Alyson Hannigan Revealed The Adorable Story Of John Ritter Buying A Prop For Her On "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
"I just started crying. I was like, 'I'm on daytime television crying now, and it's not even Oprah.'"
It's no secret that Alyson Hannigan has been in her fair share of iconic movies and TV shows. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to How I Met Your Mother, her characters have been a part of a lot of fans' lives for years. And now, Alyson is starring in Disney's Flora & Ulysses, which tells the story of Flora, a huge comic book fan who rescues a squirrel she names Ulysses. Soon, Flora discovers that Ulysses has some unique superpowers, and the duo go on an adventure of a lifetime.
A few weeks ago, Alyson sat down with us to talk about her role in Flora & Ulysses, what it's like being in a children's movie she can share with her daughters, and of course, we looked back on her memorable roles, namely the souvenirs she's taken from sets over the years. Here's everything we learned:
Your character's storyline in Flora & Ulysses involves trying to discover herself again. How was it playing this character arc?
I really enjoyed playing Phyllis. I love that she was so flawed, well intended, but just flawed, and sort of bumbling her way through her new situation [of being newly separated from her husband]. I love that they didn't shy away from the situation where these two people had a lot of love for each other, then sort of didn't nurture it, and now they've grown apart. So, it wasn't that something tragic happened in the relationship that caused anger and hostility, it was just that they didn't know what else to do. It was really fun to play with Ben [Schwartz] during the "normal" moments, like how do we greet each other? I really enjoy it and, you know, Ben is so talented and so funny. I just loved all of the layers that this script, and the characters, have.
For her first major role, Matilda Lawler is so captivating as Flora. What was it like building the mother-daughter relationship with her?
I mean, she's such an easy person to be around. But Lena [Khan], the director, was really mindful about making sure that we all had a connection. So during rehearsal, she set aside some time where Matilda and I could go [and hang out]. Lena was like, "Do you have any ideas for what you guys could do?" And I was like, "Well, does she like crafting? Because I'm a crafter." So we just crafted together, which was so much fun. In fact, after I left our first session, I went straight to the Michaels near my hotel and bought even more stuff that we could use for the next time we did it. We crafted a trailer that Ulysses would use. He needed a dressing room too.
There are a lot of emotional moments in the movie, like the water park and forest scenes. What was it like performing the more serious scenes?
The water park moment in the film was our first day. Well, my first day of work, I should say. So the newness of like, "How does the director work?" and "What's it going to be like?" So that's basically my memory from the water park.
There's a moment in the forest with my character, and I looked over at my daughters and there was a moment where I was like, "This is not good. They're gonna, like, stop loving me in this moment." I was like, "It's gonna be okay." I was trying to save my relationship with my children. They looked very betrayed by me in that moment.
BuzzFeed: Also, filming some of these scenes, it's just you and Ulysses. So, I'm assuming you're acting to like a tennis ball or something.
Yes! It was not hard for me to imagine what a squirrel looks like, so it was easier than, you know, a lot of the monsters I had to pretend to see in the Buffy years. So, surprisingly not as hard as one would think.
This movie has such an incredible comedic ensemble that includes yourself, Ben Schwartz, Danny Pudi, Kate Micucci, and Bobby Moynihan, to name a few. Was there ever a moment where you couldn't stop laughing on set?
There were definitely moments where it was hard not to [start laughing], but we were all pretty good about not breaking. Just anytime Danny [Pudi] was on set, it was hard not to laugh. I mean, I didn't have a lot of scenes with him, but I could watch him all day long.
Flora & Ulysses is based on a book by Kate DiCamillo. Were you a fan of the book before starring in the film?
Yes, my family and I have been massive fans of Kate since my oldest daughter was 5 and we were introduced to the Mercy Watson books. So now as they grow, we get to go into the books for older kids. I turned into a full-on fangirl anytime I was with Kate. I'm so glad she's as nice as she is, because she puts up with it. She's just remarkable in every way, and I love her characters. There hasn't been one book of hers that I haven't picked up and instantly fallen in love with.
"There hasn't been one book of hers that I haven't picked up and instantly fallen in love with."
BuzzFeed: Because of Winn-Dixie was one of my favorite books growing up, and it really was because the characters were so complex and not afraid to be themselves.
Yes, I love that! Also like in Mercy Watson, she'll just insert a word that is a little more sophisticated than my 5-year-old has probably heard, but my kids just eat it up. They felt really fancy because they were chapter books. "I'm reading chapter books," that's what my kids at 5 were saying.
You mentioned that your daughters got to visit set. What was it like having them there?
Oh, it was so wonderful. My oldest daughter and Matilda [Lawler] are around the same age, so it was just so nice. I mean, normally they want to come to set to see me, but this was not the case. They wanted to just hang out with Matilda. It was an easy friendship right away, and Matilda is beyond special. She is so incredibly talented. She's just such a nice person, and I love her family. We filmed this in Vancouver, and towards the end, there was like a county fair we all went to with the kids. It was such a great summer. It was really special for all of us.
BuzzFeed: Were they a little disappointed when they realized Ulysses was CGI and not a real super-powered squirrel?
I had given them the, like, "It's not a real squirrel" talk, but even with that, while we were watching [the final film], my youngest daughter was like, "Wait, did you get to work with a real squirrel?" Like, she thought maybe I had not told her the truth or something. Then, 10 or 15 minutes later into the film, she'd be like, "How did they get the squirrel to do that?" So I should probably have not kept reminding her that it wasn't real, because she would have just believed it.
Have your daughters watched any of your other work?
They've watched Fancy Nancy, they went through a phase of watching Fool Us, which I host with Penn and Teller, and Kim Possible, and obviously they loved that. For Kim Possible, we got to do the red carpet and the premiere, so they were just over the moon for that. It's nice to do something that they really love, and they're so excited for their friends to see Flora & Ulysses.
Have you ever taken anything from set after filming wrapped?
Yeah, definitely. From Buffy, I was given a lot of cool Halloween decorations. Like from the early seasons, I have stuff from the Master's lair, lots of tombstones, skeletons, and of course, coffins. I think Sarah [Michelle Gellar] gave them to me, but somehow I have Buffy's boots from the first season. I mean, there were like four pairs, but I have one of them.
I remember, I wore this rubber ducky shirt, and in the episode that John Ritter was in, I was like, "I love this shirt so much." Well, John went to wardrobe and was like, "Can I buy it so she can have it?" And I had no idea, and it was just in my trailer with a note that said, "John wants you to keep this." It was a glorious gift just to work with him, but for him to be so thoughtful and considerate and for him to think about, like, "Oh, she really liked that rubber ducky shirt. I'm gonna make sure she can get it," that was beyond. I also have some of Willow's overalls.
BuzzFeed: And what about from How I Met Your Mother?
From Lily, I have some of her art stuff. I've got her beautiful easel and a painting that "Lily" painted. But, my prized possession from How I Met Your Mother, because I had to fight to get it, was the red phone booth [that sat] on top of the piano. There was a list at the end of the series to sign up for like, "What would you like to take?" The cast, the crew, and everybody signed up for stuff. For the phone booth, I know that Carter Bays, one of the creators, and I both really wanted it. I think he gave it up because he had fired my daughter from being in the show to put his daughter in.
BuzzFeed: Wait, did that really happen?
Yeah, he said my baby daughter was "too old" to be my baby [on the show], but his baby was like six months younger. So, it was his baby. But I got the phone booth, so fair trade.
Willow and Tara's relationship is still widely celebrated today. What is it like still connecting with fans who were impacted by their love story?
I couldn't be more grateful. I knew it was really special while we were doing it, but I had no idea that it would make such an impact. To this day, there are so many people that have come up to me and told me their story. I can't even describe what a nice feeling that is and to know that something I was a part of helped somebody get through a challenging time and have hope. The fact that it made them feel less alone or something, I'm just so happy that I can be a part of that.
Obviously you've been part of two long-running TV shows. Does it ever get easier to say goodbye to a character and a show that has been part of your life for so long?
Um, no, and I think for How I Met Your Mother it was even harder because I had already had the experience of Buffy. You know, as much as you want to convince yourself like, "Oh, we'll still see each other all the time," you don't. So when we were on the press tour for the end of How I Met Your Mother, I remember we were doing The Talk, and it was the whole cast, and I remember Cobie [Smulders] was answering a question and was like, "Oh, I'm sure we'll see each other all the time." This was her first long-running gig, and through the whole experience she was always "the newest." I remember listening to her and just my heart was breaking when she was answering that question, and [she was] truly believing that we were all going to have like lunch every week. I knew that she was wrong.
"I remember listening to her and just my heart was breaking."
Then, they followed up her answer with asking me a question about what I'm going to miss most about Jason [Segel], and I just started crying. I was like, "I'm on daytime television crying now, and it's not even Oprah." It kind of rocked me that much.
I had to follow that interview by going straight to a recording session for an episode of Sofia the First, and I couldn't shake [the feeling of], "Oh my gosh, this [How I Met Your Mother] is over." I was so upset and so distraught, and I walked into the recording room with people I hadn't met before, and I'm still crying. They turned out to be the team that did Fancy Nancy, and we always laughed about like, "Hey, remember when I came in crying?"
BuzzFeed: It must be wild to not only be saying goodbye to a character, but also the cast and the crew all at the same time.
Yeah, just because you're missing the daily everything. It was such a special group on How I Met Your Mother. It was so much fun to go and get to play with those guys every day. We had the most incredible crew, and it was a dream job, honestly.
And finally, a lot of people, myself included, have grown up watching you on TV. Is there a show you loved growing up that you idolized?
I wasn't really allowed to watch much television. I would go to a friend's house and watch it or sneak it when my mom wasn't home. I loved television, and there were so many that I adored. Everything from I Love Lucy to The Brady Bunch. I just loved television. I was an only child and television was my friend.