An interview with Craig Thomas, executive producer of ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Carter Bays and Craig Thomas at the HIMYM set visit last week

Carter Bays and Craig Thomas at the HIMYM set visit last week

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Last week when I was in Pasadena for the semi-annual Television Critics Association Press Tour, we all had the chance to visit the set of How I Met Your Mother. As most of you know, I’ve never missed an episode of the series. And while it has tried my patience at times (especially this season), the show remains one of my favorites. I have a deep and abiding affection for Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily and Barney.

After the press conference, I got the chance to talk to series co-creator and executive producer Craig Thomas along with a few other critics. As always, Thomas was very gracious. In the many times I’ve talked to him over the years, one thing is abundantly clear – Thomas and his co-creator and executive producer, Carter Bays, truly appreciate their fans. The series comes to its conclusion in an one hour series finale on March 31. Read the interview with Thomas below:

It was so fun to see so many of Barney’s ex-girlfriends return in “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmara.” Will we be seeing more familiar faces?

Craig Thomas: We do want it to be a curtain call. How I Met Your Mother has a great guest cast. Here’s people that are definitely coming back in the remaining episodes – Tim Gunn [as himself], Roger Bart [the hotel front desk clerk], Rachel Bilson [the Mother’s former roommate], Lucy Hale [Robin’s sister Katie], Kyle MacLachlan [The Captain], Abby Elliot [Ted’s bad crazy ex-girlfriend Jeannette], Bill Fagerbakke [Marshall’s deceased dad], Sarah Chalke [Ted’s ex-fiancee Stella], Ashley Williams (Ted’s ex-girlfriend Victoria] and Jon Heder [new character]. He auditioned for The Goodwin Games, we almost cast him. He’s going to come be on the show.

Here are the remaining episode titles – “How Your Mother Met Me” [the 200th episode next week which will chronicle what the Mother has been up to for the last eight years], “Sunrise,” “Rally,” “Vesuvius” [which was the word Ted was playing in the crossword puzzle at the end of the season nine premiere], “Daisy,” “Gary Blauman” [the name of Taran Killam’s character, he’s an employee at Barney’s company] “The End of the Aisle” and our hour long finale is called “Last Forever.”

A lot of fans have complained that we haven’t seen the Mother as much as we thought we would. Will be seeing her more as the series heads towards its finale?

Thomas: The funny thing is we’re seeing her so much more than we would have if the series ended in year eight. Whenever we read that we’re like ‘Oh my God. We’re seeing her exponentially more. Thank God for season nine.’ People would have been so upset to get less of her.  [Cristin Milioti] is unbelievably charming and sweet and wonderful. You see this actress and you want to see more. She has helped fuel that by being so wonderful. She fits into the chemistry of this cast perfectly. I’ll say this: Some people want to see even more of her. We always wanted it to be special for year nine when you saw her. You tune in and you don’t see her in an episode and maybe you were a little disappointed but maybe that’s okay because that makes you want to see her the next week and you’re excited. Our biggest fear is what if people see too much of her and it’s not special any more. The movies Jaws worked because you were just seeing a fin for so long. We modeled season nine after Jaws basically.

Will we learn the Mother’s name?

Thomas: You’ll hear it before we’re done, I just don’t want to say exactly how and when. It’s a choice we’ve made on how to present that and I don’t want to spoil it. We’ve known it for awhile. You know I would tell you if I could.

What about Robin’s mom? Will we meet her?

Thomas: There’s an episode coming up about the fact that Robin’s mom hasn’t come to the wedding and the entire crux of that is Lily really wants Robin to be upset about it. Lily thinks Robin needs this emotional catharsis about this fact – what a big deal for a parent not to come to their kid’s wedding.

You taped the ending to the entire series with Ted’s kids in season two?

Thomas: At the beginning of year two we realized these kids [Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, who play Ted’s children] were aging. We knew what their piece of the puzzle at the very end game of the show would be and we knew we had to grab it and we did.

One of the two actors absolutely remembered the 2006 scripts that is a crucial part of how the series ends and one of them didn’t remember because we had made them sign confidentiality forms, we cleared out the set, we had one camera man, and we cleared out everybody else.

David remembered it and Lyndsy didn’t. She was like, ‘You were so adamant that we should never talk about it that I deleted it from my brain.’

And in all these years, the ending has never changed?

Thomas: That very end piece we never changed that part. We’re so glad we shot it. The last two minutes of the series is what we always planned. We hope people like it. At the very least we can stand by it, we didn’t ever change it.

Did you ever fear viewers, who are so devoted, would guess the ending?

Thomas: Of course there’s that fear. People guess every possible outcome. People were guessing post–apocalypse, they’re beneath the earth’s crust and hiding from a poison environment. Every iteration has been guessed and there are moments where we’re nervous about it.  But ultimately we didn’t want to change anything.

I’m not going to confirm or deny [anything]. What you see on March 31 has been the plan all along and we hope that people we’ll see why we did it that way. We leave the series with a certain message that we wanted to convey and ultimately we wanted the entire series to turn out to be about and it’s a very positive message.

How are you feeling as you guys head toward the finale?

Thomas: [I was writing the penultimate episode over the holidays] and I was just a mess.I was absolutely a mess. There’s some really nice Marshall and Lily stuff in it that always hits closer to home for me. It’s no longer based on my wife and I really but at the same time it was based on my wife and I. I feel like that episode especially is one of our goodbyes to them. They’re in the final hour for sure but they get a really nice send off in that episode.

What else can you tell us about the final episodes?

Thomas: We wanted all of these characters to have their proper curtain call. We wanted it to remain interesting. We didn’t want to do -it’s the end of the series and everything’s perfect and the last few episodes we’re just coasting to the finish line. We wanted to tell a dramatic story with surprises and ups and downs. You’ll see some moments of drama between these characters and then moments of deep deep connection. We’re How I Met Your Mother. We’re a time machine of a show. So you’re going to get to see their future and it makes me cry every time. I hope it makes the audience feel that way too.

How are you feeling about HIMYM these days? I loved this week’s episode – especially Barney’s shout out to the Mo Willem’s children’s book Knuffle Bunny (“Aggle, Flaggle, Klabble”). And I’m working on a new theory – maybe, as I’ve feared since last season, the Mother isn’t dead when Ted is telling Penny and Luke (!!) his story. Maybe she’s in surgery/in a medical crisis and he begins to tell his kids the story to distract them while they await news. Thomas did say last week during the press conference that we will learn why Ted started telling the story when he did.

Do you have a theory about how HIMYM will end? Did this interview make you change your mind? Talk about HIMYM below.