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By Hudson Morgan
Photographs by Andrea Varani
Styling by Mireille Comstock
BARNEY AND ROBIN. ROBIN AND BARNEY.
For seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders have proved that comedy is timing—and love even more so. But now, with the show entering its eighth and (probably) final year, they’re tying the knot … or not? Things are a little clearer off-screen: Both are building families (Smulders has a 3-year-old with Saturday Night Live’s Taran Killam; Harris has 2-year-old twins with David Burtka) and fame (she was in The Avengers and has movies with Paul Rudd and Vince Vaughn ahead; he has franchises like The Smurfs, endless hosting gigs and even an Emmy win for his guest spot on Glee). So what better time to bring the two of them to Florence, Italy, to see what makes them click—and their timing tick.
WATCH!: So, Florence: Discuss.
COBIE SMULDERS: It was epic. I had just finished all this press for Avengers and I was like, “Pastaaaa, pizzzzaaaaa …”
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: The food there is just outrageous. We ate at a shockingly fancy restaurant one night with a thousand courses of tiny bites.
WATCH!: Good wine?
COBIE: We didn’t have wine because my girlfriend who was with me and I are so high class that we were like [ditzy voice], “What do you have with tequila in it?”
NEIL: Yeah, they kept making you mixed drinks.
COBIE: My issue is, I love wine but I know it’s a 20-course meal, and if I’m drinking all this wine I’m going to fall asleep. I wanted to enjoy myself, and usually that happens when I have liquor. Tequila.
NEIL: When Cobie’s drinking she gets louder and more, like, “Let’s do it! Let’s have an adventure!” She really needs to drink more.
WATCH!: How was the shoot?
COBIE: The clothes were beautiful, and we shot in the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, where we stayed. Every room was different and restored and the frescoes were repainted, so it felt like staying in a castle.
NEIL: It was like residing in a museum. Everything was off-the-charts spectacular. A perfect backdrop.
WATCH!: Let’s talk about Season 8. Is it the last one?
NEIL: We don’t have any idea. I think we’re all operating on the assumption that there may be a ninth season, but enjoying Season 8 as if it’s our last.
WATCH!: What did you think when you found out Robin is Barney’s mystery bride?
COBIE: I found out halfway into last season when we started hooking up and I was cheating on Kal [Penn]. I can’t remember his character’s name since [sultry voice] there are so many men in my TV life.
WATCH!: You throw the kitty around.
COBIE: Is that like … I’ve never heard that. I’m going to steal that. Next on-screen interview I do, I will be saying that. So, anyway, Neil and I had just started to hook up again and I went to [co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas] and was like, “What’s happening?” When it’s anything with cheating, I feel really guilty and weird about it. So I was like, “Can you tell me where we’re going from here?”
WATCH!: So will Robin and Barney actually make it down the aisle?
NEIL: That’s a tricky element to our show—they spin us in directions that we don’t end up. We haven’t filmed anything where we’re having the actual wedding. But a lot of Season 8 will take place at the wedding and around it. So that would certainly be shocking if they didn’t actually end up getting married.
WATCH!: Do you guys want them to end up together?
COBIE: I really like the two characters together. I think they’re an interesting coupling, because they both fight commitment so much that coming together is a very brave thing to do. It also sets up a lot of comedy and conflict.
NEIL: Cobie’s got that intoxicating ability to be both funny and incredibly sincere within the same scene, and that’s just a joy to be on the receiving end of.
WATCH!: It sounds like the intoxication comes from tequila.
COBIE: And roofies, which I give all of my co-stars.
NEIL: Which seems funny at first, and then we just take a really long lunch. [Laughs.] I’m … not feeling well.
WATCH!: The more important question, obviously, is whether the making out has gotten better over the years.
COBIE: I don’t feel like there’s ever really any making out.
NEIL: How dare you!
COBIE: I think there’s kissing—
NEIL: We make out a lot!
COBIE: I don’t think there’s ever been any tongue involved.
NEIL: Maybe not your tongue.
COBIE: Sometimes Neil slips it in … and I don’t mean his tongue.
NEIL: [Laughs.] Nice, Smulders. Well played. As Barney Stinson I have made out with a lot of people on the show. I’ll have a day on set where I’m just disgustingly making out with like five extras and they’re girls I’ve never even met. And the grosser the make-out for me, the funnier. I make out with a 75-year-old woman this season. It was like, “Now we’re making out, nice to meet you.”
WATCH!: Who, uh, else do you hook up with this season?
NEIL: Right now we’re several episodes in, so we’re not very sure where it’s going. But I can say this: A lot is going to be seeing couples that we know don’t work out. Ted starts the first episode with Victoria going off into the sunset, but we all know that’s not meant to be. Quinn and I are engaged to get married, but we all know that’s not meant to be, and now we have Robin with Nick (Michael Trucco), and we know that’s not going to be. So a lot of the season is seeing the end result and simultaneously seeing how you break up and what brings you together—Barney to Robin and Ted to The Mother.
WATCH!: Are you sick of people asking who The Mother is yet?
NEIL: A lot of people ask, but I don’t know anything. Carter and Craig sat me down to tell me and we were interrupted by someone! So I don’t know how it ends, and frankly it’s better this way. I do a lot of drunk Tweeting where I say things I probably shouldn’t, and so I would inevitably just reveal it.
WATCH!: How is life now that you’re both juggling movie careers and parenthood?
NEIL: It’s a time suck!
WATCH!: Cobie, are you giving Neil parenting pointers since you’re a couple of years ahead?
NEIL: She refers to all children as “baby anchors.”
COBIE: [Playing along] Yeah …
NEIL: Once she started doing that I realized I probably shouldn’t take advice from her. I think they’re more than that. They’re people.
COBIE: Are they, though? Are they?
NEIL: “How was your day, Cobie?” “Oh, hung out with the baby anchor.”
COBIE: [Tongue firmly in cheek.] Alllll day long. Ugh.
NEIL: No, it’s been extraordinary, the family feeling of our show. It really is a giant family. Our director, Pam Fryman, is literally like our mother. Then Aly [Hannigan] had a kid, then Cobie had a kid, then we had two, and Jason [Segel] is practically a surrogate parent at the moment. There’s just this fantastic baby vibe, there’s a nursery on set, and everyone has grown old with each other.
COBIE: We’ve worked together for eight years [looks at Neil]—stop smirking at me!—and that’s longer than you spend with anyone in high school or college. So we’re all close because of that. We’re very lucky—I hear stories of other sets.
WATCH!: Yeah, big time.
NEIL: I only hang out with pretty people. And Cobie’s very pretty. You’ve got that sparkle.
COBIE: He’s really pushing my buttons today. He’s saying things to make me uncomfortable … or turned on. [Laughs.]
NEIL: That’s one of the great things about being Barney Stinson and gay. I can be much more overtly sexual and awful and not be sued for it. Because I go home to my boyfriend. Boom! So how’s that hold up in court?
COBIE: It’s true.
NEIL: It’s not fondling if you’re not feeling anything.
WATCH!: Granted, you’re still shooting HIMYM for another season or two, but have you thought about what’s next?
NEIL: We’re thinking about maybe moving to New York and you have to start thinking two or three years ahead. [Earnest voice] “I’d like to host a late-night variety show like Ed Sullivan!” But you can’t really put anything into action yet. Dr. Horrible 2, I’d like to do soon-ish.
WATCH!: Cobie, are you thinking New York, too?
COBIE: Yeah. I think as soon as the show is done I’ll move out.
WATCH!: Have you thought about doing any projects together?
COBIE: It’s so funny—Josh is directing, starring, writing his own movies, and people are like, “How come Josh doesn’t write a part for you?” And I’m like, “I’m pretty sure Josh is sick of working with me!”
NEIL: I really wanted to do a small part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Jason was talking to me about it and it ended up not happening and the notes he got were like, “It’ll be hard for people to see the two of you in a scene together without thinking you’re Marshall and Barney.” It makes sense. It would be hard for Cobie and me to be in a rom-com together without people thinking RoBarn.
COBIE: RoBarn? Is that it?
NEIL: Yeah, that’s what people are using. [Tween voice] It’s allllll over the Internet.
COBIE: [Laughs.] We can never do serious interviews when we’re together.
NEIL: Because I’m hypnotized by her gorge.
COBIE: That’s the name of my vagina. Tossing the kitten around.
NEIL: Throwing the kitty around!
COBIE: Tossing is a good word, though.
NEIL: Now she’s changing it.
COBIE: I’m just trying to make it my own.
See photos of Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders on location in Florence.
Producer: Christopher Ross
Photo Editor: Meagan McLaughlin
Associate Producer: Peter Jablonski
Photo Assistant: Andrea Baccetti
Digital Tech: Nicola Moretto
Styling Assistant: Adelina Cingolini
Hair: Maurizio Lucchese
Makeup: Daniela Galeazzi