'How I Met Your Mother': How Cristin Milioti got the mother of all roles -- EXCLUSIVE

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Image Credit: CBS

So, who is the girl with the yellow umbrella?

Her name is Cristin Milioti, a 27-year-old New Jersey actress who’s shown up on Broadway, in films, and on television: The Broadway set will know Milioti as “Girl” in the musical version of Once, a role which earned her a Tony nomination last year; film buffs will recognize her from movies like 2012’s Mike Birbiglia comedy Sleepwalk with Me; and TV fans may remember her from The Sopranos, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, or — most notably — 30 Rock. (Milioti showed up in 2011 as a baby-voiced comedy writer whom Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) hired to spark a “femolution” at TGS.)

But how did Milioti get cast? How’d they keep her casting a secret? How did it feel to watch her shoot her first scene? EW exclusively talked to How I Met Your Mother co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas about bringing the actress into the fold.

CASTING A SECRET “It was exciting,” says Bays about choosing the actress to play the much buzzed about role. “Part of what helped us is our casting director Marisa [Ross], she sort of has been talking about Cristin for two years now. It helped that she turned us onto her and then the more we got to know Cristin and see her work, the more we realized, Yeah, she’s the right choice. So that definitely helped, because we didn’t want to do a big casting cattle call — we were going to make it ‘come audition for Barney’s cousin’ or something.”

THE MUSICAL CONNECTION The mother is known to be a member of the band at the nuptials between Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders). So was musicality a prerequisite in selecting the actress? “Oh, absolutely,” says Bays, who points to Milioti’s time on Broadway’s Once as dovetailing nicely with her HIMYM character. “Definitely, yes. We’re big fans of music, as I think the show has demonstrated, and we’ve already established that she’s a bass player in a band. I think there will be a musical component to her character, and that was definitely a little bonus feature.” Adds Thomas: “Last season, we flashed forward to a little glimpse of her playing bass in that band and that was before we had cast Cristin, so you just sort of saw a face and a shoulder, but we love the idea. For anyone that has gone and seen Once — she’s not in it anymore, obviously — but she has an amazing voice. She’s an amazing musician.”

HOW HIMYM MET THE MOTHER The rest of the cast loves Milioti already. “They all think she’s a fantastic actress,” says Thomas. “I know a couple of them had seen Once. We flew Cristin out to do an on-camera audition with Josh [Radnor, who plays Ted] with our decoy script pages, and it was funny — Neil walked into the makeup trailer while I was just chatting with Cristin, she was getting make-up to go do this screen test with Josh, and Neil walked in and looked at her and his eyes widened and he sort of said, ‘Oh my God, are you the mother?!’ And he gave her this big hug and was like, ‘You’re the mother!’ And Cristin and I were like, ‘No, it’s still just an audition; it’s not done. I’m not cast yet.’ Neil was celebrating a little too early.” Adds Bays, with a laugh: “That’s when you widen to reveal the other two girls that are also screen-testing in the trailer.” Continues Thomas: “It was dangerously close to that, because two other people did come in, and they had thankfully stepped out of the trailer but Neil was doing his victory dance that it might be Cristin. There were other two very lovely wonderful actresses coming in to read for it but ultimately we really believed in Cristin for it. The right choice.”

CRISTIN ON SET “Ultimately, when we were shooting the train station scene — this is actually fun — all the extras are staff from How I Met Your Mother. They’re all there. It was really fun. I kind of felt bad for Cristin because it was really like Jesus has risen when she showed up on the set — the whole crew was like ‘Here she is, the women we’ve been waiting for for 10 years!’ And she’s like, ‘I’m just an actor.'”

Tanner on Twitter: @TannerStransky

Read more:
‘How I Met Your Mother’ season finale recap: One ticket to Farhampton
‘HIMYM’ unveils the mother! The creators answer your burning questions — EXCLUSIVE
‘How I Met Your Mother’ poll: Let’s play casting couch!
‘How I Met Your Mother’ officially renewed for FINAL season
‘How I Met Your Mother’: Five scoops on the rest of the season

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