By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—In 2005, CBS premiered “How I Met Your Mother,” a sitcom starring Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris. An instant hit with viewers, it ran for nine seasons. Now, Elizabeth Berger and Isaacs Aptaker, writers and executive producers on “This Is Us,” have collaborated on a follow up to that popular series with “How I Met Your Father.”
Set in the near future, Sophie (Kim Cattrall), while speaking with her son on the phone, decides it’s time that he knew how she met his dad. Flashback to 2022, where Sophie (Hilary Duff, “Lizzie McGuire, “Younger”) and her close-knit group of friends are searching for their perfect mates.
The new series streams on Hulu beginning Tuesday, Jan. 18. Duff, along with the sitcom’s creators and showrunners Aptaker and Berger, spoke with the TV Critics Association about their new sitcom, which they stress is not a reboot.
Q: Isaac, you and Elizabeth had a very fruitful working relationship on “This Is Us.” How did you go about creating this stand-alone sitcom sequel?
Isaac Aptaker: We started working on this show before “This Is Us” even began. Then, when “This Is Us” exploded on the screen and Dan Fogelman asked us to run it with him, we literally put (this show) on pause. It was like that mosquito that gets embedded in the tree sap in “Jurassic Park.” It was this script that no one had read or seen. (When) “This Is Us” (began) its final season, we were realizing, “Oh, we are about to have some time on our hands. What do we want to do next?”
Elizabeth Berger: We really didn’t want to do this one until we could do it right and give it our all, and we knew we could not do that while co‑running a giant show that would take all of our time and energy.
Q: How would you describe the series?
Aptaker: People keep referring to this show as a reboot. It’s not a reboot. I went on a deep dive on Wikipedia, and I learned this is what’s called a “stand-alone sequel,” which means that it’s set in the world of the previous show, but it’s really its own thing.
Q: How did you cast Hilary Duff for the lead?
Aptaker: Serendipitously, Hilary was coming up for air off of (the TV series) “Younger.” The studio was very clear and vocal with us that, “We want Hilary’s next show. Whatever it is, we want her at Disney Television.” So, they set up a meeting for us, and this show came together.
Q: Can you talk about what Pam Fryman, who directed most the episodes for “How I Met Your Mother,” brings to the series?
Berger: It is not an exaggeration to say that we could not have done this without Pam Fryman. The way she leads with warmth, grace, brilliance and makes it look effortless—what a gift it was for all of us.
Q: You put in a reference to “How I Met Your Mother.” Are you going to do any other small references that fans should keep an eye out for?
Aptaker: There’s going to be lots of little rewards for people who love the original if they stick with us, that will satisfy people who never have seen “How I Met Your Mother.”
Q: Hilary, it seems like you’ve been able to portray young women at very specific stages in life in very specific periods of time. What was it about this moment that you wanted to capture in “How I Met Your Father?”
Hilary Duff: First of all, I’m extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to play Sophie. I am attracted to parts that are extremely relatable. This one happens to touch on trying to find love in this world that we live in with all the options that there are, and how hard it is to meet someone face‑to‑face.
Even though I’m in a totally different place in my life, I just felt like I was drawn to Sophie and that we had a lot in common. She doesn’t give up. She’s struggling; odds are against her in her career, but she’s leaning on (her friends and they) have all of these experiences that young people have, just trying to find their footing.
Q: Most shows take a season or two to find their way. How different is it to come into this show that already has an established format?
Duff: The original show did an amazing job, but we are our own show. We are trying to create something original by stealing a few things from them that worked really well. But this is a new format for all of us. The entire cast (had) never done multi-cam before. I think having someone like Pam Fryman lead us into that journey was so helpful, and we clicked pretty fast. We just hope that that magic comes across.
Q: What do you hope that women get from the series as they see Sophie try to find love?
Duff: Just that they are not alone. It’s brutal out there. It’s so relatable, I can’t tell you how many friends I have that are in that space.
As you get into the (series), it’s not just about Sophie’s story. We are diving into each one of these characters, and watching these bonds happen. The show is about friendship. It’s funny, it’s real and we get some little tug‑on‑the‑heart‑string moments for sure.