How I Met Your Mother ran for nine seasons on CBS—an instant hit thanks to its original premise and a solid cast, anchoring what could have been just another typical sitcom and changing it into something more. While you may think you know the show’s story, there are quite a few behind-the-scenes secrets that even big fans may be shocked to hear.
Would-be cast members
Co-creator Craig Thomas revealed in a Reddit AMA ahead of the series finale that Cobie Smulders almost lost the role of Robin to Jennifer Love Hewitt.
According to E!, Josh Radnor also almost missed out on his part, with producers reportedly looking into Felicity actor Scott Foley.
Jim Parsons, who would later find fame on another CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, says he went out for the show as well, auditioning for Neil Patrick Harris’s Barney Stinson—something he told Live with Kelly and Michael was “one of the stranger experiences” of his life.
One other rumored recast comes from Sarah Chalke’s Stella, who reports saying it was initially supposed to be played by Alicia Silverstone.
Ashley Williams’ Victoria was first introduced in season one, episode 12, at Stuart and Claudia’s wedding. Her relationship with Ted escalated during “Drumroll Please,” He tracked her down and kissed her in the last few moments of the series’ initial 13-episode order. Bays and Thomas have confirmed that Victoria was the show’s backup plan in case of cancellation, adding, “Ashley Williams reading this, like ‘Motherf—er! That would have been awesome!'”
How I Met, Your Mother became a family affair behind the scenes, with the main cast becoming good friends and playing big roles in each other’s lives. The show’s friendly environment allowed Hannigan, Harris, and Smulders to bring their real-life spouses to star with them.
Hannigan and Smulders both had children while on How I Met Your Mother, but only one of their characters actually got pregnant on the show. The rest of the time, producers found some pretty creative ways of hiding their stars’ growing bellies.
In season four, both actresses announced they were pregnant within weeks of each other (something which, while very adorable, was a real headache for the writers). Thomas said that Hannigan’s pregnancy was “expected” while Smulders’ was a little more surprising but still “delightful.” “After the shock wore off, we found a way to write around it or have fun with it,” he told The Chicago Tribune.
No live studio audience
“There’s no way we could shoot this amount of material in front of an audience,” Thomas said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. “It would blur the line between ‘audience’ and ‘hostage situation.'”
Executive producer Greg Malins credited the lack of a live studio audience with the show’s ability not to be “a slave to the audience,” saying, “You’re not writing to their reactions and writing to the lowest common denominator.” Writer Jamie Rhonheimer agreed, noting that the show can tell more “emotional stories.”
Segel did have something big in common with his character, though. Marshall claims to be a basketball dunking champion currently suffering from a dancer’s hip in season four’s “The Possimpible,” and it turns out Segel is actually a former star athlete as well. In an interview with the BS Report podcast (as reported by Maxim), former NBA player Jason Collins said Segel, a backup center on their high school basketball team, did actually win a dunking contest. In contrast, in school (he even went by Doctor Dunk for a while). According to Collins, even back then, Segel “knew how to entertain the crowd.”
According to Hannigan, the cockamouse, the hybrid monster that scares Marshall and Lily out of their apartment, was based on a creature found in producer Kourtney Kang’s New York apartment, which the actress says actually flew away from the scene. Basically, the moral of the story is to get some great friends that you can base a TV show around—but also to never move to New York.
The pineapple incident
It turns out the pineapple came from the Captain, who went by the “old sea captain’s tradition” of leaving a pineapple outside one’s home as a symbol of hospitality. The Captain kept one outside his New York City townhouse, which a very drunk Ted came upon and stole that fateful night.
Many fans questioned why such a pivotal moment in the series wasn’t shown on screen. Hannigan responded to fans on Twitter, saying the show ended up 18 minutes longer than it was supposed to, leading to cut scenes. (She didn’t specify which episode, but the deleted scene came from season nine, episode 20.) Still, at least we know there’s a canonical ending to the pineapple mystery.
Casting the mother
There was one hiccup in getting Milioti on board, though. According to Hannigan, producers were worried that the two actresses looked too similar to appear on the show together. Luckily, producers decided they were different enough, and Milioti landed the part. Once Milioti did arrive on set, the train station scene that served as her introduction was populated with extras who were actually staff from the show, something Thomas and Bays called “really fun.”
“I felt bad for Cristin because it was really like Jesus had risen when she showed up on the set—the whole crew was like, ‘Here she is, the women we’ve been waiting for for 10 years!'” they said. “And she’s like, ‘I’m just an actor.'”
The pair said in an interview with TVLine that they filmed the final scene at some point during season two, with the creators rushing to get the piece in before Henrie went through puberty. Everyone cleared the set except Carter and Bays, and the two had to sign confidentiality agreements saying that they’d keep the ending a secret. So much time passed between the filming and the finale that they two basically forgot what it was they were supposed to be kept secret; Henrie said he “thinks” he remembers, while Fonseca, who was a fan and regular watcher of the show, says it was a “running joke” between her and the creators that she didn’t remember. Of course, just because the two didn’t remember doesn’t mean people weren’t trying to get them to spill. “My friends and my family are the worst,” said Henrie, “[and] especially people at bars who try to get me drunk to get it out of me.”
An alternate ending
Later released on the show’s complete series DVD (and available to watch on YouTube), it cuts out the mother’s death and Barney and Robin’s divorce. Instead, it focuses on Ted’s long, long journey towards happiness, all leading up to him being in the right place at the right time to walk up to Tracy and “start talking.”
“See kids, easy,” he says, after describing his long, arduous journey and showing the meet-cute with the mother. The alternate ending finishes off with, “And that kids is how I met your mother” before cutting to black. Although it doesn’t include any new footage, only alternate narration, at least 20,000 people would have been much happier if the alternate ending had been for real.