Producers filmed the climactic scene of CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" finale eight years ago, fearing the actors involved would
become unrecognizable, and have kept it under wraps ever since.
The Monday-night comedy concludes after nine seasons on
March 31 with a one-hour episode.
The comedy's central conceit is that it's a story told by
actor Josh Radnor's character, Ted, to his teenage children about how their mom
and dad met. The children, played by David Henrie and Lyndsy Fonseca, were
depicted in the series' early days sitting on a couch, shifting uncomfortably
in boredom as their dad narrated the long-winded story.
Although the mother, played by actress Cristin Milioti, was
introduced in last season's final episode, the details of how they met still
haven't been revealed.
Series co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas knew from
the beginning exactly how that question would be answered, and always planned
it for the show's final episode. And the kids on the couch would be a key
component of that ending.
Yet in 2006, with the series in its second season and the
possibility existing that it could be on for several more years, Bays and
Thomas realized they'd better film that final scene right away. After all, the
actors were growing up, would soon look different and wouldn't even be able to
fit in the clothes they wear while sitting on the couch.
So one day Bays and Thomas brought the young actors in,
closed the set to all but one camera operator, and filmed the two-minute scene
that will bring the series to a close. Henrie and Fonseca signed non-disclosure
agreements. So intent on keeping the secret, Fonseca put it out of her mind and
doesn't even remember what they filmed, Thomas said on Wednesday.
Through all the seasons that have come since, there hasn't
been any reason to change it, he said.
"It's been the plan all along," he said.
"What you see on March 31 has been the plan. We leave the series with a
certain message that we wanted to convey."
Producers filmed some extra scenes with Henrie and Fonseca
to give themselves some flexibility with writing the final episode, but the
central idea is the same, said Pamela Fryman, the show's director and executive
producer. The rest of the actors are scheduled to film the final episode on
Milioti may not have had her job if the series hadn't lasted
as long, however. Bays said producers had contingency plans for another mother
-- the baker character Victoria that Ted met during the show's first season -- if
CBS canceled the series. It was touch-and-go for the first few seasons until
"How I Met Your Mother" built a consistent following.
"We really did have an eight-year plan," Bays
said. "It turned out to be nine years."
In fact, the show has received criticism this year that its
stretch marks are showing, that it is marking time until the finale. Some
Asian-Americans reacted angrily to this Monday's episode, with actors dressed
in Asian attire for silly scenes that the producers intended as an homage to
kung fu movies.
Bays said the final season has been "a challenge,"
but the producers said they are proud they tried to push themselves creatively
by essentially setting the ninth season in one weekend - the wedding weekend
for Neil Patrick Harris' character Barney to Robin, played by Cobie Smulders.
The creators are now at work on a proposed spinoff, with a
new set of characters telling a woman's story about how she met her children's
father. The actors on "How I Met Your Mother" won't be involved,
although Bays joked he may pay one of the current crew "a lot of
money" to come in as a guest star in a third season when they run out of
Not all of the current cast members know how their show will
end, although Harris said he cornered the producers at an office party recently
and compelled them to tell the story.
"It's more complicated than you would assume,"
Harris said, "and for all of our fans, they won't be disappointed."