As a devoted How
I Met Your Mother fan, I was super excited to learn that Josh Radnor would
be visiting Chicago in April to speak to Fiedler Hillel students at
Northwestern University. Since 2005, Radnor has been most widely known for his
role as Ted Mosby on the popular, Emmy-nominated CBS sitcom, which recently
announced that its upcoming ninth season will be its last.
Because we know
him best as Ted, it’s easy to mistake the character for the man. But after
talking to him, I discovered that the man behind Ted Mosby is a talented writer
and director who feels most alive on a Broadway stage and comes from a strong
goes beyond his sitcom character—he has written, directed, and starred in two
independent feature films, happythankyoumoreplease,
and Liberal Arts, both of which
premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. And he loves the stage, recently
starring in the Broadway production of The
Growing up near Columbus, Ohio, Radnor and his
family were very active in their Conservative synagogue and both he and his two
sisters attended Orthodox Hebrew day school. He has visited Israel three times,
including a 6-week teen tour with Federation when he was 15 and a nine-week
solo trip during his time at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
With his role as Ted Mosby soon coming to an end, Radnor
plans to return to the Broadway stage in 2014 and is also working on writing
his next movie.
He took some time to speak with JUF News before his visit to Chicago about his role as the
half-Jewish Ted Mosby—will we ever find out who the mother is?— his newfound
writing and directing career, and how his Jewish identity plays into it all:
News: Can you tell us a little about your Jewish background and how Judaism plays
a role in your life today?
Radnor: In between first and second year at NYU, I got this hankering to go
back to Israel so I went for 9 weeks by myself. That time in Israel was really
powerful for me. It actually threw me into a state of questioning whether I
wanted to be an actor or not. And I came out the other end feeling like I
really should be an actor and that it was okay to do this. But I was worried I
was in this kind of narcissistic loop of maybe perhaps having my attention on
the wrong things, but I [made] peace with that.
Judaism today is something I’m constantly wrestling
with but I guess that’s part of the point of it, I suppose.
does your Jewish identity influence your acting, writing, and directing?
Kushner, the playwright, was asked why he thought so many Jews were attracted
to the theater and have played such a role in the American theater at least and
he had a really interesting answer. He said the process of studying Talmud and
being a Torah scholar is digging beneath the surface of the words and finding
out the deeper meaning underneath the surface. And he said that’s exactly what
playwrights, directors, and actors do. You have this text and you read it on
the surface and you’re also digging beneath it for clues and other meanings. So
I think studying Talmud, having a proper Jewish education, is actually a very
good primer for being a part of the theater. That’s always stuck with me and
I’ve always thought that was an interesting parallel.
you an actor or more of a director at heart?
always feel like I’m being asked to choose and I don’t know that I can. I feel
like if I had to retire from acting today I could look back and feel like I’ve
done some really incredible things that not a lot of people get to do and I
feel very satisfied with that. I want to keep doing it. The writing and
directing feels more new to me and more exciting I suppose in a bigger way just
because it draws on more of me. I always describe acting as playing the violin
in the orchestra and directing as conducting the orchestra so you have a fuller
sound at your disposal as the director.
a big How I Met Your Mother fan. Do
you have a favorite episode or moment from the show?
this point it’s so hard—we’ve done over 180 episodes. A lot of times the fans
know the show better than we do in a weird way because we shoot it once and
maybe we’ll watch it or not watch it and fans watch and re-watch and study and
talk about it so they’re actually much better scholars of the show than we are.
But I have certain things that stick out. I love
episodes that fill in the history. I’ve always loved “Arrivederci, Fierro,”
where we all say goodbye to Marshall’s car…I love the one with the character of
Blah Blah where we’re explaining how
we all met each other. I like the episode where Ted and Victoria meet at the
wedding in the first season. And then
there are other bits, running bits that really amuse me. I love the
intervention banner. Even just little things that writers start throwing in
like running gags—little throwaways that reward longtime viewers like Lily
shoplifting or something like that.
know you can’t give too much away, but for those of us who’ve been watching
since 2005, will it be worthwhile for fans who’ve waited so long to see how the
would hope so! I think it’s always been building to that. I half don’t know a
lot and also don’t want to give anything away, but yeah they’re not going to
not answer the central question of this show, I’ll tell you that.