Paleyfest is alive and kicking at the prestigious Dolby theater in Hollywood, but not even hundreds of screaming fans at the site of the Oscars could get the creators or stars of "How I Met Your Mother" to give up any details on the super-secretive series finale. With only two episodes left until the one-hour season finale of CBS' long-running sitcom (including tonight's episode, titled "Gary Blauman," which everyone in the theater got to see in advance Saturday night), creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, executive producer and director Pamela Fryman, and stars Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan, Cobie Smulders and Cristin Milioti all sat down for a panel discussion moderated by recurring star Wayne Brady at Paleyfest in the Dolby Theater. The conversation leaned heavily on nostalgia, with many thanks and memories being shared. These were the highlights:
Neil Patrick Harris appeared on the panel via Skype and took off his clothes.
In accordance with his character Barney Stinson, Neil Patrick Harris made a surprise appearance at the Dolby Theater after fans initially thought he wouldn't be coming because of his ongoing play in New York, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Piping in from his hotel room between shows, Harris was given just enough time to thank the fans for coming and supporting the show before he stripped off his clothes in preparation to change into his stage garb for a surprise staging on Manhattan's Lower East Size. Before he signed off, Harris took a moment to issue a heartfelt thanks to each person on stage.
"Carter and Craig, you are the two greatest bosses a person could ever ask for. Aly, you are the heart of the show. It's been a joy to know you for all these years. Josh, you are the soul of the show and I'm so blessed to be able to play your best friend," Harris said, emphasizing the last words to illustrate the ongoing battle for Ted's friendship between Barney and Marshall (Jason Segal). "Cristin, I don't think any of us could have asked for a better person to play the mother. I can't wait to see where your career goes. Cobie, there is no one in my life -- there's no girl -- in my life I would rather [interrupted by laughter]. I will cherish the time I've been able to spend with you on screen and off. Most of all to every who is there, we really deeply cared about the content of the nine seasons of our show. We adore you."
Though he nearly forgot, Harris returned quickly to thank Fryman, calling her "the greatest director I've ever had the opportunity to work with" and she's "changed all of our lives for the better."
The cast's favorite moments from the final season:
Neil Patrick Harris: "...getting to say my vows to Robin Scherbatsky was a highlight."
Alyson Hannigan: "The last episode was shot over two weeks, but for scheduling reasons we had to shoot all of Jason's scenes in the first week and that was all of my scenes, too. That was my final week, really. There were just a lot of...'I can't say' moments because they'll give something away, but...there's a bedroom scene, and I thought, 'Wow, this is the last time I'm going to lying in bed with this bozo.'"
Critsin Meloti, who landed the coveted casting of "the mother" last year, said, "The last scene that I filmed was the scene that I tested with, and it --" "...stunk," interrupted Radnor. "That was the scene that I tested with on the scene in the apartment when I had no idea what I was getting into, or even what role I was testing for -- though I had a suspicion -- but I could barely get through it."
The moment they realized they finally made it as a show:
Carter Bays: "One of my favorite moments in the series was when we did the two-minute date. It was a great moment because not only was it really cool to see on TV this continuous shot of these two people going through the motions of this entire date, [but] it was just fun to see our whole crew with Pam in mission control operating like a mission launch."
Craig Thomas: "All of the musical numbers we've gotten away with doing. The yellow umbrella moment this year was amazing. That's what Cristin was talking about, and that was the last thing we ever shot on 'How I Met Your Mother' -- the train platform and the yellow umbrella, the meeting moment. Spoiler: he does meet the mother at some point."
Cobie Smulders: "The big moment for me was filming 'Let's Go to the Mall'...[applause]. I don't know what I did to deserve it. I convinced these two I could sing. I'm okay in the shower and in the car on the way to work, but it was just such an unusual moment playing a character who's playing this character. It was just a blast."
Alyson Hannigan: "On the pilot, it didn't happen on set, but it just had this feeling. I walked outside, and [I think] I was with our cameraman Bruce, and there were just hundreds of butterflies. It was so beautiful, and I just really at that moment thought, 'If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.'"
Josh Radnor on what he learned from playing Ted:
"People assume you're playing some version of yourself, which is really not true. It's an accident that Carter and I are both from Ohio. I was looking for ways to identify, and it became more fun when I started to think of him as this other thing and I could lean into his goofiness. Some days [Ted] was like my annoying younger brother. 'What are you doing now? Don't do that.' Other days I was like, 'Wow. This guy. I'm learning a lot from this guy. He's heroic and optimistic and persistent, sometimes in the wrong direction, but he really goes for it.' So I feel like he's been a teacher for me."
He went on to say, "Another thing that was kind of interesting to me from a larger perspective is, because the characters doesn't get a win -- a big win -- 'til the end and was constantly getting knocks, I never had a moment where I felt like, 'Woo! Hollywood!' I always felt like he was a teacher of humility for me. I know that sounds a little silly, but he really kept my pride in check because he was going through a lot and I had to honor him and be with all that. Sometimes it was really hard, and sometimes I didn't want to be playing that, if I'm being on honest. Other times, I felt I was the luckiest guy in the world."
Cobie Smulders on the genesis of Robin as a Canadian:
Smulders said the creators came to her and said, "'Cobie, we think you're an awesome person. We think you're the bee's knees. We really like the fact that you're Canadian, and we want to make Robin Canadian so we can talk about universal health care and schools and all this stuff.' I think the next week I got one really small five-line speech about the greatness that is Canada and then it's been all aboot that."
Alyson Hannigan on why aspiring actresses should "get other hobbies."
There were many touching moments throughout the hour and a half panel discussion Saturday night, including the whole gang recording a congratulatory message for a newly engaged couple on a friend's phone and everyone signing autographs after the show. But when a young girl asked Hannigan for advice on how to become a professional actress, the "Buffy the Vampire" veteran provided some hard truths: "I was a child actor, and it sucked," Hannigan said. "Definitely get other hobbies, but don't take the criticism to heart. I was told I wasn't funny enough to be on television when I was a kid. I could not get a "Saved by the Bell" call back to save my life. As long as you love it, it's totally worthy it. I hope you have good parents."
Favorite running gag throughout the show:
Alyson Hannigan: "Thank you, Linus," from the show's current season when Lily is constantly provided a drink by a hotel steward.
Cobie Smulders: "I really like the repetition of numbers. We have a lot of 83 percent's thrown in there really subtly. I like that."
Josh Radnor: "I'm a huge fan of the interventions. They clearly got a professional banner made for an intervention about Lily's British accent. They take it very seriously. And I like telepathic talking."
In which they give us one answer about the final episode (kind of):
A fan expressed their love of the show's big musical numbers and asked if there would be one more before the series ended. "I won't confirm or deny another big musical episode -- but no," Thomas said (to be honest, I couldn't tell in the room if he was serious about that no or not).