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'How I Met Your Father' Bosses Break Down Welcoming That Special 'How I Met Your Mother' Character Into Their Finale

Showrunners Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger say there was no 'Plan B' for a different character to guide Sophie in the 'How I Met Your Father' Season 1 finale.
by Danielle Turchiano — 
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Francia Raisa and Hilary Duff in 'How I Met Your Father'

Hulu

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of How I Met Your Father, . Read at your own risk!

Like Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) on How I Met Your Mother before her, Sophie (Hilary Duff) on How I Met Your Father spent the first season of her sitcom struggling to make the right romantic connection. Although she initially connected with Ian (Daniel Augustin), a guy she met on Tinder, he had to go to Australia for work, and long distance proved to not be an option for them. She began dating Drew (Josh Peck), an affable vice principal, only for their relationship to fizzle out, due, in part, to feelings she had for the newly single — and often cynical — Jesse (Chris Lowell). 

However, unlike Ted, who at the end of the first season of How I Met Your Mother, was ready to declare his love for Robin (Cobie Smulders), Sophie heard an unintentional declaration of love from Jesse (apparently he's a sleep talker) and was more confused than ever about her feelings.

She went to the bar downstairs from his apartment, which happened to be MacLaren's, the common setting of How I Met Your Mother, and ran into two staples from the 2005-2014 sitcom: bartender Carl (Joe Nieves) and Robin herself. At this point in the How I Met Your Mother timeline, Ted had lost his wife (and the mother of his children) but had not yet begun telling his story about meeting their mother to those children. Therefore, he had not yet reconnected romantically with Robin. It was, however, after she divorced Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), and judging by the advice she offered Sophie, it sounded like she had learned a lot from both relationships.

"We worked with [How I Met Your Mother creators] Carter [Thomas] and Craig [Bays] very closely on the scene, and every word was chosen very carefully. It was really important to the guys and to us as well that even though she hasn't reached her final romantic destination yet, we're seeing someone that is in a really beautiful spot in her journey," co-creator and co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger tells Metacritic. "[She] is killing it professionally and has some peace and some wisdom about what she's been through so far. And I think the advice she gives is something that she really feels to be true. She knows that she's had beautiful, romantic experiences where maybe the timing wasn't right, and that made all the difference, and maybe it will be right down the line, as we know to be the case. So, we really wanted to stay truthful to what the guys showed of Robin and her journey and also let audiences know that even though she had it hasn't quite figured it out yet, she's doing really, really well during this chapter, too." 

By the end of the How I Met Your Father finale, Sophie's friends Hannah (Ashley Reyes) and Sid (Suraj Sharma) took a giant step forward in their relationship, Charlie (Tom Ainsley) and Valentina (Francia Raisa) broke up, and Ellen (Tien Tran) finally connected with the girl of her dreams. But Sophie was faced with a complicated choice when she decided to talk to Jesse, but then came face-to-face with Ian again.

Here, creators and showrunners Berger and Isaac Aptaker talk to Metacritic about crafting the Season 1 finale of How I Met Your Father and plans for the already-renewed Season 2 and finally revealing the father.

Timing is everything, as the finale episode says a few times. So, what went into deciding the finale was the right time to go harder with How I Met Your Mother actors' appearances, and why was Robin the right main character to bring in?

Isaac Aptaker: We wanted to give this new friend group a chance to stand on their own feet and let people get to know them and not just be waiting for the How I Met Your Mother characters to return. And then it was really important to us that when we brought someone back, they have something to do in terms of the plot — that they play a really pivotal role in in the How I Met Your Father world; they're not just coming into say, "Oh, here's Robin, here's what she's up to, remember her?" She's coming back to help Sophie and give her some much needed advice when she's at a really pivotal crossroads in her own life. So, once we had this story, it felt like the perfect time to fold Robin in because Sophie really does need someone to talk to who's been there and is a little bit further along in life, who has some wisdom to impart about about this time of life that Sophie's in.

If Cobie wasn't available or interested in reprising the role, did you have a Plan B for a different original character that this same could work with, even Carl?

I.A.: Honestly, we didn't have to cope because Cobie is the best. We were pretty far ahead in terms of planning, so we reached out as soon as we had our season mapped out and knew we wanted her. So, we didn't even need to entertain a Plan B because she emailed back hours later and said, "Oh my gosh, I'd love to. I'm in London doing this movie and I'm here doing this thing, but as long as we can find the day that works, I'm there." And yeah, she came, and it was so cool. Pam Fryman, who directed the original, did the episode, so seeing them and the shorthand that they have, they're in each other's heads. Pam barely gets a note out before Cobie knows what she wants from her. And then we have a bunch of crew from the original, so just seeing them all catch up, it was like watching a high school reunion or something. It was a really special day.

How much do you want to lean on bringing characters back going forward? Not just those from How I Met Your Mother, but also people from your characters' past, the way Ian and Jesse's ex Meredith (Leighton Meester) returned?

I.A.: Everything's on the table. And I think what's so great about the television landscape right now is [that] people are able to jump from show to show, people are more flexible about letting actors go and jump around and do stuff. So, we've been able to get people like Josh and Leighton. It's this really, really amazing deep reserve of guest stars. And I think everyone has the best time on the show because because Pam runs such a fun, wonderful set. So, those characters are always in play and always potentially folding back in.

The Captain was the bad guy in the scenario we re-met him in, which led some viewers to think Ted was less of a jerk for dating his previous wife. Was that intentional? Do you find yourselves talking about how unlikable Ted was in comparison to how much you needed people to root for Sophie?

I.A.: Interesting. We didn't talk about the Ted side of it. We did talk — especially with Carter and Craig — about, "Should the captain be the one having the affair or should is his wife be the one having the affair? Do we will do we want to protect that character?" And we really left it to them like because it's their character, and they said, "Absolutely not, throw him under the bus; let's go there, Kyle can pull it off." Kyle's not worried about people liking him; Kyle's a very well loved television icon. So, they were not afraid to get his hands dirty and let him be the one in bed with someone else.

Elizabeth Berger: One of the things we talked about a lot was, "Can people handle her sabotaging herself at the end of the season here?" Ultimately, it felt very true to us that she might. We talked a lot in the writers' room about that phenomenon where you're out there and you're dating and you're trying to find your person and you're desperately searching and searching and you finally find someone great who wants to sort of step up to the plate and give you everything you think you wanted, and you just completely panic. And it turns out that you're not ready for it. And that can be quote-unquote unlikable, for sure, because you want to reach through the screen and shake her and say, "What are you doing? This is what you wanted." But it also felt really, really relatable. We trusted that people would recognize themselves in her, hopefully, in a way that we recognized many of ourselves. And ultimately, I think you feel that she's trying really hard and she's doing her best, she's just really figuring herself out still, and sometimes when you do that it's a little messy and you make a mistake. But absolutely, we talked about, "Is this an unlikable decision?" And we said, "Maybe but it also feels really real to us. And we're going to we're going to go with it and trust that people will be along for the ride."

Obviously the journey with these characters is more important than the one answer of who the dad is, but that is a question still lingering, especially as Ian re-entered Sophie's life. How are you pacing out the hints and eventual reveal going forward?

I.A.: This Is Us is not dissimilar in terms of telling these interpersonal romantic, friendships, etc stories that are told as this big mystery because of playing with time, and so, that's been a masterclass. We're wrapping up that series now — it's been 106 episodes — and we've had a plan there, but also because it's television, you always have to adjust when certain characters are popping in a way you didn't expect or you get a better idea, months later, but we definitely have a plan and it's really a question of pace. So, just like in that Robin scene where everything's very intentional, we're giving pieces of information exactly when we're ready to give them out and we definitely have an endgame in mind, but we're also open and flexible enough to know that if we see something that we weren't anticipating working, we're open to making adjustments there.

Should we assume we'll never see the son until the end then, because to see him would be to give away too much?

E.B.: I think it's safe to assume that you won't see the son until we're very close to revealing who the father is. That, I think I can safely say.

How do you compare the relationships Sophie's friends are in with the ones you create for her? For example, does having Hannah and Sid get married in the finale mean they are going to have to always be the stable couple going forward?

E.B.: We really don't view it that way. You have your couple that's in the serious relationship, but they're still young and it's still hard and things are thrown at them. And you have your friends that are still figuring it out and are going to be much more all over the map for the next couple of years. So, in a really interesting way without being like, "They're the Marshall and the Lily," similarities emerge and when they do, they're lovely and sometimes we lean into them and sometimes we don't think about them and go in a different direction. But we're not using that to guide us, we're just trying to service our characters first.

And just to go back to the finale, there's a line where Sophie acknowledges MacLaren's is right downstairs yet they never go there. What inspired that, and what inspired you to not use that location in the first place?

I.A.: It's really wanting to make this a show that honors the original and uses the storytelling device and maintains a lot of what is so great about that show, but it's also its own thing, and having our characters every week gather in that exact same booth, on that exact same set, felt like it was just making it a little bit too much a replica, as opposed to a sequel. But it's also something that we knew was always in our back pocket. It does exist right below the guys; apartment, so why wouldn't they go there at some point? That set is so associated with the original gang and it felt like when we were ready to bring back one of those characters, that should be the place that you find them.

Get to know Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger:
In addition to running How I Met Your Father together, the duo also serves as showrunners on This Is Us (Metascore: 76) and Love, Victor (69). The previously wrote on such series as About a Boy (68), Grandfathered (62), and The Neighbors (42), and penned the screenplays for Love, Simon (72) and I Want You Back (61).