10/24/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
If cast chemistry counts for anything, then the buoyant quintet of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother may someday find themselves in Friends territory. Between takes they joke and ham it up ("We all love to sing," says Neil Patrick Harris) and give each other rubdowns—"[Jason] Segel gives the best massages," says Alyson Hannigan (his "hands are like baseball mitts!" concurs Harris). The cast also convenes for weekly breakfasts "in a secret location that had very bad service last Monday," says Hannigan. "Is this nauseating? All the love?" quips Josh Radnor. Besides camaraderie, here's what each brings to this party of five:
ALYSON HANNIGAN, 31.
The American Pie and Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress identifies with her character, Lily, a kindergarten teacher engaged to longtime beau Marshall (Jason Segel): "I have a lot of her mothering aspects. I got Jason to quit smoking—that's sort of Lilyesque. It's mothering with a bit of bossiness." Hannigan, who's married to actor Alexis Denisof (Angel), quickly adds, "I'm not like that with my husband—mostly just with these guys."
JASON SEGEL, 25.
"I put on a two-man play when I was 16 and got spotted by the woman who was doing casting for Paramount," says the L.A. native. That led to a role in the cult fave Freaks and Geeks. HIMYM's producers, both Geeks fans, thought he'd be perfect to play Marshall. Although, unlike his character, who's a kitchen klutz, "I'm a serious cook," says Segel. "Breakfast is my specialty."
NEIL PATRlCK HARRIS, 32.
Welcome back to L.A., Doogie Howser. "Having spent the majority of the last three years in New York doing theater, I felt the need to come home," says Harris, who plays the outrageously opinionated Barney. Known for his tendency to spontaneously break into song, Harris was approached to take part in FOX's celebrity version of American Idol but turned them down." I don't know how much I want the public to be calling in and voting me into the bottom two. And then by week five I'll be voted off and totally humiliated."
COBIE SMULDERS, 23.
The Vancouver-raised actress (The L Word) used to commute to Hollywood while searching for a job. But after landing the part of TV reporter Robin, she says, "I now have a work visa—thanks to CBS! I moved here permanently in September and got an apartment." But she's still a bit homesick for Vancouver. "There's so much green there," she says, "and it's so clean."
JOSH RADNOR, 31.
The Ohio native, still single, knows the pressure his character, Ted, feels to find a mate. "A girl I was friends with in high school came up to me and said, So when are you going to...um? You're not so young anymore!' I was like, 'Time to go, nice to see you.' " At least most of his buddies are single. "My best friends live across the street from me in L.A.," says Radnor (who made his Broadway debut in 2002's The Graduate). "I just wander into their apartment. I'm kind of like their Kramer."