'How I Met Your Mother' cast grows up: 200 episodes and a lot of 'real-life' milestones

josh-radnor-alyson-hannigan-jason-segel-himym-200th.jpgWhen "How I Met Your Mother" premiered in 2005, the sense was that the show had assembled a strong cast, but it wasn't exactly a roster of household names.

Alyson Hannigan, two years removed from the end of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was probably the best-known at the time. Jason Segel had been a part of two cult favorites, "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared," that lasted only one season apiece. Neil Patrick Harris had worked steadily since his "Doogie Howser" days but was a few years removed from his last leading role in the one-and-done NBC sitcom "Stark Raving Mad." Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders were each taking on their first starring roles on TV.

Nearly nine years and 199 episodes later, how things have changed. Smulders is now part of one of the biggest movie franchises on Earth. Segel has appeared in a series of hit movies, a couple of which ( "The Muppets" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") he also wrote. Harris has become a consummate (and in-demand) showman, winning raves every time he hosts an awards show. Radnor has written and directed a pair of indie films, and Hannigan can likely have her pick of projects to follow "HIMYM."

To a person, the cast is thankful for the way "How I Met Your Mother" has given their careers a jolt. What they're taking away from nine seasons on the show, however, is a lot more personal than that.

"What I'm going to miss ... it's been really neat to watch Alyson and Cobie and Neil have families grow during this nine years," Segel tells reporters during filming of the show's 200th episode, which airs Monday (Jan. 27). "That's been amazing to watch real-life stuff happening side by side with our journey as characters. It's been a real honor to watch."

The five stars were between the ages of 23 and 32 when the series began, so they've been in the prime years for that real-life stuff -- marriages, kids -- as it's gone on.

"Remember when we were shooting the pilot, we all had lunch and we were like, 'So if this show goes, who do you think will have kids first and get married and do all that?'" Hannigan recalls.

"And we watched it all happen," Segel says. "It was really cool."

Radnor notes that if he ever sits down to tell his own kids about his life, "HIMYM" will inevitably play a big role.

"At some point I'll say, 'Part of how I met your mother was I was on this show called "How I Met Your Mother,"' and that's a part of the story now," he says. "I always thought it was interesting that the show was about this very transformative, pivotal time in these people's lives, and a side narrative of that is this cast, making the show has been a really transformational, pivotal time in all our lives."

He continues, "Two hundred episodes and the end of the show can't help but put you in a reflective moment, but there's nothing but good feelings, really."

The 200th episode of "How I Met Your Mother" airs at 8 p.m. ET Monday on CBS. For more on the milestone, check out Bob Saget's reflections on the show and a spoiler-ific rundown of the remainder of the final season.

Photo/Video credit: CBS