Eric Braeden on How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother fans will meet for the very first time tonight Robin Scherbatsky — Sr., that is — when The Young and the Restless' Eric Braeden guest-stars as the comely Canadian's pop. The story: As Ted tries to avoid seeing Stella at a restaurant, the rest of the gang share stories about who they would least like to see at that moment. Robin's beef with Robin? He really wanted her to be a boy, and did everything he could during childhood to make her into one. Cue flashbacks.

In this Q&A, Braeden reveals how he and Mother nearly did not come to be, detailing his apathy for prime-time TV appearances. Also: A status report on life in Genoa City.

TVGuide.com: It's been a while since you've done some comedy, eh?
Eric Braeden: Absolutely. It's been... My god, how many years now....

TVGuide.com: How did this role come to you?
Braeden: The producers and the director are fans of what I do on Y&R, so it initially came from them. But I have had a longstanding antipathy toward guest-starring on nighttime television because I'd done that an enormous amount in the '60s and '70s. I was infuriated by the singular decision by a former head of Universal Studios to lower guest-star salaries by 75 percent - from $7,500 per show to $2,500. At that time, Universal was the only game in town. So I swore I would not do that again — though I had probably done that more than any actor.  Hence my decision to do daytime.

TVGuide.com: Has that gap closed at all in recent years...?
Braeden: No, it has not closed at all. The chasm between those who star in these things and those guest actors who make it all work as well has become bigger and bigger. But neither the actors nor the agents have the intestinal fortitude to say, "Up yours." It really has done enormous damage to the middle and upper-middle class of actors. No question about it.

TVGuide.com: How are you describing Robin Scherbatsky Sr. to people? He seems like a hunting, shotgun-toting alpha male.
Braeden: [Laughs] He's a hilarious character. Just watch the opening scene, where his wife is giving birth to what he had hoped would be a son. He's standing there with a cigar, going, "Push! Push! Push!" And out comes a girl. He says, "Oh." And the outfit I wear to take Robin hunting when she was 8 years old — I laughed so hard when I saw it in the mirror. I didn't want to do [How I Met Your Mother], to be quite frank with you. I was talked into it by family and agents saying it was one of the highest-ranked shows and this and that. And I enjoyed it enormously.

TVGuide.com: Even though your scenes are all flashbacks with a much younger Robin Jr., did you get to meet Cobie Smulders?
Braeden: No, not much. But I have to tell you, it was one of the most wonderful groups of people I have ever met. It was the warmest set I have been on since Mary Tyler Moore. I hadn't been on the 20th [Century Fox] lot in years and years. I used to throw a football with Marlon Brando behind the stages there, when we did a film called Morituri, in 1964, '65. And I did Planet of the Apes there. It brought back very nostalgic feelings in a sense.

TVGuide.com: How are things at Y&R these days? This past year seemed to serve up some backstage upheaval.
Braeden: Well.... That's a whole different subject matter.

TVGuide.com: Are you happier these days?
Braeden: I am happier with the storyline, I have to say. Much happier. I really mean that. I'm happy along those lines; along some other lines, no. But that's a different story.