Cobie Smulders fans take heart: How I Met Your Mother executive producer Craig Thomas says Season 7 is “very much a Robin season.” Thomas and fellow EP Carter Bays spilled some key intel to TVLine about the unexpected and “forbidden” romance that will spring up for Robin and a new character played by Kal Penn, the love hexagon (or perhaps pentagon) that will ensnare Barney, and the “dark secret” Marshall will uncover about his new employer (played by Martin Short). Plus, there’s scoop about the HIMYM role Conan O’Brien purchased in a charity auction. (Two word hint: Where’s Waldo.) Read on for all the juicy Season 7 details!
TVLine | Season 6 felt like it was a lot about growing up. What about this year?
Carter Bays: This year is about birth. It’s about rebirth and becoming something and becoming someone new. It’s all bookended by this exciting new journey Marshall and Lily are heading out on.
Craig Thomas: It’s a season about looking to the future. We are in Act 3 of this story of How I Met Your Mother. It’s all the characters looking to the horizon. Who am I going to be when these cameras stop rolling and I have to move toward the year 2030? All the characters will ask that this year. You’re going to see Marshall and Lily wrestling with, who are we going to be as parents? What will our kid think of us? The fact that they’re having a kid is a huge catalyst for things to happen within this group. Ted, Robin and Barney all start to thinking about: “Will I ever have a kid? When will that happen? Will that happen? Where’s my future going?”
Bays: And who’s it going to be with?
TVLine | Entering the third act, are you feeling pressure to answer some questions?
Thomas: No, it’s not pressure. More like it’s fun that we finally get to answer questions. We ended the season on an enormous question: Who’s Barney marrying? We can say that for sure in Season 7 we’re going to answer that. It’s not going to be strung along. But there’s also callbacks to little mysteries and little things we set up in Season 1 and Season 2 that will come back around.
TVLine | Can you say when we’ll find out who Barney’s bride is?
Thomas: I don’t want to say when, but I’ll tell you our season begins at that moment [from the season finale].
Bays: It’s the central mystery of the season. Someone has convinced Barney to put on a boutonniere and walk down the aisle. We’re going to find out who that is this year.
TVLine | Let’s talk about Barney, Nora and Robin.
Thomas: When we begin Season 7, it starts with Robin trying to tamp down these feelings that are bubbling up about Barney again. Why should I have these feelings for Barney again? I should be happy for him? There’s this other girl he’s sort of pursuing. We pick right up on Nora, Barney and Robin. There is an element to this season of who’s Barney going to marry? There will be more than those two choices.
Bays: [The love triangle] will end up being a bit of a pentagon or hexagon.
TVLine | Is he going to have a few serious girlfriends? Or are they more like one-night stands?
Thomas: There will be several choices. It’s a little bit of a Mamma Mia season. There’ll be several options of who Barney could be marrying.
TVLine | Who is Kal Penn playing? What’s his dynamic with Robin?
Bays: It’s a very funny character. It’s a romantic interest for Robin. Basically, the way he meets Robin is he’s her therapist. Robin goes to get therapy. It’s in part due to what’s going on in her life vis-a-vis Barney. But in the process of getting that therapy, she maybe starts to have feelings for her therapist, which is kind of messed up. And her therapist starts to have feelings for her too. It’s a bit of a forbidden romance.
Thomas: She shows up to the therapy because it’s court-mandated, because Robin has gotten into a fight. The episode’s mystery is, who did Robin get into a fight with? Robin assaulted someone, and it takes Kal Penn as her therapist to get it out of her [and answer], “Why are you at this court-mandated therapy?” It’s a romantically very confusing beginning of the season for Robin, but there’s just so much fun to be had. I can say that it’s very much a Robin season.
Bays: Probably more than any of the other characters [next season], she’s going to really go through some growth. This year, Robin’s going to be taking her own intense journey [like Marshall did last year].
TVLine | Is Ted back on track about finding the mother next season?
Bays: He is. It’s really going to be about him reacquainting himself with what was at one point his life’s mission — to find the right girl and start a family.
Thomas: But also he’s wrestling with the fact that’s on a hot streak right now. He’s New York’s youngest architect designing a building ever. He’s a professor. He’s single. He’s in a great place. So he’s a little bit in that moral dilemma like, “I want to meet the love of my life. But there’s also chicks who want to date me right now.” With Lily and Marshall having a kid, it’s going to stir up a lot for him.
Bays: It’s going to make him ask, “Why am I not there yet?” This season is about finding those answers for Ted.
TVLine | Is Barney very serious about Nora?
Thomas: He’s pursuing her [in the premiere]. It’s a new Barney. It’s Barney on Step 1 of this new path. But ultimately, Robin has feelings for Barney. He has by no means made amends with Nora.
Bays: Nora’s going to take some work. It’s not going to be easy for him to get Nora.
TVLine | Is he aware that Robin’s got feelings for him again?
Thomas: Not at all. Robin’s the only one who knows that. In the premiere, we see Lily spot that and try to get Robin to admit to it. Barney’s setting down this path away from Robin, and it’s making Robin really wistful. What will Robin do with that? Will she allow him to mature and go down that path? Or will she try to throw her ring in that a little bit too? It’s Robin wrestling with a big moral dilemma. Barney’s growing up, and it’s making her want Barney again. There’s some real fireworks between the two of them in November sweeps that we’re having so much fun writing. It’s really juicy.
TVLine | What’s Martin Short’s dynamic with Marshall?
Thomas: It’s a character with his own unique twist that we can’t pitch. I’ll say that he’s a superstar environmental lawyer, an idol of Marshall’s. Finally, Marshall gets the chance to go work for this legend, this philanthropist, this amazing, goodhearted guy. Except there’s a little bit of a dark edge to the character.
Bays: He’s got a bit of a dark secret we won’t reveal immediately. But there’s a good moment where Marshall discovers it.
TVLine | Are you writing Conan O’Brien into the show?
Bays: We immediately took [his winning bid] as like, great, we’ll make him Ted’s professor buddy. We talked to him on the phone and he was like, “No. I want to be an extra. I’m going to sit in the background, drink a drink and not be a part of the show at all.”
Thomas: Conan’s going to have as many lines as Waldo does in Where’s Waldo. [Laughs]
Bays: If you blink, you might miss him, but he’ll be there.
TVLine | So he’s definitely coming on?
Bays: Look, he bought it.
Thomas: If he doesn’t come on, he’s wasted thousands of dollars over charitable contributions. He’s paid for it. He has to do it.