Television fans know Alyson Hannigan for two huge roles she's had in the last decade or so. For seven seasons we fell in love with her as Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she grew from a nervous wallflower into a powerful witch. More recently, she's an integral part of one of the best comedy ensembles on television as Lily on CBS's How I Met Your Mother.
Hannigan took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about the show, her new baby and a fun little holiday side project she's doing with Peyton Manning and MasterCard. As part of their priceless initiative, MasterCard has set up a new website: The MasterCard Priceless Gift Finder, in association with Amazon.com. And on hand to help you find the best gifts for those you care about are Manning and Hannigan with -- some interesting suggestion of their own.
But you don't want to hear me talk about any of it. Let's talk to Alyson.
Jason: How did you get involved with the Gift Finder program?
Alyson: I've always been a fan of Mastercard's "Priceless" campaign. When they approached me about this Gift Finder -- you can just go to priceless.com/giftfinder -- it was like the best thing ever, because it helped me so much. With having a new baby and being so busy, online shopping is kind of the way to go for me. And for somebody else to think about all the gifts and come up with a list, and I can just pick what I like, it's perfect. You just go on the website, answer a few questions about who you're shopping for, and they go through Amazon's database and pull up a great selection. It keeps you on budget, and if you pay with your MasterCard, you get $10 worth of MP3s to download. So you get yourself a little something, too. Everyone wins!
Jason: I jumped on the website and was playing around with it. I didn't expect all the funny little video intros for all the different categories. I found myself turning my wife into my grandmother and my mother-in-law just to see what all you guys had come up with.
Alyson: I know. It's fun, isn't it? I did the same [thing], and I knew what was coming because I shot the commercials.
Jason: I don't think I made it through all of them. How many of those shorts did you [and Peyton] make?
Alyson: There's a lot. I know that I did probably 30, and I'm sure Peyton did as well. So you have to buy at least 60 gifts for people.
Jason: I'm definitely going to have to get back on there.
Alyson: Definitely, it was a lot of fun. The ideas that they came up with were just hilarious. And the props; actually having like the novelty showercaps.
Jason: Yeah, when you guys started pulling out the props as your "great" ideas, I thought that was pretty brilliant.
Alyson: It was a lot of fun.
Jason: So, I guess since you were involved with that, your holiday shopping is completely done now?
Alyson: Yes. Well, almost. My husband (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel's Alexis Denisof -ed.) has taken the computer away from me, so it will be done soon. I'm one click away from finishing my shopping. Maybe a couple clicks.
Jason: As a new parent, did you go overboard this year with the shopping for the baby?
Alyson: I kind of did, and not because of the holidays either. Just because she's here. They grow so fast you have to keep buying them clothes; that's what I keep telling my husband (laughs).
Jason: Do you have any big plans for your first holiday season with the baby?
Alyson: We're just going to have Christmas at home and the family's coming in. The big thing is that she's with us. It's going to be so much fun, I'm really looking forward to it. To just be there and have her first Christmas.
Jason: You've also got her first birthday coming up, which is the same as your own. How are you going to juggle celebrating both birthdays through the years?
Alyson: I'm so happy to give it all to her. She can have them. It's the best of both worlds, because she's the best birthday present I could ask for, and now I get to plan the party and have a kid party on my birthday, too. She gets the birthday now, but I get to enjoy celebrating in a kid-fashion. That's what you always want on your birthday anyway! Now I have the justification for needing a bounce house. It's our birthday!
Jason: Most fans of How I Met Your Mother probably noticed that you and Cobie [Smulders] were pregnant. They had a lot of fun 'not' hiding that very well throughout the season. Now that you've both had your babies, how have things changed on the set? Do you have a nursery on set, or do the babies come with you?
Alyson: Mine does. Cobie's only brought hers a few times, but my baby comes pretty much every day. We have a big conference room they let us turn into a nursery. It's so nice to have my baby able to come to work with us. It makes it possible to go to work and not cry, because she's there. I would miss her too much. Especially on filming days, because there can be long 12-hour days on sitcoms. I just wouldn't be able to not see my baby for 12 hours. That's her whole day; she'd be asleep by the time I got home.
Jason: When you first announced your pregnancy, was there any consideration toward having the pregnancy incorporated into the stories, having Marshall and Lily have a baby?
Alyson: Actually, before I told them I was pregnant, they were toying with the idea. There was the episode with the cute baby sock; that was already planned. But they had decided not to go with it. I'm sure they had another conversation saying, "Well, we could easily work it in now." I think, over all they just decided it was too soon for them. We do a lot of drinking on the show. We spend a lot of time in the bar, and I think it would crimp their style a little bit to have me not be able to do any of that.
Jason: Or it would be one of those absent sitcom babies.
Alyson: Exactly, who's watching the baby while they're drinking?
Jason: Speaking of Lily, I think she's grown quite a bit over the years, and showed a lot of different sides to her personality. What have been some of your favorite developments and do you have any say in how she's turned out?
Alyson: We have say in the fact that we love certain aspects [of our characters]. The writers are amazing. It's weird to me when actors say, "Oh, well I think I should--" No, let the writers do what they do, because they're so talented. They're always open to us if somebody wants to pitch something. I can't ever come up with something better than what they're going to come up with. I [do] love when we discover something new about her.
Jason: Big congratulations on the upcoming 100th episode. Anything to look forward to in that? Will we find out who the mother is (laughs), or any other big developments?
Alyson: We will get as close to the mother as we've ever been before.
Jason: Okay, tell me this. I know you can't say who the mother is, but do any of the actors even know who she is or when it will be revealed?
Alyson: No, they're keeping it tightly under wraps. I think [creators] Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas] know, or at least how it's going to go. But, I don't think anybody knows other than Carter and Craig.
Jason: There's been some talk about how the show has become such a strong ensemble show, it doesn't really need the 'carrot' of who the mother is anymore to succeed. Do you think that's something that should still be held until the end of the series, or could it be revealed and the show can go on?
Alyson: I don't know. I've always assumed that it would be the very last episode. Because the expectation are so high. Who could possibly come in and not disappoint somebody? There's been this big, huge build-up. We've had people on where we were saying, "Oh, I wish you were the mom!" [For example,] I loved having Sarah Chalke on.
Jason: A lot of people thought she might be the one.
Alyson: Yeah, and she just fit right in and it didn't feel odd at all. It felt like she was there from the beginning, but I guess she's not the mom.
Jason: Well, shifting gears real quick if I can, there's been talk this year of a possible reboot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. Obviously, you had a huge part in the TV series, but the director of the [original] movie is looking to do this. I didn't know if you were aware of it or had any thoughts about it. Supposedly, Joss Whedon is not involved.
Alyson: And that's a very big mistake in my opinion.
Jason: I agree. He shaped that whole universe beautifully.
Alyson: Yeah, I mean if Joss isn't involved, then it's only the title.
Jason: Would you have any interest in even doing a cameo or being involved in a project like that.
Alyson: Not without Joss. No way! Joss is the only reason that we would go back. I mean, it's just ridiculous to think of that TV show without Joss. That's just silly to me.
Jason: I agree completely.
Alyson: And all the fans know that, too, so I don't know what they're thinking.
Jason: Well, that's the biggest outcry. The series hasn't even been off the air that long, and those fans are wanting a movie or a continuation with you guys. They want the story to continue, so they don't want anything new.
Alyson: Yeah, you need Joss for that.
Jason: Speaking along those lines, when you're out on the streets, how are you getting recognized, as Willow, Lily or even just Alyson?
Alyson: I think I do get recognized mostly for How I Met Your Mother. That could be because I'm in New York, but I can only remember the last week of my life.
Jason: Well, that's parenthood for you.
You can check out Alyson at the Amazon/MasterCard Priceless Gift Finder any time. How I Met Your Mother airs Monday nights at 8 PM ET on CBS.