How I Met Your Mother

Whoever thought Barney Stinson was the marrying kind? But more importantly — who is he marrying?

How I Met Your Mother's season finale opened up a whole new mystery while still evading the original one regarding the identity of the titular mother. But creator/executive producer Craig Thomas assures TVGuide.com that Season 7 will offer answers and even more changes for our beloved quintet. Robin gets a new love interest for one (hello, Kal Penn! Goodbye, Michael Trucco!), Marshall gets a new job, of course, and "Ted Mosby, Architect" will finally be a great pickup line. Don't believe us? Keep reading.

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So Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) does get married, right?
Craig Thomas:
Barney does get married. It's not the smoothest wedding day, but it's epic — truly epic. In the premiere, we definitely pick up right where we left off. ... We also see Punchy's wedding in the premiere. We start at Barney's wedding in the future. He's having the jitters. Ted says, "We've already been to the worst wedding of all time" — Punchy's. And we flash back to September of 2011 when the gang finally goes to the long-talked-about Punchy wedding. We had the two weddings inform each other.

How did you decide it would be Barney getting married?
Thomas:
Part of it was the story we told in Season 6. Barney reconnected with his father —finding out who his father is and hinting that there is more to Barney than a guy who puts on suits and hits on women to sleep with them. Our hope was that it would play as a surprise and I think it did. We haven't shown yet how he gets from Point A to Point B. That's Season 7 — how he gets to that church, puts on that tuxedo and ends up moments away from marrying somebody. We love the storytelling challenge of showing how this character is so notoriously and proudly single, who has always hated the notion of marriage, getting there.

Was Barney getting married part of the plan when you and Carter [Bays] conceived the show?
Thomas:
Well, we always knew it would be a show about people changing and growing up. The whole show begins with people getting engaged and moving on in life. Barney's a great sitcom character. He's a great character to write because he can be a complete, insane cartoon character in his own world one week and in another week be emotionally grounded and you care about his journey. That's a testament to Neil. He can play both. So I think over the years, the more we wrote Barney, the more we saw what Neil could do and the heart and emotion he could inject into this insane character. It made us want to write more about Barney's journey and who he could become.

In Season 1 we did an episode about his backstory ["Game Night"] and who he was before he became Barney. We pitched it as "How He Became Darth Vader." He was this sweet, open-hearted hippie guy who got really burned by his college girlfriend and became Barney. We always look at him as a sort of superhero. He has the superhero outfit and he has this big mythological backstory. Any time we can peel back the layers to Barney, it's better.

When will his bride be revealed?
Thomas:
I can't say exactly when it will happen, but we will learn the identity of the person in Season 7.

The obvious possibilities are Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Nora (Nazanin Boniadi). Will there be more candidates?
Thomas:
There will be more women than that! We like the idea of setting up a bunch of different candidates. For fans of Barney and Robin, the premiere picks up with the look she gave Barney. A big theme is Robin dealing with the fact that she has feelings flickering for Barney. Any HIMYM fans who felt like there wasn't enough of Barney and Robin when they were dating, stay tuned for more to their saga.

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A lot of fans hated that you guys broke them up so abruptly in Season 5.
Thomas:
Yeah, there definitely was a faction of fans who were upset by it, but we knew we eventually would stir those flames back up. We knew it would take a while and we wouldn't do it right away, but here we are coming into Season 7. Robin's dealing with the fact that she has these feelings again, which makes no sense since they dated and it didn't work out. It's essentially an episode of love being crazy and mysterious, like most of our episodes are. She's trying to wrap her head around these feelings. No one else but her knows about them.

You said in May the plan was for her to have a big love story with Michael Trucco's character, but his show [Fairly Legal] was renewed, so how have you had to readjust?
Thomas:
Yeah, we won't see as much of Michael Trucco as we had hoped. So there will be a new love interest for Robin, which I can't say too much about yet because we're still working out some casting and scheduling with Michael.

Let's move on to that other mystery.
Thomas:
Oh, yes, that one! [Laughs] I can tell you we're going to fill in pieces of the puzzle now since we know Ted meets the mother at Barney's wedding. We sort of did that because ultimately, we like the idea of further complicating the mystery. And with the new mystery around that day — who is Barney marrying? — it allows us to work toward it from a new perspective and we'll be revealing more about it from that angle.

Where is Ted (Josh Radnor) now after he was thisclose to getting back together with Zoey?
Thomas:
We've seen Ted go through a lot of turmoil over the years — getting dumped at the altar, the Arcadian drama with Zoey. But we'll see Ted on a bit of a hot streak in Season 7. He's a hotshot architect having his building built in New York City. He's realizing, 'Wait a second. I'm kind of a catch right now.' His stock is very high and he's dealing with the fact that he's very attractive to the ladies at the moment. He's struggling whether to take advantage of that or stay on track of trying to find the right person to settle down with. Is this the moment to work it a little bit? He's a little torn. ... So he and Barney are swapping places! [Laughs] By the end of Season 7, Ted will wear suits and Barney's hair will be spiky and messy.

Some fans are impatient about the mother reveal. Are you concerned about their reaction to Ted being back on the dating scene now?
Thomas:
The way we look at the show is that if it's purely about answering that question, the show will be five seconds long. We love that larger question and we're now coming at it with this future perspective of this future wedding day. I don't worry too much about that question as long as we're telling interesting stories about these characters. During Season 6, I was far more interested in what Marshall was going through, losing his father. It's about writing about characters, trying to make people care about them. Our cast is fantastic and we feel lucky to write for them. Whether people are impatient, all I can hope is that people care about our characters.

I think everyone was thrilled when Lily (Alyson Hannigan) finally got pregnant.
Thomas:
Yeah! It really felt like they earned some good news, didn't it? We're going to see them extremely happy after going through some really hard stuff. I felt like something good happened to good friends of mine.

How are you going to tackle the "baby curse"?
Thomas:
The good news is the length of a pregnancy is about the length of a TV season. There will be a May birth. I guarantee you that. ... We know at some point they have a boy, but stay tuned to see what gender [this one] is! ... I guess we have a year to try to figure out how to tackle the dreaded baby curse. I try to look at the bright side. The pregnancy and a baby will open up more stories. And Marshall (Jason Segel) is still unemployed at the start of Season 7. He just learned he's going to be a father, but he doesn't have a job. We'll eventually see Marshall land at an environmental law firm with Martin Short.

This is different from the botched interview with Dave Foley in the finale, right?
Thomas:
Yeah, we had toyed with Marshall getting that job ... but Dave's pilot got picked up and then we heard through the grapevine that Martin Short was a fan of the show, which thrilled us because we're huge fans of his. When the universe takes one funny Canadian comedy legend away with one hand, it gives you another with the other hand! ... But Marshall will be at his dream job and Martin Short is his mentor and he discovers that Martin Short is the worst lawyer of all time. They're involved in an ongoing case that goes to litigation. And Martin's character — this well-intentioned head of the firm — botches it up. So Marshall's going to be very torn about whether to remain the respectful protégé or try to take over a little bit. We'll see him be awesome at his job. We did a tiny flashforward years ago that reveals Marshall winds up as a judge. So through the course of him getting to a courtroom, meeting a judge, we see him on the path of becoming a judge. It's fun to be able to show the steps these characters get to take. We feel very lucky to get to do that with our show.

Are you still approaching Season 8 as the last one for now?
Thomas:
All of our contracts are up after 8, so we're preparing for that to possibly be the end. As long as we know that a year from now, that's fine. But if we don't, then that's a problem! We know exactly the ending minute or two of Season 7. It's going to take place in the future at that wedding day and we're going to end Season 7 there. It's going to be something! And we'll also end with a baby being born and then head into 8. And maybe there'll be more.

How I Met Your Mother returns with two episodes Monday, Sept. 19 at 8/7c on CBS.