Alyson Hannigan, ‘How I Met Your Mother’

It’s not like Alyson Hannigan hasn’t been on a popular series and in movies before.

Hannigan spent seven years as Willow on the cult hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and played band camp fave Michelle on the “American Pie” trilogy before “How I Met Your Mother” arrived last fall. But despite those past successes on both the small and big screen, Hannigan views her latest role as the mother of all good fortune.

“I can’t rave enough of what a great experience this was,” says Hannigan of working with Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris and wrapping up the first year of the CBS Monday night laffer. The skein was picked up for a second season with Hannigan’s onscreen marriage to Segel very much in doubt. “From a work-environment experience, you can’t find a better place to be.”

If not for the “Buffy” exposure, Hannigan might still be toiling for a full-time job. When co-creator Craig Thomas was casting “Mother,” his soon-to-be wife was a huge “Buffy” fan, and she told him she wouldn’t marry him unless he cast Hannigan. Thomas’ wife is the inspiration for Hannigan’s character.

While being on “Buffy” provided a steady paycheck, the experience was often difficult. The production schedule of a typical drama is eight days, with the duration of those days sometimes reaching 14 to 16 hours.

It’s not unusual for an actor who’s just left a drama to want to move to a half-hour situation comedy, where one’s offscreen lifestyle is infinitely more manageable.

“Being on a drama is so grueling,” Hannigan explains. “I was done with that kind of schedule. I had to have a life, make dentist appointments — and keep them. I wasn’t willing to go to another one-hour show.”

So Hannigan landed at “Mother,” where her years of experience on TV — much like that of co-star Harris, who grew up in front of the public as doc extraordinaire Doogie Howser — has given her an almost parental status among the rest of the cast.

“I’m like the mom on the set,” Hannigan says, laughing. “Neil and I are the old folks.”

SOUND BITES

Favorite scene of last season:

“Jason and I and two guest stars run into an elevator at the same time, calmly greet them and then, as we leave, I push all the buttons.”

Favorite shows:

” ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I love that show.”

Underrated actor:

“Kristen Bell from ‘Veronica Mars.’ She really needs more attention.”

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