Attention Britney Spears: You may want to watch out for Jason Segel.
"The writers were joking that Segel should just run up to Britney and try to make out with her," laughs How I Met Your Mother show runner Craig Thomas. "He has a movie coming out [Forgetting Sarah Marshall] and it could be, like, a $10-15 million bump in the opening weekend. Even if she’s like 'Get off me! What the f--k are you doing?!' "
This is just one idea the HIMYM boss and his crew joked around about to try and "spice up" what remains one of the most remarkably low-key sets in town—even with Britney in the house this week—and give the overhead helicopters something that's worth their time.
"Aerial photos of our set would be so boring—the writers were pitching ideas on how to spice 'em up a bit!"
(See? This is why we love the HIMYM writers. They be funny.)
Craig just phoned in to give me the full 411 on Britney's guest stint, how it happened, what it means for the show, what it means for Josh Radnor's ass crack (seriously), what happened with Alicia Silverstone and whether Britney will be back.
We even delved into this outrageous notion...Could Britney be "The Mother?" (The answer may surprise you!)
Read on for the full Q&A with Craig and all the scoop!
Hey, Craig! So what’s your week been like? Anything special going on?
Just a normal week. You know, typical. Same old nose to the grindstone. No helicopters flying over our sets trying to take pictures or anything like that. Or...wait! That’s exactly what’s happening.
Oh my God, are there really helicopters?
I kid you not. I’m not sure if I’m accurate in saying plural, but there was at least a helicopter. At least one, perhaps more.
Wow, it's like the O.J. chase or something. Right in your own backyard!
I know. Hoping for what? Hoping to get a shot of her walking 15 feet to her trailer. I think they got way more shots of Jason Segel smoking.
So, honestly, tell me, what's it been like working with Britney?
It’s been—I would describe it as surprisingly low-key. Just nice and normal and everything has been really calm. She’s good. We always do a run-through, which is always a little bit of an awkward endeavor at How I Met Your Mother, because we always have like 60 scenes, and it’s like this crew of people and executives and stuff walking around this set. And Britney really nailed it. She was really funny, and she really had kind of her own take on the character.
I’m sure it helps that your set is so homey and drama free.
I think we’re developing that reputation over time, because I know some other clients of her agent have worked on our show, and they’ve sort of passed that on to the agent and to her that it’s a really low pressure environment. She knows she's not in front of a live audience, and we just try stuff, and we do it. We do takes a bunch of times and get different versions and get it to be as good as it can, and I think that really appeals to her.
So, what did you think when Britney’s people asked if she could guest star?
I’ve got to say, I mean, from my writing perspective—everything is a little more last-minute than you want it to be, because we just had a week of prep for nine episodes that were unwritten. So it’s pretty crazy. And last week we were rewriting the script, and the role is like this messy, nerdy, adorable, spazzy receptionist who has a huge crush on Ted, and we’re talking about actresses who are sort of that type. You know, nerdy and messy and then it became...Britney Spears.
It is shocking when you’re writing a role like that, that’s probably the last name that would come into your head. But Britney came in and just embraced this role, it’s not like we had to change the idea of the role to fit her. She came in, wanted to act, wanted to play a character, and that’s just what she’s done. It’s been really good.
Did you have any hesitations at all about casting Britney?
Of course, you know, we have to think about it from a business perspective, too. You can’t say no to it when Britney Spears comes to you and says “I want to do a small, funny part on your show, and not have it be a big deal and you have to write me as the big star.” It’s like, of course you have to say yes to that. You don’t know what’s going to happen necessarily, but you say yes to it, and you’re excited about it. Then it’s turned out to be so kind of effortless and fun and just a really great week, so it paid off, it just really paid off.
What is the episode about?
I think it's the best romantic-comedy episode we've ever done. Abby [Britney] has a crush on Ted, but he’s completely oblivious to it, because he’s going after her boss, the dermatologist who is removing Ted’s tattoo from earlier in the season. That’s who Sarah Chalke is playing. Sarah Chalke is playing the dermatologist who’s removing his butterfly tattoo just above his ass crack. And the episode recounts the high degree of difficulty trying to impress a woman who is removing a butterfly right above our ass crack. And he’s smitten with her and just from a love-at-first-sight kind of moment with Sarah Chalke.
Can you talk about what happened with Alicia and Sarah stepping into the role?
Alicia doing the show was kind of a leak by TV Guide or something before it was a done deal. And then her thing just kind of shifted, she wasn’t available for this week. As I said, everything’s been so last-minute. We still would love to work with her at some point, and we’ve talked to her a couple of times. I would not rule out seeing her in a future episode, but it’s great, because Sarah was available, since Scrubs hasn’t started back up, and we’ve always, always, always wanted to work with her. We didn’t plan on making her be a doctor again. Sort of like Sarah is falling into this weird sort of realm like how Tony Danza has to play a character named Tony. Sarah Chalke, for some reason, must play a doctor.
Like she's not recognizable without the scrubs on.
She literally, I’m even making this up, brought her own Scrubs lab coat. She’s cool, and it’s tailored to her. Sarah Chalke is so great she shows up in her own costume.
That’s awesome! So what are the chances that Britney might come back for more episodes?
You know, it’s been a complete pleasure to work with her, and we would love to have her back. This episode ends with a really funny tag that I think sets up how you might see her coming back. I don’t want to give anything away.
She’s the mother, isn’t she?
You know what, we don’t rule out anything on this show.
How crazy would that be? Think about that, you came up with the concept so many years ago and now, all of a sudden you guys just say, let's just make the Mother Britney Spears.
Yeah, and the spinoff is How I Met Your Father, and it’s all from Britney Spears’ perspective and then you do five years of that.
I love it!
You know what, she seems to be having fun. I don’t rule anything out. I think people will be really surprised by how different the character is from the public perception of Britney Spears and also just how good she is at doing it.