Hilary Duff talks How I Met Your Father nerves and being star-struck over Kim Cattrall
Haaaaave you met your father?
Well, probably you have, but we digress! Hulu's here to take you on a journey to meet the eventual father to Sophie's (Hilary Duff) future children.
If the premise sounds familiar, it should. The streamer's How I Met Your Father is a standalone spinoff of CBS' beloved sitcom How I Met Your Mother, which ran for nine seasons on the network starring Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan. Created by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (This Is Us), HIMYF follows hopeless romantic millennial Sophie — who's been on 87 Tinder dates in the past year in the pursuit of finding The One (!!) — as she navigates the New York City dating scene with the help of her best pal Valentina (Francia Raisa) and new buddies Jesse (Chris Lowell), Sid (Suraj Sharma), Ellen (Tien Tran), and Charlie (Tom Ainsley).
"We were huge fans of the original," Berger tells EW of her and Aptaker's reasons for getting involved with the sequel. "Isaac and I went to college and we lived in New York together, but we've never really gotten a chance to tell that chapter of living in New York in your twenties." When the opportunity came along, however, the timing wasn't quite right. "We wrote the script and right after writing it, we joined This Is Us and were asked to co-run it," explains Berger. "We thought, 'well, that seems like a big all-consuming job, so we should probably hit pause on this other thing.'" That's exactly what they did. One HIMYM-style flash forward in time to 2021 later, and, with This Is Us winding down, Aptaker and Berger revisited the script.
Around the same time, Duff was wrapping up her role on the long-running comedy Younger, and was setting her sights on a new project. "I got a call from my manager saying that there was this project that they wanted to chat with me about," the actress tells EW. "Then I heard the title and I was like, 'Are you kidding me? What?!'" That familiarity made the star nervous, though. "The original show is so, so beloved and was just so spot-on perfect, that I'm like, 'Ohh, I don't wanna do reboot.'" But after talking with Aptaker and Berger, Duff was reassured. "They could literally sell me a bag of dirty laundry," she jokes. "They're so enthusiastic about what they do and they're so talented. I was a little bit nervous about the sitcom of it all because I've never done multi-cam, but I read the script and it was just everything you want a comedy to be. There were lighthearted moments, but there [were] funny moments and it was a little dirty at times. It was just perfect. I signed on board and was like, 'Yeah, I need five months — I'm having a baby right now.'"
While Duff was familiar with the original series, she had more of a background awareness of the characters than a full-on knowledge of their storylines. (She wasn't quite as devoted to it as her husband — "He and his brother can quote lines.") But, for Aptaker and Berger, a bit of separation actually works in the new series' favor. "We're honoring the original show; we're a sequel to that show," says Aptaker. "There's certainly quite a bit of commonality, but we didn't wanna be going, 'Oh wait, that joke is too similar to this joke from How I Met Your Mother.' That's no way to make a TV show, to be comparing and contrasting every single moment."
Key differences between the CBS run and the Hulu take are the diverse cast and inclusive storylines. "I can't believe we're even still having this conversation about sexuality and ethnicities," says Duff. "It's like, 'Come on, aren't we there yet?' I'm obsessed with the fact that Ellen's (Tran) character in the show isn't stressed about being gay or have trauma from coming out or anything like that. She is gay, she is who she is and her trauma is that she's getting divorced." Duff emphasizes that the best actors were chosen for their respective roles, regardless of ethnicity or background. "These were the people that were the best auditioning, and that's how our little pack of weirdos came to be!"
The modern, and predominantly online, dating scene also offered the opportunity to create a distinction from the original series. "I'd say that's the huge difference between Mother and Father — just how much our world is online and tech-y now," says Berger. "It was exciting to us that the original did not cover online dating; it went off the air eight years ago, and Tinder was yet to become a thing. We wanted to get into what it's like that people are walking around with these apps and hundreds of people are in their pocket, in a sense. You go out with someone and you put all your hopes and dreams onto them for a night. But, at the same time, maybe they're thinking of the 20 other people that they've been chatting with. It can be really, really, hard and really soul crushing at times, but you still dust yourself off and you don't give up hope and maybe you even find somebody — despite how bonkers it is out there right now."
For Duff, Sophie's resilience in that soul-crushing world of modern dating was one of the character's main pulls. "She's just trying," she explains. "I think sometimes it's really hard to keep trying and to have a smile on your face and a personality while you do it. She is effervescent. The chick's got stamina for days. I need to be in bed by nine every night, but I also have three children. I really admire her."
Someone else Duff admires is Kim Cattrall, who narrates the story as Sophie in the year 2050. "She is such an icon," says Duff of the Sex and the City star. "I showed up [on set] and someone was like, 'Are you working?' I was like, 'Outta my way, outta my way. Where is she?!' I just wanted to lay eyes on her." Aptaker confirms Cattrall was everyone's top choice for the narrator role, but they "never, like in a million years, ever thought it would happen."
While the gender-flipped perspective and the 2022 dating-scape set the show apart from its predecessor, fans of How I Met Your Mother will still be able to find a callback or two to the original series. "We wanted to make sure diehard fans were being rewarded," says Aptaker. "And there are lots of subtle Easter eggs, or maybe not-so-subtle Easter eggs in there, and ways that [the new show] is connected to the original series." Adds Berger, "Some of it you don't need to be eagle-eyed at all, it will sort of smack you over the head!"
As for the big question of who is the father?!, Duff is in the dark. "I wish I knew who the father was!" she says. "Tien has the best way of answering. She's like, 'He has hair and a face and a body and some style' and I'm like, 'You're brilliant!'" Naturally, Berger and Aptaker have an idea of where the series is going and with whom Sophie will wind up, but for now it's not entirely set in stone. "We have a plan in our heads for who the father is and how this all ends, but we've learned quite a lot from doing This Is Us for 6 years in terms of having a plan, but also being flexible and amenable to how TV can change," says Aptaker. "So, yes, we know where we're headed, but we're also very open to being surprised ourselves and seeing where the show goes."
For now, Berger just hopes How I Met Your Father will send a hopeful message for anyone searching for the future parent to their children. "It has an optimistic viewpoint on finding love and the notion that it can be a long journey with lots of twists and turns, but, ultimately, if you stick in there, it can work out," she says. "We hope it's a joyful escape for people when things are hard and stressful. You can turn it on and laugh and feel good at a time when that feels important."
The first two episodes of How I Met Your Father are available to stream on Hulu now, with future episodes dropping weekly for the remainder of the 10-episode season.