For many audiences, How I Met Your Mother was how they met Hunters actor Josh Radnor, MCU heroine Cobie Smulders, and Cristin Milioti of Palms Springs. It is also likely how they became reacquainted with Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Alyson Hannigan, Freaks and Geeks star Jason Segel, and Neil Patrick Harris - formerly known as Doogie Howser. Yet, some fans may not realize that the hit CBS comedy may also be how they met many of today’s biggest celebrities.
As it often happens with long-running TV shows (nine seasons, in this case), the sitcom from creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas turned out to be a big break (or the home of a brief, but fun, appearance) for many you would easily recognize today. In fact, to mention every big name we found in How I Met Your Mother’s supporting cast list would take longer than the story of Ted Mosby’s life-changing romance (as well as the misadventures of his friends in New York). So, we narrowed the list down to 21 celebrities, starting with one incredibly talented performer who appeared on the series right before he became legen - wait for it… DARY!
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Gus)
Before his hip-hop history lesson, Hamilton, made him the biggest name on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda appeared in an episode of How I Met Your Mother’s final season that is also told entirely in rhyme. He even gets to drop a few sick verses as a bus patron initially annoyed by Marshall’s incessant use of homonyms to put his infant son to sleep while en route to Barney and Robin’s wedding.
Jayma Mays (Coat Check Girl)
Also known for a background in theater that would influence her onscreen career is Glee star Jayma Mays - also known as Neil Patrick Harris’ wife in The Smurfs movies. One of the redhead’s earliest TV appearances was on Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother as a woman working the coat check counter at a night club who impresses Ted with a mutual low opinion of such places.
Anna Camp (Cassie Lowell)
Glee also gave Anna Camp a chance to exhibit her singing skills before doing so in Pitch Perfect in 2012. The following year, the now 38-year-old actress appeared in two episodes of HIMYM’s ninth season as an attractive and outgoing guest at Robin and Barney’s wedding whom Ted takes interest in, but with increasingly disastrous results.
Amber Stevens West (Janet McIntyre)
Already well-versed in disastrous romances by How I Met Your Mother’s seventh season, Ted and a beautiful woman he recently met both agree to avoid each other’s social media to prevent disappointment on their first date, which becomes a greater challenge than either expected. The woman is Amber Stevens West - best known at the time for Greek, before appearing in 22 Jump Street and landing a starring role on the short-lived comedy The Carmichael Show on NBC.
Morena Baccarin (Chloe)
How I Met Your Mother even put a then-single Marshall in a disastrous romance (which, thankfully, resulted in he and Lily rekindling their relationship in Season 2) with a seemingly well-natured barista (despite Barney’s warning of her “crazy eyes”) played by Morena Baccarin. The Brazilian-born Geek Goddess was previously best known as Inara Serra on Firefly and would go on to have a somewhat more successful relationship with Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson in Deadpool.
Robbie Amell (Nate Scooberman)
Morena Baccarin has also appeared in several DC adaptations, such as The Flash - on which Robbie Amell (Stephen’s little cousin) played the incendiary Ronnie Raymond. The Canadian Upload star also had a pair of HIMYM guest spots in Season 6 as Robin’s new boyfriend who unwittingly earns the nickname “Scooby,” not just for his last name, but for his canine-esque characteristics - especially after he “eats a sandwich.”
Doug Benson (Cool Customs Guy)
“Eating sandwiches” is a claim to fame for Doug Benson and likely earned him the part of an airport customs agent who allows Marshall through without checking what he brought back from Amsterdam. This “miraculous” flashback moment from HIMYM’s third season is one of the comic’s many appearance as a stoner (or, in other words, himself), such as on Bob’s Burgers and You’re the Worst.
Scoot McNairy (Fast Food Worker)
Also one to appear on How I Met Your Mother in a nameless role is Scoot McNairy, who is now one of the most acclaimed actors of his day for movies like 12 Years a Slave, and TV shows like True Detective. Despite the briefness of the Batman v Superman star’s Season 2 appearance as a cashier from a restaurant visited by a starving Marshall and Lily at their wedding, he is remembered as the first stranger to refer to Lily as Marshall’s wife.
Malin Akerman (Movie Stella)
Speaking of DC movies, Malin Akerman appeared in Zack Snyder’s 2009 Watchmen movie a year before, supposedly, poking fun at blockbuster stardom on Season 5 of How I Met Your Mother. She plays the female lead of a hit romance flick called The Wedding Bride, which happens to be a highly fictionalized retelling of when Stella (Sarah Chalke) left Ted at the alter for her ex-husband, Tony (Jason Jones) who also wrote the screenplay.
Jon Heder (Narshall)
In Season 9, we learned there was actually a sequel called The Wedding Bride Too, which the gang watches at Farhampton (the site of Barney and Robin’s nuptials) despite Ted’s forbiddance. One character of the fictional film, who appears to be based off of Marshall, is played by Jon Heder, whose defining role is (and may always be) as Napoleon Dynamite in the iconically bizarre 2004 indie comedy of the same name.
Judy Greer (Royce)
Ted actually first sees the original The Wedding Bride while on a date with a woman named Royce, played by Judy Greer. As a, sort of, reversal of Malin Akerman’s career trajectory, the Archer actress would find blockbuster stardom years after her HIMYM role as as Bryce Dallas Howard’s sister in Jurassic World, Laurie Strode’s daughter in 2018’s Halloween, and in the MCU as Ant-Man’s ex-wife, Maggie.
Jon Bernthal (Carlos)
Also (loosely) connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is former The Punisher star Jon Bernthal, who first played a morally questionable comic book character on The Walking Dead for two seasons. Years earlier, the now 44-year-old appeared in the second-ever episode of How I Met Your Mother as a mysterious guest of Ted’s three-night party who almost ruins his increasingly problematic attempts to woo Robin.
Rachel Bloom (Wanda)
Rachel Bloom would win a Golden Globe for playing a lawyer making increasingly problematic attempts to woo a man from her past on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which she also co-created. One of the comedic actress’ first high-profile TV appearances was on a Season 7 episode of How I Met Your Mother as a passenger on the titular “Drunk Train” who memorably throws a drink in Ted’s face after feistily asking, “Ya think ya betta than me?!”
Kristen Schaal (Laura Girard)
Another comedic actress known for her feisty characters is Kristen Schaal, whose voice you should unmistakably recognize as Louise Belcher on Bob’s Burgers, and her face from the time-traveling Kelly in Bill and Ted Face the Music, more recently. In HIMYM’s third season, she played one-half of a couple living across from Marshall and Lily, who first seem like the perfect neighbors until the friendship becomes a little invasive.
Larry Wilmore (Dr. Greer)
Kristen Schaal was also a Daily Show commentator for years, much like the news satire’s former “Senior Black Correspondent” Larry Wilmore - who would eventually get his own short-lived Comedy Central show called The Nightly Show. The actor, writer, and talk show host also popped up on Season 3 of HIMYM as a veterinarian who buys Lily’s artwork after discovering its calming effect on dogs.
Matt Jones (Pizza Guy/Arthur)
How I Met Your Mother is also famous for several appearances by Breaking Bad stars, including Bryan Cranston as Ted's former boss Hammond Druthers, Bob Odenkirk as Marshall's former boss Arthur Hobbs, and Matt Jones as a pizza deliverer in Season 5. The actor, who played Jesse Pinkman's buddy Badger on the phenomenal AMC crime drama, made a second appearance later that season as the same character, whom we then learned was a frequent visitor the gang even knows by name.
Hong Chau (Cook Pu)
Speaking of names, on another Season 5 HIMYM episode, Ted once assumed his architecture class was playing a trick when he found "Cook Pu" written on the attendance sheet. After mocking the name several times, he came to the awkward realization that it belonged to a real student of his played by future Golden Globe-nominated Downsizing star Hong Chau - also known for Big Little Lies and the 2019 Watchmen series on HBO.
Jimmi Simpson (Pete Durkenson)
In HIMYM's seventh season, we learn that Marshall once went by a funny name (of his own invention), "Beercules," from an embarrassing video uploaded by an old college buddy who ends up reviving his drunken alter ego after a game of "Edward Fortyhands." This serial drinker (who, apparently, is a surgeon professionally) is one of many notable TV appearances by Jimmi Simspson - best known for Black Mirror's "U.S.S. Callister" episode, and, most recently, as William on Westworld.
Busy Philipps (Rachel)
An earlier episode had Marshall cross paths with another old acquaintance from another show: Jason Segel's former Freaks and Geeks co-star Busy Philipps, who eventually found a steady role on Cougar Town. In a Season 3 HIMYM episode, she plays a friend of Ted's former one-night stand Trudy (Danica McKeller), who seems interested in trying again with the recently single architect as her friend, Rachel, shows signs of wanting to share.
Conan O’Brien (Bar Patron)
After Conan O'Brien won the chance to appear on How I Met Your Mother's seventh season, instead of more formally sharing the screen with the cast, he opted to just blend into the scenery in an uncredited role. Thus, you may not have spotted the living late night legend just hanging out at MacLaren's unless you were paying close attention.
Harvey Fierstein (Lily’s Smoking Voice)
Even more difficult to notice is Harvey Fierstein's purely unseen HIMYM cameo as what Lily's voice becomes after the gang's smoking habits go off the rails in Season 5. However, in retrospect, who else but the Tony-winning Broadway actor and Mrs. Doubtfire star could have produced that distinct, gravelly drawl?
I don't know about you, but I have always found these lesser-known or basically hidden cameos on How I Met Your Mother more interesting than their A-list guest stars, such as Britney Spears, John Lithgow, or Maury Povich. If you agree, you can always find more "before they were famous" appearances from your favorite shows that we managed to spot, as well as other fascinating updates about the beloved (and slightly controversial) sitcom here on CinemaBlend.