In a lengthy interview with Vulture, Josh Radnor — who plays Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother — spoke at length about last night’s series finale of the show, addressed some of the problems people had with it, and spoke to the backlash. The sense I very much got from the full interview is that Radnor — like a lot of viewers — wasn’t completely sold on the end, either.
On how long he knew about the ending:
They had mentioned to me the twist about the mother in the first season, and I kind of put it out of my head. I didn’t know if they would actually want to come back to it and do that, especially after Cristin, because she was so wonderful and the fans seemed to really take to her. So I asked them “Are you guys still doing that?” And they said yeah.
Radnor also suggested that the reason some people were able to predict the end was because Craig Thomas and Carter Bay designed it that way to kind of soften the blow so that it wouldn’t come as too much of a shock (as to the mother’s death, everyone figured that, but as to the Robin twist, that would’ve been a blow difficult to soften no matter how much lead-up time viewers had to prepare).
There was also a scene that was cut between Robin and Ted in a diner, which Radnor thought would’ve helped viewers better understand the Robin twist, and wouldn’t have given viewers any sort of impression that Ted had been thinking about Robin the whole time he was with Tracey.
They cut a scene that Cobie [Smulders] and I shot between Ted and Robin. I thought it was a really important scene and I talked to Carter and Craig [Bays and Thomas, HIMYM’s co-creators and co-showrunners] about it. I understand why they cut it, but I thought it laid in that Robin had been thinking about Ted all these years more than Ted had been thinking about Robin. But who knows?
It’s weird to speculate on something that isn’t actually real. [Laughs.] It’s an imagined story, but you also have to wonder what happened in the six years after she died and what was that like for Ted. Obviously, he’s been mulling over his past and sifting through things. And there was that comment about Robin always coming over for dinner, so they’ve clearly reestablished a contact and a deep friendship.
As for the fake-out in the end? Radnor tried to put the best face he could on it:
I thought the title of the show was always a bit of a fake-out. It was more of a hook to hang the thing on. Really it was more about these are the crazy adventures and these are the lessons I had to learn before I met your mother.
But, also, part of the DNA of the show is they lead you one way and then they pull you back. You think you’re watching one thing in an episode and then it turns out you’re watching something completely different. I think that the twists in the finale were in keeping with that.
Two other points from the interview that I found particularly interesting. One, that Radnor also had some difficulties with the character at times, and this statement actually better allowed me to better separate the actor from the character:
[Ted] frustrated me. Some of the frustrations that people might have felt with him, I felt all those, too, except when you share a face with someone you get blamed for it. When he was being heroic or something, I was really behind him, but when he was being kind of silly, I had to play him just as sincerely.
Finally, I think there Radnor spoke to something that Steven Lloyd Wilson had written in defense of Ted Mosby, which is to say: He was the narrator, and it was really rather remarkable that he so often gave his friends the heroic roles in his own story, and himself that of the foil.
Something I actually found really appealing about Ted is he’s a totally self-deprecating narrator. All Barney’s stories are, “This is how awesome I was” and “This is how awesome the night was,” and Ted is like, “This is what a fool I made of myself,” and “This is how I made these mistakes, really big mistakes in my life.” He’s a humble person and in some ways he has taught me humility. He was never a character that you felt like he’d just walk into a room and heads turn, “There’s Ted!” No, he’s like bumping into furniture all the time. But he’s great, and he wins in the end; he gets both girls.
Given Radnor’s soft defense, I’d hate to hear what Jason Segel — a seemingly reluctant participant in the final season — had to say.