Cristin Milioti was up for the mother of all roles and she didn't even realize it.
"I didn't watch How I Met Your Mother. This is embarrassing!" she tells TVGuide.com. "I had never seen it. But that's nothing to do with the show; it's because of my own sheltered life. ... I didn't know what was happening on the show, so I never thought that I was interviewing to be The Mother."
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After eight years of seeing her foot, her yellow umbrella and bass guitar, and hearing Ted's (Josh Radnor) roundabout stories, viewers were introduced to Milioti, who would be the future Mrs. Mosby in the final seconds of the Season 8 finale. The long-awaited reveal is perhaps only matched in anticipation by the lengths to which co-creators and executive producersCarter Bays and Craig Thomas went to keep the Tony-nominated Once star's casting a secret. They didn't tell Milioti why they wanted to meet with her — only that it was for an arc — and the trio chatted via Skype before Bays and Thomas asked the New York-based actress to fly to L.A. for a chemistry test with Radnor.
"But they told me I couldn't tell anyone. It was like a covert operation," Milioti says with a laugh. "Then all these people [from the show] started coming to see [Once] before I flew out there. I had my sneaking suspicions, like, 'This must be a big deal.' ... I still didn't know after I flew there for the chemistry read. I probably would've realized it sooner if I had watched the show, but I put two and two together because the set was on lockdown whenI got there, and everyone was so warm and lovely and excited to meet me."
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Now that fans have also met The Mother (yes, she's still nameless), they will get to know her on the comedy's ninth and final season, which kicks offMonday (8/7c, CBS) with a one-hour premiere. During it, The Mother will befriend Lily (Alyson Hannigan) on the train (cookies, unicorns and catfights are involved) to Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin's (Cobie Smulders) wedding on fictional Farhampton, Long Island. And though she'll meet Ted last — on the train platform after the wedding sometime during the season — the future couple does share a scene together in the premiere that shows why they're MFEO.
"There's an ease with them," Milioti, who studied up by watching the first seven seasons, says. "They're a great fit and have great chemistry. She's really sweet and lovable, but she's also a nerd with the same interests and dad humor like Ted. She gets him. The clues that have been dropped about her over the years are not personality traits. They're like: She plays the bass. She makes breakfast foods while singing. Now you see who she is and she's a pretty big dork!"
While The Mother and Lily's meeting goes well ("How can it not with cookies?"), will that also be the case for the rest of the gang? Next to Ted meeting The Mother, her and Robin's meeting is arguably the second most anticipated. After all, in HIMYM time, it's only been a week since Ted and Robin's hand-holding in the rain and a few days after he learned that the "something old" locket Robin was looking for had been in his racecar pencil box for five years — which he wants to give to her as a wedding present, much to Lily's chagrin.
"I think they all will go well. I'm about to meet someone else, but I am really looking forward to meeting Robin. That will be a big one," Milioti says. "In a way, I think it's perfect closure for Ted's wife to meet his ex, who's a huge part of his life, at her wedding. He has to let Robin go before he can move on.I'm very curious to see how she'll react to her."
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The fan reaction to her casting has been overwhelmingly positive, the actress says — but "a couple times people have asked if we've gone to high school together, which is weird." Though she has big funky shoes to fill as The Mother, Milioti says that she wasn't nervous about meeting fans' eight-year-old expectations and didn't think about it until she was recently asked.
"It had just never crossed my mind. I don't know why. I had just put so much implicit trust in Carter and Craig and Pam [Fryman, the director]," she says. "I wasn't familiar with the show and now that I am, I'm still OK. I'm not terribly nervous because I know they will not disappoint the fans. ... Sometimes it crosses my mind that people might be like, 'Really?! Her? That's who they chose?' But I have no control over that. I don't want to disappoint anyone obviously. I think she'll be made familiar to everyone this season."
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Might that include an episode or two from The Mother's perspective — aHow I Met Your Father, if you will, to shed light on her life the past eight years? Or scenes of her leaving the yellow umbrella at that St. Patrick's Day party? Or her sitting in that economics class Ted accidentally taught?
"Oh, I would love that! We haven't done anything like that yet. That would be really cool, especially since they've told me nothing about her backstory," Milioti says and adds that she hopes to do a musical number. (She's certainly got the music chops.) "That's what I really want. There have been tiny rumblings. ... I am playing the reception. Are there any bass players that are lead singers? I know there has to be. Robin Sparkles and Ican do a duet. It has to happen, right? I'm going to let it gestate for a while. Iknow it's coming! Big musical numbers are coming!"
In the meantime, fans can look forward to the "can't-miss" eighth episode, scheduled to air Nov. 4, for which Milioti recommends you stock up on tissues.
"It's really heartwarming and very, very exciting, and I think fans will love it," she says. "That's all I can say! That's the one thing I've been sworn to secrecy, but you will not be disappointed. There are some wonderful things coming up with Ted and The Mother."
Season 9 of How I Met Your Mother premieres Monday at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)
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