Josh Radnor trades on man’s search for a soul mate. The 35-year-old actor is best known for playing the affable Ted Mosby on CBS’s hit show “How I Met Your Mother,” in which his character, in the year 2030, recounts to his children the events that led to him to meet their mother. Radnor also wrote his own screenplay about a group of young New Yorkers seeking happiness. Titled “HappyThankYouMorePlease,” the film won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature this year and opens the Gen Art Film Festival in New York on Wednesday.
Radnor, who also starred in and directed the flick, discussed his project alongside co-stars Zoe Kazan, Kate Mara and Malin Akerman, who play his cousin, his love interest and his best friend, respectively.
WWD: What led you to write a script?
Josh Radnor: I wrote it to give myself a great film role, and as the production developed, I realized I also wanted to direct it. [Directing] has always been something that I wanted to do. I can be pretty dictatorial.
WWD: And what attracted you to the film?
Zoe Kazan: When I met Josh for the first time I really liked him as a person, then I read for him and realized I had to do this. His words bring out so much subtext, and it’s completely written for actors.
Malin Akerman: It was such a departure from anything that I’ve done and really a challenge for me, although I didn’t tell him that. I played the confident card.
Kate Mara: I was actually more drawn to a different character in the script than the one I end up playing, so at first I didn’t think I was going to be in this movie. When Josh called me to offer me a part I thought he was joking.
WWD: Why did you set the film in New York City?
J.R.: I went to grad school at NYU [earning an M.F.A. from Tisch School of the Arts] so I’ve always loved the city. I wanted this to be a below 14th Street movie. I want it to feel Lower East Side and Brooklyn. The characters shop in thrift stores, they wear their favorite T-shirts from college. I wanted the audience to have the feeling that they were voyeurs being granted access to these intimate moments in these people’s lives. And I wanted them to seem real, like you went to college with them.
WWD: How would you describe the film’s theme?
J.R.: There’s this great Carlos Castaneda quote, “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” We reflexively go, “Oh, I’m a victim, I’m miserable because he said this or this isn’t happening in my life,” but really it’s all perspective. I wanted to write about people who were in a quiet agony in the beginning and, through some subtle shifts in perspective and events, they open up to the option of being happier. I write things that I want to encourage myself to learn, and there’s something about getting it down on paper that says, “OK, I can’t go back on this.”
WWD: What’s next for everyone?
K.M.: I just finished shooting “Ironclad” in Cardiff, Wales, with James Purefoy and Paul Giamatti. It was my first period piece with an English accent. I am also doing more [episodes of] “Entourage.” And I have just been dying to do a movie musical because I am such a Broadway nerd at heart.
M.A.: I just finished “The Romantics,” and I’m starting 13 episodes of a TV show called “Children’s Hospital.” It’s a spoof on all the hospital shows, created by Rob Corddry and co-starring Ed Helms. I play one of the really inappropriate doctors. It’s nice to get paid to be inappropriate.
J.R.: We wrap season five of “How I Met Your Mother” in April, and I just sold a book for which revisions are due May 1, so I might ask for a little extension. It’s sort of a “memoir adjacent” and it’s not adaptable. And it’s not about showbiz at all.