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HomePreviewHow I Met Your Father: Neil Patrick Harris Returning for Midseason Finale!

How I Met Your Father: Neil Patrick Harris Returning for Midseason Finale!

Daddy’s coming home. Hulu on Wednesday confirmed that Neil Patrick Harris‘ highly anticipated encore as How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney Stinson took place during How I Met Your Father ‘s two-episode midseason finale, which consisted of Episodes 10 and 11 and drop Tuesday, March 28.

In Part 1 of the midseason finale, titled “I’m His Swish,” while Sophie and Val battle over who gets the apartment for date night, Jesse, Sid and Charlie, all thrown by Robert’s smoldering good looks, attempt to take better care of themselves. Then in Part 2, titled, ahem, “Daddy,” Sophie spends the weekend at Robert’s country house, while the rest of the gang celebrates Lost & Found Box Day at Pemberton’s.

HIMYF: Neil Patrick Harris Returning for Supersized Midseason Finale!

Afterwards, HIMYF will take a two-month break, before Season 2 resumes on Tuesday, May 23. Weekly episode drops will culminate in another double-episode finale, streaming July 11. (As previously reported, the finale was filmed before a live studio audience — a first for the How I Met… franchise.)

HIMYF creators Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger discuss the significance of Barney’s return — including new details about the Barnacle’s post-HIMYM life that they chose not to disclose in the episode — and how it sets up Sophie’s arc in the second half of Season 2 (premiering Tuesday, May 23).

We don’t actually find out what Barney was doing in the suburbs. Has he moved out of the city? Is he visiting someone? Is there a definitive answer?

APTAKER | There was a little bit more that we shot that we took out of the [final] cut, but our thinking was that Barney is a little bit more of a family man now… maybe he’s living the suburban dad life.
BERGER | There were a lot more details that unfortunately didn’t live [on in the episode]. We could have written this scene to go on for 45 minutes, but there were details about Sunday night dinner and all these things, and all of the routines and rituals that he has now as a family man. But yes, like Isaac said, we’re nodding to the idea that his life has changed and brought him here.
APTAKER | Even the car he’s driving! It’s still a cool car, but that SUV is a “dad mobile” if I’ve ever seen one.

The HIMYM finale didn’t reveal much about Barney’s future beyond the birth of his daughter Ellie in 2019. You could have disclosed more, you chose to hold back. Is that a conversation that you have whenever you bring back an OG character — how much to disclose, and how much you feel like it’s your place to directly impact HIMYM canon without original creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ direct involvement?

BERGER | Yes, absolutely. We always want to make sure that we are being true to the mythology — and, hopefully, giving fans of the original little morsels that fill in some of the pieces. But we also do feel like this is a character that holds such a special place in people’s hearts, and this is Carter and Craig’s creation, so if anyone should deep-dive into what’s going on with Barney, they feel like the guys to do it. So, it’s finding that balance of paying tribute and honoring the character, but also not getting wildly specific in ways that don’t really feel appropriate for us to do.
APTAKER | Yeah. We’re not trying to upend the How I Met Your Mother finale. It did leave [certain] holes, but it took those characters through this [period of] time and covered a lot, so we’re not trying to upend anything there.

Barney lists off some of his greatest scams, cons, hustles, hoodwinks, gambits, flimflams, stratagems and bamboozles from the original show — including the time he pretended to be a mannequin that came to life, and the time he hired a makeup team to transform him into a time-traveling old man. How’d you settle on those specific callbacks?

BERGER | We went back, we revisited… we had a much longer list. Again, it’s one of those things that could go on forever in a really fun way, but then we truncated it to give some of the highlights — the things we thought would really stick out in people’s minds. But yes, it was very fun to go back and craft that list.

Sophie says that she always pictured Malcolm in the Middle-era Bryan Cranston as her father. Cranston, of course, played Hammond Druthers on the mothership. Was that also meant as an Easter egg, or…?

APTAKER | [Laughs] That’s one thing we’ve run up against before and we had to make a choice. The original show was on for a gazillion episodes, and they had so many guest stars…. We did talk about it, and we thought back to Friends — how they referenced Die Hard, then had Bruce Willis on the show. So, you know what? If Friends can do it, we can do it, too!

BERGER | Almost any time we have a casting opportunity on our show, the first thing we have to do is go, “No, they were on the original! No, they were on the original…” as we go through our list.
APTAKER | We have committed to not casting actors who played a different role on the original as someone new, but we are going to sometimes talk about them.

Barney shows Sophie pictures of his daughter Ellie, who would be 3 or 4 years old now. Are those just stock photos you used, or are those actually photos of someone’s kid?

APTAKER | That’s Neil’s daughter [Harper]. I don’t know if he and [executive producer/director] Pam Fryman came up with that, or maybe it was Pam’s idea. We thought it was a lovely idea because you never see that character other than as an infant in the original, and you’re not going to do any better than Neil’s daughter!

Barney explains to Sophie how he expected finding his father would fix his abandonment issues, his commitment issues, you name it. Will Sophie keep that in mind and temper her expectations if she does track down her dad?

BERGER | I think so. She’s going to go into [her search] totally unsure what to expect, and not thinking it will solve all her problems in life. But I think what’s so lovely about running into Barney is that it crystalizes some feeling she had deep within her — “this is a thing I want and now it’s time to go for it” — so, in that way, he serves this really lovely purpose for her that we’re really excited about.

Does the search for Sophie’s dad drive the second half of Season 2?

APTAKER | Yeah, we jump right back in and pick up with that thread. It’s a really lovely story because it lets the group come together, and they all rally behind our girl and decide that they’re going to help her with this pretty daunting task of trying to reconnect with your dad in your thirties. It’s a big ensemble story about tracking down Sophie’s dad and, hopefully, forming a relationship.
BERGER | I will add, though, just so people know: We’re still going to do stories about other stuff, and still do the funny, silly hangout stories that we’ve been doing in the first half of the season. But it’s definitely a big arc that we’re playing.

Will we meet Sophie’s dad before the end of Season 2?

APTAKER | We will! I don’t think we’re allowed to say who it is yet, but we’re super, super excited about it and we really love the storyline.

How I Met Your Father’ Producer Explains Crafting Less Crass Barney for Neil Patrick Harris’ Return

Is Barney Stinson really a changed man? Well, he’s trying to be! During Tuesday’s “How I Met Your Father” Season 2A finale, Sophie (Hilary Duff) sneaks away from Robert (John Corbett) when she thinks he may be her dad — and crashes right into “How I Met Your Mother” ladies man, Barney.

During the encounter, he reveals that he’s no longer the crass man he once was toward women, something that changed when he had his daughter. To reinforce that, he’s electrocuted every time he does make a comment — something Neil Patrick Harris’ physical comedy was absolutely perfect for.

“You write this much and then go, ‘Neil?’ and he fills in the rest,” director Pamela Fryman, who helmed nearly every episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and returned for “Father,” tells Variety.

Harris agrees: “I love to go to town on that. I’m a big physical comedy guy. It seemed like a great comedic method to acknowledge Barney’s shortcomings while still staying true to his core person… I thought that was a very smart call because it allowed recognition of the world and humanity and the way one is supposed to behave and yet, it’s still kept — in a comedic way — Barney’s engine is always running and revving. You can’t really stop it. As much as Robin tried, as much as fans might want, Barney’s Barney. That’s how he was designed.”

“How I Met Your Mother” aired on CBS from 2005 to 2014, and featured many storylines — almost all of Barney’s — that haven’t aged well. That was also part of the reason for the change in his character’s ways.

“‘How I Met Your Mother’ was a while ago. A lot has changed and people grow and but it’s Barney,” says Fryman. “We have to recognize this character that we’ve loved for so long. It seemed perfect to me.”

“How I Met Your Father”

While Harris didn’t “just blindly say yes” when asked to make a cameo, after a Zoom call and lining up timing, it felt both “lovely” and “surreal” to suit back up — especially with the arc that Sophie is going to start looking for her real father, just as Barney did.

“He’s having these conversations about a daughter seeking out a better relationship with her father as a new father of a daughter and sitting talking to female who’s as attractive as Hilary Duff, it’s innate Barney fodder,” says Harris. “He wants to say authentic things because he feels authentic things, but he’s saying it to someone that he would normally wants to say something crass to! That’s who he is. It was intrinsic and well written.”

He also felt an authenticity to the story as both he and Duff are parents in real life. “I’m now having a conversation with her now as a human who, 10 years ago, had little blobby babies that just kind of sat there. Now I have like a fully formed pre-teen daughter. So to be able to talk about those dynamics, I was definitely a changed actor when I was sitting there speaking all of that. It was nice to be able to have an authenticity to those scenes in a kind of weird, meta way,” he explains.

To make things even more personal, when Barney shows Sophie a photo of his daughter Ellie, it’s a picture of Harris’ 12-year-old daughter, Harper.

Harris and Duff had never worked together and it was fun to watch, Fryman recalls. “She was so nervous to meet Neil, so nervous to act with Neil. She was shaking. We had a bit of downtime because it was raining hard, so they got to talk and spend some time with each other. It was it was pretty magical.”

Of course, the door is open if Harris wants to bring Barney back again in the future.

“I think it’s Barney the movie,” Fryer jokes. Harris adds, “I think it’d be Barney, the spinoff. We can pull a straight-up ‘Frasier.’ Just call it ‘Stinson!’ Exclamation mark at the end.”

Neil Patrick Harris Explains Why Barney Stinson Is A Changed Man

Neil Patrick Harris talks about donning a suit to play Barney once again.

Talk about getting the call to reprise the role of Barney. Was it an immediate yes? Did you have to think about it?

Neil Patrick Harris: Pam Fryman, who was the den mother of How I Met Your Mother, directed almost all of them, is now the head and director of all of How I Met Your Father, texted me and said, ‘any interest?’ And I said, potentially, but I need to know more details, obviously. So I did a Zoom call with Pam and How I Met Your Father creators Isaac [Aptaker] and Elizabeth [Berger], and they sort of pitched an idea of how Barney could appear in a singular way and provide a bit of impact for Sophie, and at the same time reveal a bit about his current status. I thought that their conceit was clever and the timings worked out, so I said absolutely.

Did you want to include anything when you spoke with them in that conversation?

I just didn’t know them, and so I didn’t want to rely too much on past catchphrases and things of his vernacular. I did still want contemporary Barney to have some redeeming qualities and not just be sort of a burnout guy trying to still do the same thing that he did in the past again, over and over, as if he was just that singular. That was my only request, but I think that was a request made to people who were in total agreement. It wasn’t as if that was their plan, and I asked to change anything. I know I still respect all of Barney and didn’t want him just to be sort of the butt of the joke.

Speaking of catchphrases, I think challenge was used well.

Yes, indeed, in a clever way, which makes me happy because then fans of both shows can have an extra smile, but it doesn’t need to be a real jazz hand; lay it on thick punchline for sure.

How was it stepping back into Barney’s shoes, or rather, suit?

It was wistful and lovely. He got to wear nice, well-fitted suits, so on a sartorial level, I was pleased. But also, there was a lot of love and goodwill during the run of How I Met Your Mother, and an impressive amount of crew from that show are now crew members on How I Met Your Father. So I was not expecting to arrive and see so many familiar faces.

I knew I’d see Pam Fryman’s, and I was looking forward to that, but I had no idea that the assistant director’s department was the same, that the production, the design department was the same. And so to have a reunion with so many people and catch up with so many people made me feel a bit déjà vu-y that I was right kind of back where I was before. It was lovely. Everyone is still in such good spirits and such kind people.

Did you stop by the set for what is now the guys’ apartment?

Weirdly no. My scenes were all done, not even on that sound stage. We filmed at a whole other location outside in the actual street during an actual rainstorm in an area which is now being bulldozed and turned into sound stages. So it was kind of nice. We were on a backlot at Radford Studios. So no, I didn’t get to sit on the couch, and I’m glad because I probably would’ve stolen props and written awful things on Post-its on the refrigerator for them to read months later.

As we find out, Barney has that experimental electro-shock treatment with the ankle monitor, which clearly isn’t working very well. But this is a Barney who’s very much a work in progress when it comes to not being the man he used to be, even though he is now a father to Ellie. But he can get there, right?

That was the sweet spot that we wanted to hit was to recognize and acknowledge, but not necessarily neuter, right? Because part of Barney’s DNA is being quick with a potentially ill-timed or lewd punchline to what someone else is saying. That’s what he did for the whole run of How I Met Your Mother. So I applaud them for finding a mechanism with which he can be beholden to and trying to improve, but still inevitably sort of his same base self.

Even in his last line about Venmo, he can’t help but finish it even though he knows he’s going to be shocked.

For sure, for sure. He’s shocking in more ways than one, that Barney Stinson.

What do you think Barney saw in Sophie during their conversation? Obviously, both have issues with their fathers, though they have been handling it in different ways.

Barney has an undeniable sincere spot for the father-daughter relationship. So to hear from an adult female that she’s yearning for that same connection, I think, resonated with him; even though most of his advice is to be ignored, he [had] a thing or two to say with some positivity and commitment in that regard.

Talk about working with Hilary. I know you two knew each other before filming.

We did. I think she’s just amazing. She’s a multihyphenate, and the fact that one of those hyphenates is a mother of three, doing that full-time with kids of different ages and being so positive still on set and so present and so professional and a producer, it was a joy to see. I don’t know, I just assume, I guess, that when you’re going onto someone’s show, they don’t have to be the nicest person. They don’t have to even really be there very much. They can show up right before they are shooting. That’s allowed. They might have five other gigs; I don’t know them. And yet she was there, present, kind, helpful running lines with me, sharing stories. I couldn’t have felt more welcome, and it was rooted in a sincerity that was really appreciated.

Talk about that reunion with Pamela.

Pam’s just one of the great women in my life. I have a handful. My actual mother, Sheila, my original agent and manager, Booh Schut, and Pamela Fryman. She’s just a standup, remarkable individual. She was the guiding light for everyone for all of the How I Met Your Mother run. She’s a remarkable mother to her twin daughters. She was the officiant at my husband’s and my wedding. She’s just a really great human. She has an incredible knack for comedy, for maintaining authentic, lovely vibes with a crew. She’s everything, and so I do whatever she tells me whenever she asks. [Laughs]

Will we see you again this season?

No. We wanted it to be kind of a singular occurrence. I think the fact that Sophie can run into people that we have seen in the past — I guess literally run into them, in my case — and then have that be a moment for her as opposed to having that person become a participant in the story in a larger way helps tell this story in its singular form.

Are you ruling out returning in the future? Or if Pamela texts again, you might reconsider?

She has not yet. I don’t know, I think they’re waiting to see if they get picked up, so I really couldn’t say.

At this point, how do you remember How I Met Your Mother, especially after reprising Barney’s role on How I Met Your Father?

I just absolutely loved the whole chapter. It was a great time to be on television. We were on a network show that made it past the four-year mark and then syndication started, so we suddenly had some momentum and then before you knew it, we were in year nine and we’d all been together through relationships and deaths and births and all of it. And then Barney continued to be a sharp-dressed, whiskey-drinking, delusional cad told by an imperfect narrator. And so it was just a really fun thing to get to play. Every episode was a new crazy adventure, and Barney had so many costumes and characters and everything. It was the best kind of nuts sandbox to play in. I just loved it.

Harris first reprised Barney in a Season 2 premiere cameo.

In the episode, Future Sophie began to tell her son the story of how she hit “rock bottom.” We then cut back to the present timeline — albeit later in the year — to find 30-year-old Soph driving through the suburbs, frantically trying to make contact with Lori. “Mom, please call me back,” she said. “I think I’m dating my dad!” Distracted, she got into a fender bender. She got out to assess the damage, and that’s when viewers learned that the vehicle she dinged belonged to the “Barnacle.”

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Source: TV Line

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Chiara Lombatti
Chiara Lombatti
When Cristina Yang’s mankind hate, and Sherlock Holmes’ deductive skills meet Randall Pearson’s anxiety and Jamie Fraser’s multilingualism (featuring Claire Fraser’s curls and Kate Pearson’s voice). Translator and feature article with a great love for cinema, TV series and books.


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