Josh Radnor - Reeling in Radnor

Single life… Isn’t it wonderful? There are two black and white answers to that question. On some occasions, after a particularly good evening, you might scream a resounding, “Hell Yeah!” from the rooftops. Then, there are those nights when you find yourself sitting at the bar, strapping on the beer goggles so at least something looks good when the lights come up, saying, “This sucks!” For those singles out there that find the dating game a bit tiresome and, frankly, a little maddening, wouldn’t it be comforting to know that someday you’ll be able to sit down and tell your children just how you met your true love? No, really. Wouldn’t it?

For those of us who find humor and horror in the dating game, there is more than enough solace in watching CBS’s newest hit How I Met Your Mother, starring Bexley native Josh Radnor as a likeable average-Joe named Ted. The story of how Ted came to meet his wife is told in flashbacks narrated by Bob Saget.

Before we started asking Josh all about his career, current show, past accomplishments, schooling, personal grooming habits, etc., we thought we’d throw him a few questions to see if he was one up on the rest of us when it comes to the singles game…

Given that you are a single guy, do you have a good pick-up line that you use or do you just roll with the moment?

I say, “Welcome to the set. I guess you’re playing my girlfriend. I’m Josh.” No. Actually, I’ve never been good at that sort of thing. I don’t do well at meeting people at the bar. I wish I had something more salacious to offer you.

Well, have you ever been asked out in an interesting way or even have a funny story about how someone turned you down?

I’ve never been turned down. I’m kidding. You know, I’ll tell you something funny. I’m doing this show about relationships and dating and now suddenly everyone is interested in my dating life and it’s really odd. I didn’t think of this when I did the pilot. I just tried to tell the story through this guy’s perspective and suddenly… I mean is this interesting? My dating life? I mean personally, I wish it were more interesting, but it isn’t. So lets spare your readers those details. If anyone calls and wants to get in touch, you can give them my number.

Obviously, Radnor, like the preponderance of single people, is not terribly interested in sharing the intimate details of his dating misadventures, so we promised we wouldn’t prod him for any more details, and we skipped ahead to the part where we grill him about him. After attending Kenyon College, where he won the Paul Newman Acting Trophy, he moved to New York and earned his M.F.A. in acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Add in a starring role on Broadway in The Graduate opposite Kathleen Turner, consistent roles in regional and off-Broadway theater and appearances on various television shows, and it is clear that Columbus has plenty to be proud to call her own in this manifestly accomplished thespian.

Let’s start from the beginning - when did you first start acting in Columbus?

Started acting in various plays in high school and then I started doing musicals during the summer with the Columbus Junior Theatre, which is now the Columbus Children’s Theatre. I started doing plays with them, which was invaluable. Bill Goldsmith, who is still there, was just an excellent teacher and director and really treated us like professionals, even though we weren’t acting like professionals all the time. He expected a kind of professionalism from us. He would give us a kind of shaming speech every summer when we got to the place where we had lost focus. The crux of the speech was him screaming at the top of his lungs, “Mediocrity sucks!” He was right because it does suck.

What was the first production you were ever in?

It was Oklahoma! That classic chestnut. Then, the next year I played the MC in Cabaret and that was the moment when I was like, “I really like doing this. Uh oh!”

Was there anything else you had considered prior to that? Was there a direction you were going?

No. I was just in high school and being a high-schooler. I think maybe in the back of my head I thought maybe I would go to law school and be a lawyer, because my dad is a lawyer. I wasn’t really one of those high school kids who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. In a way, I kind of feel like I don’t remember anything before I was 16, so getting up on stage did something for me. It’s weird. I was never one of those young actors who had a back-up plan. Maybe that’s good. People say you should have a back-up plan, and I never agreed with that, because if you are going to do it you are really going to have to do it. People switch in mid-stream, and you don’t really need to have an accounting degree to have something to fall back on.

What has been your biggest personal challenge since becoming a professional actor?

For years it was figuring out who I was when I wasn’t acting. How you deal with the immense amounts of downtime. I was very fortunate because I was making enough money to not have another job. I also had to get really good at killing three or four months of cavernous amounts of time... I used to joke that I had every school kid’s dream, but kind of a nightmare because I had a life of snow days. I started to write a lot and it’s still a challenge. Now the challenge is that I’m working so much that I have no energy to do anything else. I’m trying to find my life again and not get swallowed up by this job.

How many days are you on the set?

Five days a week. Weekends are pretty shot for me though because I just end up sleeping. Monday and Tuesday are pretty light. They are just rehearsals and run-throughs. Normally on sitcoms you shoot in front of a live audience, but we don’t do that, because the scripts are kind of complicated and we have a lot of flashbacks, and it takes us three whole days to shoot the show.

So you don’t shoot in front of a live audience at all? That’s has to be difficult coming from a theater background and normally having an audience to feed off of.

We have our writers, script supervisors and crew who kind of chuckle along. It’s been good, but I was kind of disappointed when I learned we weren’t going to have audiences. But, I think it keeps us honest and playing to each other and the camera and keeps the scale of the thing in the right direction. Sometimes they’ll be like, “Hold for that laugh!” it’s going to be there and you’ve got to trust that they know better than you.

Most people ask what the best advice you’ve received as an actor, but what was the worst piece of advice someone gave you?

“Don’t be an actor.” I had a relative once tell me that I would need to be good at waiting tables. You get these kind of snarky comments, and you just have to let them go. It was hard coming from Bexley and Columbus, because I had no role models who went on and did this. I had a really important summer in between my sophomore and junior year at Kenyon. I went to Vassar, and they have a professional theatre program there called New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Theatre. I was an apprentice there and ended up playing Macbeth. I became friends with a lot of the professional actors who were really wonderful and encouraging to me. They came to my productions and pulled me aside and said, “You really need to do this.” Pieces fell into place that summer, and it was my first time acting outside of Ohio. It was the first summer where I met professional actors and was validated by professional actors who said, “Do this.”

What appealed to you most about your role as Ted on How I Met Your Mother?

It’s like I had a few drinks and met a girl and was like, “Yea, lets get married. In Vegas. Tonight.” Then the next day, you’re like, “Wow, I’m married and I love this wife…” But it’s a big commitment. You read so many scripts during pilot season, and when this one came in the mail I was intrigued by the title. I sat down on the couch and read it in 15 minutes and then called my agent and said I would go in for this. Other than that, there really wasn’t much thought put into it. I’m really good at reading a script and knowing if I’m right for the role or not... I don’t want this to sound cocky or anything, but it was the kind of role that I thought I had a really good shot at getting. From the start of the audition process, I kind of weirdly assumed it was my role anyway, which is kind of the way you have to attack your auditions if you want to get a role.

How many women do you think your character is going to have to go through before he meets “The one?”

Oh man, I don’t know. I’ve got a girlfriend starting for five episodes at least. If you want to meet women and be a professional actor this is certainly the way to go.

The show really got a coveted spot too since it took the timeslot of Everybody Loves Raymond.

CBS has been really supportive and threw a lot of weight behind it. These guys who created the show are really young too. They are 30 years old. It’s weird because I feel like they are kind of the writer’s equivalent of me in a way. They were at The David Letterman Show for four years and they consider that their comedy writing grad school.

The show has also had a lot of positive reviews. Coming from theater do you find yourself wanting to read the reviews of the show?

I don’t like reading reviews. Even good reviews. It’s never what you want it to say, and, even if it is, you somehow want it to say something else. They always say that, “If you believe them when they love you, you have to believe them when they hate you.” George Bernard Shaw has this great quote about reviews where he says, “They should ruin your breakfast but never your lunch.” I try to not even let them ruin my breakfast.

How I Met Your Mother airs Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.