Last night CBS announced that it had found a lead for “How I Met Your Dad,” the planned spinoff of its longrunning sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” currently in its ninth and final season. That actress is none other than Greta Gerwig, indie darling and Mumblecore queen, who joins the project coming off of her highest profile role yet in the Noah Baumbach charmer “Frances Ha,” which she co-wrote with Baumbach. “How I Met Your Mother” creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have written a script for the pilot of “How I Met Your Dad” with Emily Spivey (“Up All Night”), and should it get ordered to series, which it’s very likely to, Gerwig will be helping to write the show and will receive a producer credit in addition to starring.
It’s without a doubt the biggest role Gerwig’s been given to date, and there was an immediate outcry on Twitter about the news, with the main gist being that this project is a waste of the actress’ talents and that it finds her “selling out.” The surprise is understandable — of all of the roles to serve as Gerwig’s mainstream breakout, a CBS sitcom that’s essentially a gender-flipped copy of a preexisting show doesn’t sound like the most promising of vehicles in terms of creative innovation. But the idea that taking on this project drains Gerwig of any interest as an actress seems particularly unfair, as does the idea that she should be obligated to only take parts that meet some mythical level of artistic integrity.
Gerwig, at age 30, has spent eight years in the indie trenches, acting in projects that have gotten attention — like “The House of the Devil” and “Greenberg” — and others that haven’t. She’s already been in two “sell out” roles, as the love interest to Russell Brand in the terrible 2011 “Arthur” remake and as one of the far more interesting friends of lead Natalie Portman in the equally terrible “No String Attached,” both of which suggest that Hollywood, with its limited imagination, has little sense of what to do with her. And she can’t have a career working only with Noah Baumbach.
We have very little idea what kind of offers Gerwig has gotten since “Francis Ha” other than the ones she’s accepted, and such is the career of an actor that you’re largely dependent on other people’s projects until you write and direct your own or you reach such a high level that you’re able to help make things happen simply by agreeing to participate in them. And from Deadline‘s account, “How I Met Your Dad” is a project that’s been very focused on getting Gerwig on board — such that the studio, 20th Century Fox TV, agreed to move production of the series to New York should it get greenlit. And for what it’s worth, as much as “How I Met Your Mother” has overstayed its welcome, it’s also been hugely successful without being all-encompassing for its cast in terms of what they’re able to work on. During its run, Jason Segel has managed to act in “The Five-Year Engagement,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and plenty of others, some of which he also scripted. For that matter, series star Josh Radnor has written and directed two features.
There’s no way to know yet if “How I Met Your Dad” is going to be good or a stinker, but Gerwig’s involvement in the writing process suggests that she’ll be able to bring some of her own sensibility to bear on the project. And either way, why preemptively begrudge her a well-paid gig that will also raise her profile considerably? She’s already got two new films in the works — Barry Levinson’s “The Humbling,” with Al Pacino, which recently wrapped production, and Rebecca Miller’s latest “Maggie’s Plan,” with Julianne Moore.