Hilary Duff And Her ‘How I Met Your Father’ Co-Stars Discuss Season Two And More Diversity In Hollywood
With season two of the hit Hulu original series How I Met Your Father already in the middle of streaming its weekly new episodes, it is also the return of the beloved sitcom format, with this particular series having all of the quality parts and players to give this modern comedy series the kind of longevity it so deserves.
Starring Hilary Duff, Chris Lowell, Francia Raisa, Suraj Sharma, Tien Tran and Tom Ainsley, How I Met Your Father follows six 30-something friends in present day New York City, as they try to figure out their desired paths in life and love. This episodic storytelling is narrated by the future version of Duff’s character Sophie (played by Kim Cattrall) in the year 2050, as she playfully explains the lingering mystery and elaborate journey toward revealing the father of her now grown child.
Premiering its first season just last year – sure, this series exists within the same fictional universe as How I Met Your Mother but the current series stands strong all on its own, while still giving credit where credit is due with the occasional special guest appearances with stars (so far, Cobie Smulders in the season one finale and Neil Patrick Harris in the season two premiere) from its predecessor.
How I Met Your Father co-creator/writer/executive producer Elizabeth Berger spoke with me about the show’s recent return for season two, saying, “We were very excited to come back because honestly it felt to us like our first season was so short. We only had 10 [episodes]. We felt like there was much more to tell that we hadn’t got to tell, so we were so excited to come back and have our 20 episodes this season, and have the room to breathe and get to the stories we didn’t get to tell in season one.”
The second season recently wrapped its filming in a most nostalgic sitcom way, by choosing to film the season two finale episode in front of a live studio audience. I recently sat down with this vibrant cast on the set of their show to discuss all things How I Met Your Father today.
Actor Chris Lowell, who plays Jesse on the show, says of the recent live experience for his cast and crew, “I think we’ve done 30 episodes together. We’ve all become a real family. We have a real sense of a flow. To have the audience though, to have that immediate feedback, to feel their energy, to work off their energy, every single one of us took it up a notch. You could feel it! It was palpable. Every single person who works on our show was riding the wave together. It was a wonderful way to end the season.”
Duff quickly responds with, “It felt very 90s. Everyone got dressed up, like crew got dressed up. They built all the seating in here and we were all nervous, in a good way. All of us were amped up, pumped up. It felt like a bunch of people were in our house and we were performing for them.”
Sharma, who plays Sid on How I Met Your Father, continues with, “If this show was conversation, we finally had the people we were talking to in the conversation.”
“It was such a high,” recalls Raisa, who plays Valentina on the series. “It was unreal. I hadn’t stepped on a stage since middle school, so I was the one probably freaking out the most.”
Tran, who plays Ellen, adds about the live taping, “When the lights came on, everyone was at the top of their game. Truly, every single of one of us. I don’t think you could tell from the audience that some of us hadn’t maybe done a live show – and also, that’s the first multi-cam live show for all of us, so that’s a brand new experience.”
Ainsley, who plays Charlie, follows up with, “To see how far we had come, having none of us had done multi-cam before, some of us had never even done comedy before – to go from there to being able to do a live show in front of an audience, I was really proud of everybody.”
With two seasons of filming now complete, I was curious what has been the most memorable type of public feedback these How I Met Your Father co-stars have received over the past year.
Raisa says first, “So, this is my third series and I have to say that this is the first one that my friends and family watch and really like (laughs) and they look forward to it.”
Ainsley jokes, “When season one came up, I live here in LA now and had flown back [to England]. It was my first time I had seen my family and my mom went ‘The show…loved your roommates!’ I went ‘Thanks mom. What about me?’”
Sharma continues by saying, “For me, there’s a lot of people who watched the first episode of season two and realized ‘This is something that I didn’t watch but I actually love it’ and they went back and watched the whole thing and caught up to us. The fact that we garnered so much interest this season, it’s epic!”
Duff adds about public feedback surrounding the show, “I try not to pay attention to too much stuff. It’s nice that I have three kids at home, so I’m just like I don’t have the space to read and keep up, but I hear good news from people and that’s all I really want to hear. Of course, I hear lovely things out on the street like ‘I love your new show. Oh my gosh, it’s so fun to have you in our living room again.’ What is even better is just what we’ve created here and just to feel like every week, we’re ‘checking off the box’ of that episode. We’re here, we’re hardworking and we’re loving what we’re doing. We work really hard but we play really hard.”
Lowell follows up with, “As actors, you have so little control over the end product. The only thing you can control is the day-to-day work environment, like the energy we have when we show up to work. I feel like that’s the most important thing because it’s the only thing in our control. I think creating a really amicable environment, not just among the cast, but among the crew, as well. We love this crew and they all love each other. It’s a really unique kind of family.”
In a television and video streaming world today that seems to largely intrigue audiences with “shock value” content, controversial documentaries and gritty suspense dramas, I asked this How I Met Your Father group of actors what they love most about being able to bring a sometimes needed sense of “escapism” to our society today with their more lighthearted and optimistic content.
Tran says, “It really does feel like an honor and a privilege to get to be a part of this ensemble and to get to bring that to people in their homes, like 20-so minutes of silliness and heart. I hope people watch that and are like ‘You know what? I’m going to come out with a more positive take on the world as I leave my front door.’”
Raisa adds, “We all need to escape and to be the people doing that is really special, knowing that we are something that they are looking forward to, to be in a happy place. I always thought I’d do drama, so this is way better!”
Lowell shares, “I know for me, being in New York during the pandemic, it was so dark and the city was so scarred after Covid took so many people from the city. I think just to live in a version of New York City that is Covid-free, that is back to an identity of itself that existed before the pandemic, just to kind of live in that space, selfishly, was really a wonderful gift. It’s nice to be able to have some escapism and see people leaning on each other and reminding people how important it is to have a community – to have friends to listen to you, to also criticize you, to question, to hug you, to hold you. Reminding people of how important and integral those are is a good thing.”
With Duff also being a producer on this series, I wondered how her responsibilities and her process behind-the-scenes has evolved over the past couple of years on this specific production.
Duff responds, “I think just being part of early conversations is something that’s really nice. I’ve worked so hard and been doing this for such a long time that it was really the only way that I really wanted to jump into this project was to be like ‘I want to learn a little bit more on the backside of things.’ Hopefully, I will be producing more in the future but I think it’s just being a part of early conversations: styling, hiring, casting.”
I asked Berger and her How I Met Your Father co-creator/writer/executive producer Isaac Aptaker what it has been like working alongside Duff over the past two seasons.
“She’s a dream,” Aptaker says. “She’s a complete dream – as an actor, as a producer, as a human being. You cannot ask for a better ‘number one’ on your call sheet. She sets the tone for our entire set. She could not be more professional, she could not be more prepared and then she’s just like a fun, cool woman that you want to be around, to top it all off.”
Berger adds about Duff, “She’s such an incredible performer, but she is interested – she understands stories so inherently. I love texting her and saying ‘What do you think of these outfits? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ I really trust her opinion so much so, just across the board. She’s an incredible collaborator.”
With many new trends being seen and heard on Hollywood sets today, I wondered what this How I Met Your Father cast has appreciated witnessing most on their own particular set.
Lowell responds first, “I think to me, seeing more women in the workplace. Having more female directors and writers in positions of power is only a good thing and something that’s long overdue. I think seeing more effortless diversity on television and film is important, something that I’m grateful that our show does pretty effortlessly.”
Ainsley quickly adds, “It’s something that we’ve all said since day one that we’re very proud to have a cast that is as diverse as ours is.”
Raisa says of Hollywood today, “For me, it’s very, very different. There’s a lot more diversity. It’s celebrated, it’s welcomed. When you meet my parents [in season two], you see a little bit of my Mexican background but it’s not so much pointed out that I’m Mexican. We’re Mexican-Americans and we’re just normal, American people. We just happen to be brown.”
Tran shares, “For me personally, I trust these five people with my life. Coming to set, I know that I’m safe and that I can just be myself and fall into this character and be supported by everyone. I don’t think that happens every time – and so, I hope that chemistry comes off for us on-screen because we really feel it when we walk on-set.”
Duff concludes our conversation by saying, “One thing that our writers have been doing – they’re just not bullies. I think a lot of past stuff in our world or our workplace or on TV was constantly poking fun at somebody or some thing. Our show does a really good job of being very funny and very clever and sometimes silly, without being bullies. That’s just a theme that everybody should just apply more of – more love, less bullying. Simple as that.”
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