Josh Radnor was one of the few people who knew how How I Met Your Mother would end from the very beginning. "They had mentioned to me the twist about the mother in the first season, and I kind of put it out of my head," said the TV star, whose character, Ted, ended the series by asking out Cobie Smudlers' character, Robin, several years after the death of his first wife, Tracy, played by Cristin Milioti.
Speaking to Vulture after the divisive series finale, Radnor said, "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, 39, noted that the writers intentionally dropped hints. "It's not that people cracked some code," he said, acknowledging that some viewers correctly predicted Ted would end up with Robin. "They were laying that in, so that it would be discussed and slightly less jarring for people."
"It was going to be shocking no matter what and they wanted to soften it a little bit or at least get people talking about it," he said. "There were a couple of hints along the way: Ted's big speech to the mother in 'The Time Travelers.' That was the first time I heard people talking about that possibility."
What does he have to say to fans who felt tricked by the Tracy-Robin shift? "I haven't had a lot of time to prep a defense if that's what you're asking for," Radnor laughed. "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."
"Part of the DNA of the show is they lead you one way and then they pull you back," the actor explained. "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."
"There are so many opinions floating around. There have always been people that thought that Barney [Neil Patrick Harris] and Robin were perfect together, there have always been people that thought it didn't make sense. There are people that wanted Ted and Robin to be together. There are people that thought they didn't work together. So I just feel that part of the divisiveness and part of the anger and also part of the enthusiasm all speaks to something really great. I think if you're going do something new and bold and daring, you're going to upset some people and you're gonna thrill others. I think it's better to do that than try to have some homogenized, safe ending that was never really what the show was," he added. "The show was always bold and daring and questioning assumptions and leading you where you thought you didn't want to go, but realized at the end that that was where you belonged."
Though not everyone is happy with the way How I Met Your Mother wrapped up, Radnor is pleased with how things turned out for his character. "I'm a fan of the finale and obviously I'm a fan of the show. I think people are having to deal with grief on a number of levels. There's grief in the episode, but then there's grief at letting the show go," the writer-director told Vulture. "People are in various Kubler-Ross stages of grieving and when they contextualize it and step back and maybe even watch the finale again or revisit the show, I think when the dust settles people will feel pretty complete."