'There are going to be lots of little rewards for people who love the original [series],' promised showrunner Isaac Aptaker.
Hilary Duff knew the second she read the script for How I Met Your Father, Hulu's upcoming spinoff of How I Met Your Mother, that she had to jump aboard. The 34-year-old actress was just coming off of a seven-season run on Younger (and an unsuccessful attempt at reviving Lizzie McGuire at Disney+) when the project landed in her lap.
The series, which the creative team was quick to call a "standalone sequel" to HIMYM, follows Duff's Sophie, who, in the near future, is telling her son the story of how she met his father. Like the original, HIMYF takes viewers back to 2022, when Sophie and her close-knit group of friends are in the midst of figuring out who they are, what they want out of life and how to fall in love in the age of dating apps and limitless options.
"I'm extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to play Sophie," Duff, who was seven to eight months pregnant when she initially read the script, told reporters Tuesday during the virtual Television Critics Association winter press tour. "I am so attracted to parts that are extremely relatable and this one happens to touch on just trying to find love in this world that we live in with all the options that there are, and how hard it is to meet someone face to face, and the fact that she has this lovely friend circle that comes together in a strange way. It was all really attractive to me."
"Even though I'm in a totally different place in my life, I just felt like I was drawn to Sophie and that we had a lot in common," Duff said, referring to being a married mom of three. "She doesn't give up. She's kind of struggling, odds are kind of against her... but she's leaning on this little pack of weirdos that she finds one night and they all run off into the sunset together and have all these experiences that young people have trying to find their footing... The script was everything you want it to be in a pilot."
While the format of HIMYF follows a similar format to the original series with narration by an older version of Sophie (voiced by Kim Cattrall) and flash-forwards as well as flashbacks, Duff and the producers maintain that this show stands on its own.
"We are our own show. The original show was so amazing and they were so tied into one another, but this is its own show," Duff said. "We're trying to create something original by stealing a few things from them that worked really well."
Added producer Pamela Fryman, who helmed dozens of episodes of HIMYM and returns to direct here: "One thing I can take away from it having been on How I Met Your Mother for so long, this is not How I Met Your Mother. And I loved How I Met Your Mother. This is How I Met Your Father and it is so spectacular in its own right. When we were watching the sizzle reel... I got that feeling like, 'We did this.' From the first day on stage with masks on... we started rehearsing and we instantly knew that we had something." She added that "the idea that I get to do this again in a different way but in an equally special and spectacular way is a remarkable gift."
That's not to say HIMYF will largely ignore the presence of its predecessor. Because it exists in the same world, Easter eggs to the past will be prevalent. For instance, an early episode references Ted Mosby's apartment.
"I think fans will be really excited about things that are peppered in there throughout the season," executive producer and showrunner Elizabeth Berger teased.
"People keep referring to the show as a reboot and it's not a reboot," executive producer and showrunner Isaac Aptaker reiterated. "This is called a standalone sequel, which means it's set in the world of the previous show but it's really its own thing. That said we love How I Met Your Mother, we know how many people do. [Original producers] Carter [Bays], Craig [Thomas] and Pam are very involved in the show and there are going to be lots of little rewards for people who love the original that I think will satisfy who have never seen How I Met Your Mother and who are madly in love with the show."
As for what Duff hopes women in their late 20s or early 30s, who are navigating the rocky waters of the dating world, take away when they're watching Sophie and her circle of friends tackle their personal and professional lives, there's one key point she wants them to remember.
"Just that they're not alone. It's brutal out there. Just having the support system of your friends," Duff said. "There's obviously a little bit of the aspect of the hype of, 'Oh, she's going to date this person or she's going to date that person.' But we all are this tight-knit group of friends. And just relying on the people that you love and having the experiences in your early 30s. Sophie isn't quite where she thought she would be and she's just flailing a little bit and everyone around her is helping her boost her up. Not that she's down and out by any means, but she's just navigating. And it's so relatable and I can't tell you how many friends are in that space."
"It's really fun for me to play because I'm in a completely different space flailing somewhere," she continued with a laugh. "I love that New York City is a big part of the show, it moves very quickly and as you get more into the characters, it's not just about Sophie's story. We're diving into each one of these characters and we're watching these bonds happen. The show is really about friendship and just the fact that Sophie is very effervescent and it's hard to get her down. She gets knocked but she keeps trying. It's a feel-good show, it's a good time. It's funny and it's real and you get some tug-on-the-heartstring moments for sure."
The first two episodes of How I Met Your Father drop Tuesday, Jan. 18 on Hulu. For more, watch below.
To stay up to date on breaking TV news, sign up for ET's daily newsletter.