At the very end of the season 2 premiere of the spin-off of the iconic comedy (now streaming on Hulu), original HIMYM star Neil Patrick Harris suited back up as Barney Stinson. While future Sophie (Kim Cattrall) references a moment still to come where current Sophie (Hilary Duff) will hit rock bottom in her love life later that year, the show flashes forward to her frantically leaving a voicemail for her mom freaking out that she's dating her father before rear-ending the car in front of her... which has a license plate that reads "LGNDRY." Out steps Barney, and he just says, "Duuuude," as his bumper falls off. When future Sophie's son asks, "Wait, who's that?" she coyly replies, "We'll get there soon enough."
Harris is the second HIMYM series regular to pop up on HIMYF after Cobie Smulders appeared in the season 1 finale. Showrunners Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger tell EW they have plans to bring back every single member of the OG crew to the spin-off eventually. Below, they break down Harris' cameo, what it means for the rest of this season, their future plans for more appearances, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Barney's return on HIMYF come about?
ELIZABETH BERGER: We're always so excited at the prospect of having anyone from the original on. We had an idea on how to use Barney this season that was really exciting to us very early. From there, we very quickly looped in [original HIMYM director] Pam Fryman, who texted him and said, "Do you want to come hang?" Because everyone adores Pam so, so much, she got a very speedy response. We got on a zoom with Neil and pitched him our idea for it and it fell into place very quickly, which was amazing.
Was it always the plan to save Barney's cameo for season 2? How did you decide to bring in Robin first, then Barney?
ISAAC APTAKER: We talked about what makes the most sense for the story and where Sophie's at. In season 1, it felt like that Robin encounter was really organic to what she needed to hear at that time in her life. Similarly, in season 2, it's going to take a while for the exact situation to reveal itself, but once we fold back around to that Barney moment people will see that he's the exact right person that she needed to run into at that point in her story. There's a little bit of a cosmic sense of her meeting the characters from the original right when she needs them the most. We're well aware fans of the original want to know where these characters are in their lives now and get those Easter eggs, but it's so much more satisfying if in addition to revealing all that, they can serve a really integral role in Sophie's journey. So we're always looking to check both of those boxes.
Does that mean we can expect to see all the other main OG HIMYM characters in cameos in the future?
BERGER: Yes, absolutely. We truly have discussed plot lines for all of the original characters. Now it's just a question of parsing them out and hoping that people are available and want to do it when it's the right time to ask. But yes, we think it's so much fun and it makes our world bigger and it satisfies fans on a really deep level, so we love to do it and we have the ideas.
APTAKER: And our cast gets so excited too. Hilary was so excited to work with Neil. They messaged a little bit and he interviewed her back when we launched the show last year. They have so much in common — they both were these giant TV stars when they were still in middle school and now they've both fronted the How I Met series. They have these shared experiences and them getting to share the screen was really special.
From the short scene in the premiere, it's clear there's more to come with Barney. What can you tease about his future on HIMYF?
BERGER: That was really truly just a little tease but we do have some really meaty stuff coming. More is coming. By the time his appearance on our show is over, people will feel really satisfied by what they've seen.
How is meeting Barney going to impact Sophie? Why is he the right person she needs to meet now?
APTAKER: It sends her in a totally new direction, which becomes the engine for a big chunk of our season. He's really seminal in setting Sophie on the path she needs to be on to continue her journey to come of age and find love. I'm really excited for how his character changes Sophie's life and the totally new direction that he sends her on.
It's been a while since we last saw Barney onscreen in HIMYM and society has changed so much since then, and as a result, so has the way in which we critique pop culture. How did you want to evolve Barney to fit where we are today to make him less problematic in current standards?
BERGER: It's something we thought a lot about and we knew it was something that was very important to Neil as well, that if he were to return he would want to feel like the creative was right and do service to the original character while also recognizing that things have changed and the time that we live in now. And that's what we tried to do. We were really proud of the creative and the way his character is handled and our hope is that How I Met Your Mother fans will really feel like they're seeing the character that they loved and knew but also like he is existing in a 2023 world. We did our best and we hope people are into it.
Did you film all of Neil's scenes at once, or did he return multiple times to keep filming his arc?
APTAKER: He is the busiest guy. He said yes to this very immediately and then getting into actually finding a chunk of time in his schedule — I mean, he does everything. Not just acting but magic, being a dad… If one day of my life is as interesting as the most boring day of Neil's, I would be very happy. So we shot all his stuff in one go. It was right in the middle [of the season]. We filmed it on the Warner Ranch, this iconic suburban studio backlot where they did Bewitched and the Friends fountain opening credits, these amazing sitcom moments happened there so it was extra special in that sense. We actually just found out it's getting torn down.
BERGER: We were very excited — we didn't know it was being torn down and once we learned it that night we were very sad about it. We were blessed to be a part of that Hollywood legacy before it got torn down.
There's a big fan theory that Barney could be Sophie's long-lost father, but since Sophie turned 30 in 2022, she was born in 1992, and Barney had sex for the first time in 1999, so the math doesn't line up. Are you able to officially debunk that theory, or could it still be possible that Barney is Sophie's father?
APTAKER: Yeah, we can debunk that, just based on the fact of the math of it. He would be something like a sophomore in high school. It's not really the story that we're trying to tell.
BERGER: We never like to dispel a theory because we love a good fan theory but because How I Met Your Mother fans are so diehard and so good at tracking the timelines, and our fans are as well now, we can safely say that that is not the case and he is not the father.
Having his license plate read "LGNDRY" was such a nice touch. Were there any other Easter eggs you brainstormed that didn't make it on screen?
APTAKER: "LGNDRY" we settled on right away, but there was a lot of debate on what kind of car Barney would drive. We all thought it would be definitely something European, something very high end, and something dark.
BERGER: With Neil, everything was a discussion, like what is playing in his car? What is he wearing? We really talked about everything we could plant, but also you don't want the moment to be so distracting that people are just staring at the screen seeing everything that they can point to. But yeah, every detail of what was going to be shown was discussed ad nauseam.
APTAKER: As was picking out the suit. Barney is so known for his suits and and making sure that it looked great, which is not hard with Neil, but that it was like a perfect Barney suit if we're going to revisit the character. Our costume designer, who's fantastic, felt the pressure of making sure she nailed it. She had, on the day, so many different shirt and tie options to make sure that everyone was crazy about the one that wound up on screen.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
How I Met Your Father season 2 debuts new episodes Tuesdays on Hulu.
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