How we met 'the Mother'

On "How I Met Your Mother," Ted (Josh Radnor) asks the Mother (Milioti) to marry him.
On "How I Met Your Mother," Ted (Josh Radnor) asks the Mother (Milioti) to marry him.
Posted: February 18, 2014

* HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. 8 tonight, CBS 3.

* STAR-CROSSED. 8 tonight, CW57.

* THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON. Midnight, NBC 10.

IT MAY feel as if we're only just meeting Cristin Milioti, who in the past year has hopped from a Tony-nominated performance in the musical "Once" to a showy part in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and a title role in a long-running sitcom.

But like the Mother - the still-unnamed character she plays on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" - the 28-year-old Cherry Hill native has been hiding in plain sight for a while.

"I've been very lucky," Milioti said last month, on the Century City, Calif., set of "How I Met Your Mother." "I've always paid my rent with acting. Like theater that no one saw. I was very lucky, and it all has come together in this last year. It's been amazing."

Fans of "The Sopranos" may remember seeing Milioti as far back as 2006, when she played Catherine Sacrimoni, the daughter of "Johnny Sack" (Vincent Curatola). During the jailhouse planning of her sister's wedding, she was the one who complained, "Jesus, can we ever talk about anything in this family besides food?"

Fans of "Once" - the musical where Milioti starred as the Girl for a couple of years, off- and on Broadway - might not have instantly recognized the singer-actress in the "30 Rock" episode where she played a blond, baby-voiced comedian whom Liz (Tina Fey) briefly brings on as a writer.

But "HIMYM" creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays seem to have made the connection.

"They saw me in 'Once' and they saw me on '30 Rock,' oddly," Milioti said, describing the latter performance as "very broad. . . . I had a wig and a weird voice." They told her it was a combination of the two roles that convinced them that she'd be right to play the woman that Ted (Josh Radnor) waited more than eight seasons to meet.

In "Wolf," the Cherry Hill East grad plays the first wife of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Milioti never met her real-life counterpart, she said.

"She did not want anything to do with the film. And I don't blame her. The way it went down for her, I would not want anything to do with him, either," she said, referring to Belfort, who served 22 months in prison on charges related to his activities as a stockbroker.

"That man will never have a connection with another human being," she said. "He's lost everyone, and it's his own fault. And, OK, he's still wealthy, he still drives fancy cars . . . but it's still a portrait of an extremely lonely person."

DiCaprio, on the other hand, is "the absolute loveliest man. I was thrilled to work with him, and he's very kind. He is hilarious, as well. Which you see in the movie."

She's also enthusiastic about her "How I Met Your Mother" co-stars, who met with reporters on the show's set last month to talk about the show's nine-season run, which ends March 31.

"They've just been so above and beyond kind to me," she said. "Like Cobie [Smulders, who plays Robin] took me out to lunch one day and took me for bike rides."

As for joining the show so close to the end: "I couldn't believe I had this amazing launch."

(It seems to have worked: Last week, it was reported that Milioti had been cast as a lead in an NBC pilot that will follow a couple from first meeting to breakup.)

Milioti had never seen "How I Met Your Mother" before being cast as the musician who had one line in the Season 8 finale, "One ticket to Farhampton, please." Afterward, she spent three months watching the first eight seasons even as she began work on the ninth.

The fact that she hadn't seen it earlier "means nothing, because I just saw 'Pretty Woman' over the weekend," she'd earlier told reporters, joking, "Julia Roberts is amazing."

She's still not seen the 2006 movie "Once" that spawned the stage musical. Or lots of other things.

"I'm not on any social media," she said. "I don't watch TV that much. Like I watch, like, trash reality television. Like I watch 'Honey Boo Boo.' Sometimes I watch 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians.' I watch a lot of 'Dateline' [and Investigation] Discovery shows."

She's also been busy. She filmed "Wolf" while working on "Once," and "I had my last performance [in "Once"] on a Sunday and I came here to shoot . . . that train-station episode. So, not 24 hours later, I was in that dress, with that yellow umbrella. And it was sort of like a perfect landing."

It turns out that being cast as the Mother is like winning a TV competition that hasn't aired yet.

"I told my boyfriend. And I told my parents. And I told the three of them that if they told anyone that I would be terminated," she said. "I lied. . . . I said, 'If I say something, they will recast me.' "

Back home, "My mom's a banker and my dad's in [information technology] - he runs like his own IT business . . . from our home," said Milioti, who also has a younger brother.

Growing up in Cherry Hill, where she performed in high school and middle school, was she the kid everyone thought would end up on Broadway?

"I don't think so," Milioti said. "I don't know. You'd have to ask them."

'Star-Crossed' debut

"Romeo and Juliet" meets "Roswell" in the CW's new "Star-Crossed," and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

I just hope this teen drama, which premieres tonight, doesn't end in suicide - or a save-our-show effort involving shipments of whatever foodstuff turns out to be the equivalent of the Tabasco sauce in "Roswell."

Viewers may come for the human-alien pairing of Emery (Aimee Teegarden, "Friday Night Lights") and Roman (Matt Lanter, "90210"), who meet once as children and again a decade later when Roman becomes part of a government pilot program to integrate the children of his alien race into a public high school.

But they should stay for what creator Meredith Averill ("The Good Wife") has done with a near-future world in which extraterrestrials serve as stand-ins for oppressed groups much closer to home. It's not just a romance - it's a reasonably smart political drama, in one of the last places I'd have thought to look for one.

'Tonight' is the night

Jimmy Fallon, as you may have heard, is the newest host of "The Tonight Show" - where, starting tonight, he'll be the first since Johnny Carson to be described as "starring" rather than merely "with."

But he'll only be on about a half-hour earlier this week than he was on "Late Night": In order to give Fallon an Olympics-size launch, the New York-based "Tonight" will air at midnight, moving back to 11:30 p.m. on Friday.

Philadelphia's Will Smith will be Fallon's first guest. U2 will be the musical guest. Best of all, Philly's the Roots are moving with Fallon from "Late Night."


Phone: 215-854-5950

Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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