When you think of Alyson Hannigan, six words likely spring to mind: “This one time at band camp…” Or maybe you imagine her as Lily from How I Met Your Mother sitting at MacLaren’s Pub tossing back pints with Ted and the gang. But when we got the chance to chat with Hannigan recently, it was about a role of a decidedly different kind — playing a mom. In the Disney animated series Fancy Nancy, Hannigan will voice Claire Clancy, mom to the high-spirited, imaginative little girl for which the series is named. And segueing into this new era of maternal characters suits Hannigan just fine. In fact, it was her idea.
“The moment I read that they were doing this cartoon, I was calling my agent saying, ‘I want to be a part of it — anything. I love it.’ So the fact that I get to be Fancy Nancy’s mom is just really a dream come true because she’s been part of my life since my oldest daughter’s second birthday,” Hannigan told SheKnows, elaborating that it was on that birthday her daughter Satyana received a Fancy Nancy book with a matching nightgown. The whole family has been hooked ever since.
Also on the horizon? Playing Dr. Ann Possible, aka Mom Possible, in next year’s live-action version of another Disney animated series, Kim Possible.
It isn’t lost on Hannigan that there has been a cognitive shift in her body of work from quirky girlfriend to empowering mom. While her characters in How I Met Your Mother and the American Pie franchise both eventually became mothers, that arc was secondary. Until recent years, you wouldn’t think of Hannigan as a mother — but that’s precisely what she is in real life, and she’ll be the first to tell you that motherhood informs most of her career choices these days.
“Oh, 100 percent,” Hannigan emphasized when asked how much being a mom to daughters Satyana and Keeva swayed her decision to sign on for Fancy Nancy. “My kids are very proud of me,” she added, laughing. But above and beyond the fact that her kids are superfans, Hannigan confesses that motherhood changed her approach to everything.
“I feel like, definitely, everything changed when I became a mother… I absolutely think of my kids when I read something,” she said. “And also, I just love being a mom and I love being with my family, so to get me to leave them to do something, I’ve gotta want to enjoy it and it’s gotta be something I want to do.”
A fringe benefit for Hannigan of taking family-friendly roles, of course, is that her kids can actually watch it with her instead of (as Hannigan jokes of some of her past work) having the inevitable, “Well, when you’re older, I’ll explain what this show was” conversation. When Hannigan’s kids got excited over the Fancy Nancy preview banner on Disney Now, the comedic actor felt as though her "heart just burst with happiness.”
But for an entire generation of older millennials, Hannigan is intrinsically tied to our youth. Seeing her play the mom on-screen — and becoming mothers ourselves — serves as a reminder that, yes, we are getting older. It’s the kind of reminder that can make you wonder where in the hell the last decade went.
Hannigan has those moments too. “All the time,” she reassured us. “People come up to me and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I grew up watching you!’ And I’m like, ‘Aren’t we the same age? Oh man! Darn, I guess not,’” she added, laughing. However, Hannigan is happy to see the torch being passed, saying, “It’s just incredible a whole new generation is watching. It’s, ‘Oh my mom watched this when she was growing up, and now she’s showing it to me.’ … It’s amazing how fast time flies, but it’s fantastic. I’m glad I’m still around!”
As much as Hannigan is soaking up every second of this new phase, though, she admits it isn’t without its trade-offs. For a woman who, when How I Met Your Mother ended, openly wept on TV over no longer getting to see her friends every day, juggling mom life with the rest of her life has been an adjustment.
“I was just talking about this the other day — kids take over your life. I mean, at least for me they certainly have, and I’m super-happy about that. But it is basically a roller coaster of, ‘OK, here we are; we’re just in it,’” Hannigan told SheKnows.
“In it” for Hannigan and her husband (and former Buffy the Vampire Slayer costar) Alexis Denisof means weekends jam-packed with kid extracurriculars: camping, volunteering at school events, going to Disneyland. “It’s that thing of just enjoying the roller coaster,” she said, “because in half a second, they’re going to be, like, in high school.”
When it comes to the couple’s friends without kids, there’s an inherent disconnect that makes spending time together more difficult. When those friends are gearing up to go out at 9 at night, “I’m in pajamas by then,” Hannigan jokes.
“I don’t function that way anymore. If I ever have to be out that late, I’m so surprised — I’m so old — at how many people are out at night. I honestly sound like a grandmother because I’m like, ‘Look at all these people! They’re just going about their day like they’re not going to be woken up at 6 a.m. to cook breakfast,’” she said, laughing at her own self-perceived stodginess.
Still, says Hannigan, she’s happy to be here. Here in Hollywood more than three decades after her first credited role and here in the busyness of mothering.
“I love the fact that this is where I am in life, and I’m enjoying it so much,” she shared. “I know it goes by way too quick. So I’m just riding the roller coaster and hanging on when I need to hang on and throwing my arms up when I need to throw my arms up and just knowing that it’s going by too fast already.”