‘How I Met Your Mother’: 5 Love Interest Characters Who Benefitted from Serious IRL Nepotism
How I Met Your Mother was one of the most incestuous shows outside of House of the Dragon. There was Ted and Robin, Robin and Barney, Barney and Ted’s girlfriend’s receptionist, Barney and Lily’s boobs, etc. (Okay, it was a lot of Barney.) You might think that might lead to some behind-the-scenes bagpipe playing, but sadly, there’s no evidence of any interstellar bang-bang-bangity-banging. It didn’t help that only one of the cast members was gay and half of them were married.
That’s only among the Fab Five, though. Those IRL spouses I just mentioned? They actually all appeared on the show at some point, but whether they were dreaded exes, ill-conceived flings or ambivalence-evoking foils, they never played their spouse’s spouse. One star even met their next partner when they guest-starred as their pretend partner.
More like How I Met My Girlfriend, amirite?
Denisof, who played Robin’s sleazy nightly news co-anchor Sandy Rivers, is married to Alyson Hannigan. They met on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Denisof played substitute watcher Wesley Wyndam-Price, in 1999 and married in 2003, two years before How I Met Your Mother premiered. Yes, Willow married knockoff Giles. There’s your first mind-blowing fact. (He wasn’t the only Buffy alum to show up on How I Met Your Mother, either: Seth Green, two of those apocalypse nerds, and several others had guest-starring roles.)
The role of Sandy Rivers, whose pathological sex-having was possibly even more questionable than Barney’s and who was eventually exiled to Russia for unspecified grossness, was apparently comically different from the real-life Denisof, who Hannigan has described as “the most romantic husband.” One of their daughters was even cast as Lily and Marshall’s baby, but by the time filming rolled around, she’d gotten too old and had to be replaced, which Hannigan jokingly decried as blatant “ageism.”
Casting Burtka as Lily’s high school boyfriend, Scooter, who she dated because he looked a little like Kurt Cobain and dumped before the picture at prom, only for him to spend the next decade and change trying to win her back, ended up having a lot more consequences than anyone intended. It shouldn’t have been controversial — Burtka had been on Broadway for years, even performing alongside Bernadette Peters (that’s Broadway’s Meryl). A sitcom guest spot is the next stop on the acting evolutionary chart, but it got out that he was dating Neil Patrick Harris at the time, which was a problem because Harris hadn’t actually come out yet.
It wasn’t exactly a secret — Harris was also primarily a Broadway actor at that point, and not to play into stereotypes, but no straight man could have made us actually like Barney — but for whatever reason, he hadn’t felt the urge to tell the world, stating, “The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently, I have been able to live a pretty normal life.” After rumors that he’d gotten Burtka the job, he came out to the media, a decision he seems to resent being forced to make, later commenting, “The coming out process, I just feel strongly … that it’s no one's right to dictate any of it.” There’s a happy ending, though: elaborate family Halloween costumes.
Gary Blauman was such a notorious character that he had a whole episode named after him when he showed up to Barney and Robin’s wedding unannounced and no one could decide if they should let him stay because everyone either loved or hated him. But his first appearance was all the way back in Season One. In fact, he was one of the few bit characters who showed up from the beginning of the show to the end, which is pretty strange. It’s hard to get guest stars to commit to a role over the course of nine years — they usually become absorbed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point.
Killam was trapped, though, specifically by his wife, Cobie Smulders. They started dating in 2005, right when the show began, and got engaged four years later. Killam’s longevity allowed his character to play a clever role in the show’s history — for example, in the Season Three episode “The Chain of Screaming,” Barney tells a story about Blauman that ends with his death, which is proven to be a lie when Blauman shows up again in the very next season. Maybe that’s why Barney hates Gary Blauman.
Remember Cathy? Of course, you don’t. She only appeared in one episode, Season Four’s “Spoiler Alert,” as the woman Ted is dating that week, whose incessant chatter the gang can’t bring themselves to bring up to Ted because his “blind spot” doesn’t let him see (or rather, hear) it. Yeah. You remember her now.
Ted runs into Cathy years later, much like Josh Rador ran into Price about a year and a half after her appearance, but the reunions had very different outcomes. Whereas Ted finds that Cathy has become happily engaged to a deaf man, Radnor and Price began dating. “He’s the light in the dark space,” she said in 2009, gushing that he’d helped her prepare for an upcoming role as a TV witch by buying her a “dictionary about witch terms.” Major Ted move.
Unfortunately, the couple was the only one to split during the show’s run, reportedly because “they have different lifestyles. He’s a bit of a homebody, while she likes to go out and have fun.” It’s a damn shame. It would have been such a good story for their future kids.