sandwiches" are great.

Josh: I love the flash forwards ... I mean, really, it's just smart story telling.

Mike: Do you ever try to figure out all the flash forwards and flashbacks? Like, when it's in the script, do you ever think to yourself: Wait a second. Or, do you just put your faith in the writing.

Josh: Some of them you get a little bit lost in and you're like: wait, where is this one? Or, you just have to read it twice.

Mike: Well, for people like me, who write about the show, I'm going to be all over that if there is a continuity error.

Josh: Yeah, yeah. They're really careful about that because they know that there are people like you out there. (laughs)

Mike: (laughs) Thanks, yeah. And, I know, but I have done everything I can to tell people they should be watching the show. I've done my part.

Josh: Yes. You can stop now. (laughs) No, keep doing it.

Mike: (laughs) Well, this is it. This interview is the finale of anything I write about the show.

Josh: This is it? I don't know if I brought my "A game."

Mike: (laughs) OK, two more things. Are you glad Ted didn't move to New Jersey?

Josh: I thought ... I really wanted Sarah (Chalke) to stick around a little bit more. There was this weird thing with ABC and her contract.

Mike: I was wondering about that, I was wondering if it had to do with that because she was so great on the show.

Josh: She was so great on the show and they loved Ted and Stella together...

Mike: Well, now this makes sense that it was a contract issue, because I felt that arc was wrapped up really quickly.

Josh: It was really quick. I think those episodes are really good and shocking and sad... and all those things ... I felt like there was something that didn't quite smell right about how sophisticated she was and how cool their relationship was, that she would end up going back to that guy ... Jason Jones.

It was kind of weird and it did feel like all of this was happening very quickly. I don't know that was the best way to get out of that? I think there could have been something much more bitter sweet and sad and fun. I wanted her ... I think Sarah should have done ten more episodes because it kind of turned her into a villain, and it's not that type of character at all. That said, they were really flying by the seat of their pants and doing what they could. And I think there was some brilliant stuff in all that.

Someone once said to me: Don't worry about in each episode are you getting this, or, are people getting your character. What people get from a long running series is the general 'how it makes them feel.' It's not about each particular moment. It's an emotional bond people get with this show. I think there are people who pay attention to each individual moment, but, generally, why you like a show is what it leaves you with; how it makes you feel; where it takes you for those 22 minutes. It's not necessarily about, you know: did that make sense that Stella left him that way?

I mean, the other thing is that sometimes I really want to protect Ted. I kind of really want to protect his dignity a little bit. I always feel like: Well, you can take him to those places but you have to redeem him. One of my issues first season was, I said, "In the one episode he's this dashing, romantic hero and the next episode you're punching him in the face for doing this and being that person?" And I was getting a little bit of whiplash from feeling like I was investing everything in this romantic character and people would make fun of him for being that person. I kind of felt knocked around a little bit ... I could have done a better job of (laughs) letting him just be what they write and I've had more fun that way without trying to figure it out so much or second guess it.

Does that make sense? The kind of dilemma I was having? I remember it was the episode with Ashley Williams, when I met her at the wedding, and we decided not to give each others' last names.

Mike: It's funny, I remember that scene exactly because it was the first time I heard the song "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie.

Josh: Oh, really? I love that episode. We had so much fun doing that. Yeah, when he goes to the cupcake shop at the end. And then the next episode Marshall and Lily are locked in the bathroom and they're hearing us say these ridiculous things to each other. And I get that there are a few things worse than being trapped with people who are really in love and having to listen to them (laughs).

It's interesting to spend so long playing someone who's not you. And you kind of think like: I don't talk like this. (laughs) But you also don't want to do that obnoxious actor thing of, (makes snooty voice) "I don't think my character would say this." Well, he does, so shut up.

Mike: It's funny about the New Jersey thing because ... and I have to say: In the episode where Ted and Barney pretend they are tourists from Missouri -- and as a native Missourian, I thank you for that...

Josh: (Laughs) Yeah, ha.

Mike: Yeah, with those accents.

Josh: (laughs) yeah.

Mike: When they find out the two girls aren't actually from Manhattan -- and that they live in New Jersey -- that seemed real. That speech ... and I will throw it out there as a testament to your acting skills, sir, but that fiery speech ... So many people that watched that were like: Yes! That is why! The whole "I worked hard to live in New York" almost sounds pompous, in a way, and I would never say that and my friends that love that episode would never say that. But, Ted said it out loud ... and again, we would never say it but, yes, we have all thought that at times when others say things like that. Was there any part of you saying those things in that scene ... and nothing specifically against The Garden State.

Josh: Yeah ... Well, that speech, I remember, they wrote it ... it was a last minute rewrite. There was kind of a version of the speech, but they really punched it up and made it kind of like hilariously vicious. There was the line, "I would do a lot of things to get laid; I'm not going to New Jersey"?

Mike: Right!

Josh: Yeah, that was the kicker. That really made me laugh. Sometimes they will hand you a speech ... there were three occasions where they handed me something, kind of like, hot off the press. One was the speech in "Nothing Good Happens After 2:00 AM." When Victoria's, kind of, ghost, keeps appearing to me in Robin's apartment and I wound up giving this impassioned speech about Robin, or something, but Carter and Craig wrote that at lunch. We were shooting it after lunch and they just handed it to me and had five minutes to learn it. When something is really well written, it's incredibly easy to memorize. When you know you're in trouble is when you can't memorize it, it's generally a logic problem in the writing.

So there was that, there was the speech I gave to Stella, the kind of imaginary speech where "You picked the wrong guy." Do you remember that speech?

Mike: Yes.

Josh: Which actually, they wrote that -- this is crazy insider information, like no one would know this -- and luckily no one got to know this...

Mike: And before you say that, yes, we were lead to believe he has this catharsis...

Josh: Exactly. Well, they wrote the speech to be reappropriated, as a YouTube clip if McCain won. And if you look at the speech it says, "That guy?! You picked that guy?! Have you learned nothing in the last eight years?" The whole speech could read as screaming at America for not electing Obama. Which, happily we never had to use that. And I hope I don't alienate your readers by admitting I'm a Democrat.

Mike: A lot of my readers are in New York City so...

Josh: I know, I'm just kidding. So yeah, that Jersey speech was kind of like a last minute addition. A lot of times if you don't have a lot of time to think about it, sometimes, that's the best. They handed me that speech to Stella and we were shooting outside -- and it was actually for the next weeks episode -- and they said, "we have to grab this, they just wrote it and we shot it and I didn't have much time to think about it and it was great.

Mike: What's fantastic is they gave it to you (the Jersey speech). If they let Neil do it -- you almost expect Barney to say things like that.

Josh: Right.

Mike: When Ted goes off the handle on things, you almost pay attention more because it doesn't happen as often.

Josh: Right, I love that. You know, sometimes I think: I just wish Ted would be this, or Ted would be that. You find yourself feeling like you have hit this note before. But, we've done what? Eighty episodes? I also like they are good enough writers that they have enough faith in the cast. There is a lot to this character; they let him be multi-dimensional. They let him be the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful person in the world and they let him be a jack-ass every once in awhile because he is a human being. I mean, he's a fake human being, but he's a well-rounded fake human being.

Mike: All right, this is the last question: Jason Segel was in Can't Hardly Wait; Alyson Hannigan was in American Pie; you were in Not Another Teen Movie.

Josh: That's correct.

Mike: Do you feel any superiority at all because you were in the movie that mocks theirs?

Josh: (Laughs) Umm ... I have never thought about that. I was wondering where this was going...

Mike: Well, when I said last question did you think I was going to go for the whole "Who's the Mother?"

Josh: That didn't occur to me, but, I feel superior to them for many different reasons, but, it has nothing to do with those movies. No, that never occurred to me but great snooping out of that.

Mike: Well, I find it funny that movie takes on all the others, I just picture watercooler talk when that stuff gets brought up -- not that it does...

Josh: No! I mean most people kind of don't want to talk about their first movies so (laughs).

Mike: I think it would be funny if you started doing that. I can picture every time between takes, "Hey! Remember Not Another Teen Movie?"

Josh: (Laughs) And ... they don't. (laughs).


Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
or submit reader questions for celebrites to Mike on Twitter.


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