The girl next door has a new apartment.
Hilary Duff – forever young, forever pert, forever blonde – found a home on Disney Channel two decades ago as Lizzie McGuire, a confident tween with an animated alter ego. After her forays into music, where she went multiplatinum, and film, where she and her sister, Haylie Duff, landed a few Razzie nominations, she stopped chasing auditions.
“I had been touring for four years,” she said. “And I really needed a break.”
She married hockey player Mike Comrie and had a son, now 9. Two years later, in the midst of her divorce, she got an offer for Darren Star’s TV Land rom-com series “Younger” and went on to spend seven glorious seasons as the brash publishing house Kelsey Peters.
Along the way, she had a daughter with musician Matthew Koma, whom she married just before the pandemic. A year later she became pregnant again. In her ninth month, with “Younger” repackaged, she heard from Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, co-showrunners of “This Is Us” (with Dan Fogelman) who put a new spin on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” ”
That series, which ran on CBS from 2005-14, starred Josh Radnor as the mother-meeter, with a supporting cast that included Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, and Jason Segel. On the new show ‘How I Met Your Father’, Duff plays the enamored heroine – an aspiring photographer named Sophie with a perky New York apartment that few real starving performers could afford. (Kim Cattrall appears onscreen as the older cashmere-clad version of Sophie.)
Duff had only seen a few episodes of the original. “I like murder too much to watch comedy,” she said. But after some initial hesitation, she agreed. The show debuted last week with the first two episodes, with eight more each week to follow.
Very early on a recent weekday morning, Duff arrived via video call from her Los Angeles home looking seraphim in a white dress embellished with broderie anglaise. Despite a few interruptions — hug bombs from her three-year-old daughter, a TikTok shoot by Koma (“He’ll do anything for what it means,” she indulged) Duff spoke about her career past and present and whether she, like Sophie , believes in soul mates. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
You were 13 then “Lizzie McGuire” debuted in 2001. What was it like growing up in front of the camera?
With Lizzie I was – those lines were very blurry. I was that mismatch queen in my everyday life. Some of the things that happened to her were comforting to play out loud because they happened to me too. She became real to me. Then I shot the movie when I was 15, turning 16, and I wanted my own identity. I’d be on the street and everyone would say, “Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie!” I wanted to be known as Hilary. Now I am completely at peace with it. I love her, and I am so grateful for that experience. But from probably 17 to 25, it killed me.
You went to music. You made movies. Then your career seemed to slide back. How did you find your way back to television?
I am married. I had my son. I have learned that I love to cook; I like to entertain; I love my dogs; I love cycling. I was just starting to figure out who I was, you know? I didn’t get a chance to discover all those things on a tour, locked in a hotel room, or a bus or a stage. “Younger” found me when Mike and I were about to divorce. Nobody knew. I read the script and I thought, this could be great. I get to play an adult. It’s fun. It’s sweet. Like, I’m that person.
Kelsey is also driven and very good at her job.
She knows her worth. It took me more time to find my worth. Maybe I learned from her. But I was like, “I can’t come to New York. I’m very sorry. I’m about to get a divorce. And I have a baby.” [Darren Star] was like, “No, no, you can. We’re just going to shoot the pilot. No problem.” It feels great to be wanted by someone like Darren Star. I did it, and then it took seven years.
The week I got back to LA, I got the call from Isaac and Elizabeth. I’m like, “Why are you calling me? I’m about to have a baby. Do you want me for this part of this 30-year-old girl who has no children?’ The title really scared me. I wasn’t planning on doing a reboot, and it was such a beloved show. That cast was incredibly put together, so buttoned up and tight. Then Isaac was like, it’s a sequel. No one is trying to be this person or that person. The cast goes on their own adventure.
And that sold you?
Well, I loved Sophie and I never really had that time in my thirties where I just went out and tried and a whole lot fell on my face. I certainly struggled. But not like, where am I going to land? Am I just a loser? Sophie is a romantic. She feels that her person is out there, but she’s going to learn that she has to make herself whole first.
Have they told you who the father is yet?
I gave up because they’re just going to play me cat and mouse, beat me around. It’s actually quite hard to navigate sometimes because I have moments with all the guys. It’s almost like ‘The Bachelor’, only better. Everyone is a possibility. So I gave up guessing.
Is it exciting to know that you will grow up to be Kim Cattrall?
hell yes. Sitting next to her in all the photos, I thought, God, I need your attitude. I just have to become you. To me it just feels sweet because I have a son, and I can’t wait to drink too much wine and one day cozy up in my cashmere on my couch and tell him stories.
Sophie believes in soul mates. Do you?
Not really. That would crush my husband to hear me say that. Because he’s definitely the tender, more considerate, and I don’t think I could do this with anyone but him. I love him so much more than I ever thought I could love a person, and it’s just grown because we have all these damn kids. I’m so happy. I thought I’d do it alone forever. But I don’t believe I really believe in soul mates. I think there are a lot of people that you can be compatible with, that you can be in love with, and those scales go up and down. It’s just a matter of doing the work to find your way back together, or not.
It’s my understanding that you tested positive a week before the “How I Met Your Father” shoot.
Oh no, I tested positive the first time day of work. I hadn’t gotten Covid the whole shoot “Younger”. I was vaxxed.
We had our first rehearsal day. I had never done multicam before and I had no idea what to do. I hadn’t had a baby for four months. I got in the car and yelled to my husband, “I don’t know if I can do this job. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This is not who I am.” And that night I got the results back at 4 am. It was horrible. And I shut us down one more time because my son got Covid.
What happened to the planned “Lizzie McGuire” revival? Did it fall apart because the show wanted to acknowledge the existence of sex and the network didn’t?
It’s been a wild adventure. I wasn’t really willing to bow, because of Lizzie’s age, and they weren’t willing to bow, and we stopped politely and lovingly. It’s not dead. And it’s not alive. I’m always here to explore that character because it’s such a big part of me. You never know.
The nice thing about your career arc is that you managed to become a mature actor without denying the tween actor you were. You have continued to play these funny, ambitious, outspoken, outspoken women.
That means a lot to me. Navigating and not giving up was a challenge, when it seemed like other people were trying to make big strides to be taken seriously. That’s really not who I am. And I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done. I’m finally done with that.