Remember the collective feeling of sadness we experienced when the Lizzie McGuire reboot was canceled before it even aired? It sent those of us who had grown up on the original show into a state of grief, and Hilary Duff knows that. “I don’t love to talk about this, because the internet seems to explode whenever Lizzie stuff is brought up,” she told the Cut. “I think there’s always a possibility there. And even if she’s 40, I don’t think people care. It’s always going to be somewhat interesting to people to see where she ended up.” And though we’re crushed that we don’t get to see an older Lizzie anytime soon, fans are happy knowing Duff has kept busy and continues to appear on our screens.
Most recently, Duff is starring in and executive producing How I Met Your Father, in which she plays a younger version of Kim Cattrall. “She’s just smooth and cool and confident and beautiful,” Duff said of her co-star. “I didn’t have to work the day she shot all of her stuff, and I showed up and I was like, ‘Where is she? Get out of my way.’ I just wanted to breathe her air and talk to her and hang out.” As with her work on Younger, Duff continues to put female friendships front and center. Even though in How I Met Your Father Duff’s character is ultimately on the hunt for a man, there’s lots of room to explore the friendships in the show just as much as romance. “She can’t cross any boundaries. She can’t cross a girlfriend to get to a guy,” said Duff. On the latest episode of the In Her Shoes podcast with the Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Duff discusses all of this, plus what growing up in the spotlight was like and how she got back into the groove of acting. Listen to the full episode now.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner: I have to start at the beginning. We have to talk about Lizzie McGuire first. I was such a big fan of the show, and I wanted to start and get your thoughts on it now, being able to look back and see how it had such a huge impact on a generation with the fashion and the exploration of all of these preteen issues.
Hilary Duff: It’s just such a normal part of my life that it didn’t feel as monumental until really five years ago when everything was resurfacing and people were revisiting it and expressing how impactful it was to their life. When I was shooting it, I was just shooting a TV show and I had no idea that me wearing flower pants with some kind of crazy printed top was going to mean so much to people. And now I’m incredibly grateful for the community that is built around that show. Now that I’m an adult and I’ve done many other projects and I’ve had many successes and many lulls in my career, I think that it’s wild that something like that can continue to have legs 20 years later.
Lindsay: You were 13 when it first aired?
Lindsay: I’m curious about what your 13-year-old self understood about the show and the stories that you were telling about young women on TV? I think there are so many more shows, like How I Met Your Father, that have a nuanced version of friendship and relationships and exploration of young women.
Hilary: Now looking back, or even 10 years ago, thinking about the journey that the character went on and what she was dealing with at the time, it was so close to who I was that it was nice to not feel like I was going through it alone. It almost felt like I had this other person that I could brave all of those experiences.
But I wasn’t reading scripts like, “Oh my God, I deeply understand that this friendship is falling apart because of this boy,” and that eventually, we’ll find each other. It wasn’t that deep, to be honest. I wasn’t doing these deep character dives on Lizzie. I feel like we were one and the same. And it’s not until now when I look back and I’m like, “You know what? The show was really special.” And of course, there were funny parts and immature parts, but it was really thoughtful and kind and sweet and smart.
Lindsay: Yeah. Incredibly, incredibly ahead of its time. I do have to talk about the Lizzie McGuire reboot. It broke a lot of hearts when that was stalled and there’s an appetite for that to be remade. And I was curious on your end why it was so important for you to advocate to see an adult version of that character.
Hilary: I think there are a few levels to that. One is that it took a long time for me to love Lizzie again. I would say probably from 20 to 30 I was just like, “I don’t want to be called Lizzie. I don’t want to be associated with that.” It was just frustrating, I felt stuck. And I worked for many years to do other things. And then, I don’t know, that just really went away. I don’t know if it was having kids or just being settled in my own life that made me not care anymore and come around to a place of really loving and appreciating that moment in my life.
They asked me for years and years and years to reboot Lizzie, and it was just always a non-conversation for me. When I finally was ready to do it, I was like, “the only way we do this is an honest interpretation of what her life would look like right now,” because that’s what made the show so special is that it was an honest representation of a 13, 14, 15-year-old girl’s life. I think Disney Plus was a new platform for them, they knew they wanted it to live there. And I think they just got very excited about the thought of bringing Lizzie back. And then we started to not completely be on the same page when it came to topics and things that she would be faced with in her life. And I worked so hard in my career and I have such a busy life at home with my kids, unless I’m being fulfilled, I don’t want to be locked into something that isn’t making me happy.
Lindsay: That makes sense.
Hilary: But by the way, I don’t love to talk about this because the internet seems to explode whenever Lizzie stuff is brought up, but it’s not dead and it’s not alive. I think there’s always a possibility there. And even if she’s 40, I don’t think people care. It’s always going to be somewhat interesting to people to see where she ended up.
Lindsay: I agree. I mean, since you’ve had such an amazing and long career, a lot of people I think feel, “I can’t do what I want to do. I’m always being watched or I feel like I can’t take risks.” Especially growing up in the spotlight, how did you feel and how do you feel about that now? A lot of things are very different with social media and all of that. But how were you able to handle it and come out feeling like you’re confident in who you are and still able to do what you want to do with your own life?
Hilary: I ask myself that question often. If I would’ve felt it would’ve been easier to navigate if social media would have been a thing when I was 18 or 25 even? Well, I guess maybe Twitter and stuff were coming out when I was 25… I feel so old. Because then I would’ve had a platform to expose who I was at that time, instead of how a magazine wrote an article about me. And then the other side is, it’s so scary. And I’m so scared for my kids to get on social media that I’m like, maybe it was for the best. I don’t know the answer to that.
Lindsay: I brought up social media because I often think about that as well with really big celebrities. I’ll think about it when I think about it… I grew up loving Destiny’s Child. And I was like, “What would it have been like for Beyonce and Destiny’s Child?”
Hilary: Yeah, if they were just posting and you could follow and stuff like that.
Lindsay: Yeah. And I think it’s just obviously a very different world and atmosphere, but how you were able to handle it, being young in the spotlight, but also just understanding that a lot of people that you may have grown up in around the industry or people that were in things around that same time, may have not been able to handle it as well, or may not have been able to handle the fame and pressures as well?
Hilary: One, I’ve always had a crazy good work ethic. I don’t know if that’s being trained by Disney Channel, but I don’t even think so. I remember when I was little I wanted to learn how to do a cartwheel, a perfect cartwheel. And my mom said for two weeks straight, every single night for three hours in our living room, I was just doing a cartwheel, trying to do a cartwheel, cartwheel, cartwheel. So focused. Kids don’t have that focus anymore.
When Luca wants to do something, he’s five minutes practicing and then he’ll be like, “Can I get on my iPad?” There are just so many distractions. I feel like it’s just different times. When we were growing up we didn’t have all those distractions, we had to entertain ourselves. And then that goes into the whole work ethic thing of I was coming off this big show, then I didn’t want to be Lizzie McGuire forever. So then I started working on music and I wasn’t a natural singer. I knew I could carry a tune and I knew I had something to say. And then it was like, okay, I have to work hard to get anybody to take me seriously in music now. And then after that, I’m like, I’m not getting the roles I want, I got to audition for them. But I don’t know, I just made it all happen. And I think a huge testament to that is having such a strong fan base, obviously, that was built with Lizzie McGuire. But I felt so many different ways about it. I had so much responsibility to be a role model. And that was a lot of weight, and it was perfectly fine for a little while until it wasn’t.
I remember I was maybe 18 or 19 on tour and this mother came up to me after a meet and greet and she was like, “Whatever you do, don’t change. Just stay the same.” It was so intense. And she was holding my arms and looking in my face, almost begging me. And I was nice to her face and then I remember going into my dressing room and being like, “Don’t change? Don’t ever change? I’m 18, I’m doing nothing but changing. I’m different.”
Hilary: This crazy feeling of what if I never change, and everybody just wants me to be the same. It was wild. And it wasn’t shortly after that I decided to stop touring. I took a huge break. I learned how to live alone. And I think taking that break and fucking up, but trying to be private about my life, helped me so much. It helped me find my footing again when my whole life was scheduled for me, and I couldn’t go anywhere alone. And it was very isolating. And like I said, it was cool for a little while and then it was not.
Lindsay: I want to also just talk about a similar theme that I’ve seen in a lot of your work is amazing, positive female friendships, which I think is something that we talk a lot about at The Cut. Of how to have better friendships, and how often I feel my girlfriends would be able to break my heart more than any significant other ever. And I think that the female friendships that I’ve had have just shaped me and grounded me in a very different way than I ever thought. From Cadet Kelly to Lizzie McGuire, to Younger, to How I Met Your Father, there are all these different depictions of female friendships. And so just wondering, have you seen a shift in female friendships in the way that they’re portrayed over the years? What female friendships have meant to you in your life, and thoughts on that?
Hilary: Oh my gosh. I feel so lucky to have my female friendships. And I would say there’s one, two, three, four, five, six … I’m so lucky to say that I have seven really strong female friendships, and I’ve had them for a long time. And that is absolutely who I turn to, what I need to ground me just to survive. To look to for advice, to learn, to cry, to let loose. I mean, all of those things, that’s what my girlfriends do for me. It’s been nice to see that shift of just being so die-hard for your girls and not putting guys ahead of your female friends and not making your husband or your boyfriend be your everything. I mean, there’s a reason why women used to raise all the kids in a commune-type setting.
It’s a pack that is just irreplaceable. I feel like when you have those good female friendships, you have to hold onto them. You have to deeply sit and think about them and be good to one another. And I just can’t imagine, I would feel so lost without my tried-and-trues.
Lindsay: Same thing. Let’s talk about Younger, which is also an amazing show. What prompted you to join the show? What does it feel like to now be off the show? What do you miss about being on Younger? Such a funny, truly enjoyable show. And I’m curious about how often you think about it and where your head was at when you joined.
Hilary: Talk about being grateful for a job. I was really in need of something in my life at that time. I had just had Luca, my oldest child, maybe a year and a half before that show, I got the call for that show. And I hadn’t worked. I had done some super crappy projects just to get out of the house a little bit, but not anything to write home about. To get that call from Darren one day, I was just at home with my son. I was about to get divorced, my relationship was falling apart. And he was like, “I can’t see anybody else in this, but you. I think it’s perfect. I think it’s fun. I think it’s everything that you’re looking for. And come to New York and shoot this pilot.” And I was like, “Oh, I got to tell you, I haven’t even told anyone this, but I’m about to get divorced. And I just, I can’t uproot my son and come to New York to shoot a show.” He was like, “Yeah, you can. You can come. We’re just shooting the pilot, we’ll go from there.” It was like, wow, he’s so persuasive, and it feels really good to be wanted by someone who’s incredibly talented and that you’ve admired for your whole career. I loved Sex and the City and 90210 and Melrose Place in all those fucking cute shows. And so I did it, and I’m so grateful that I took a risk and decided to do that. I had no idea I was going to be traveling to New York for seven years, but I’m so glad I did.
I think that also goes back to the Lizzie McGuire thing. I was on a show like Younger, why would I take a step backward and do a show for 10-year-olds again? It just didn’t make any sense to me. And talking about female friends, Sutton and I became very close. Molly Bernard is the godmother to my two girls. She was my doula during my birth.
Lindsay: I love that.
Hilary: She married Matt and me, just my absolute best friend.
Lindsay: We have to talk about How I Met Your Father. I love the show. What has been one of your favorite moments in shooting, and stepping into the role of executive producer? What has that been like, in actually shaping the show and the storyline and things that you’re depicting to an audience?
Hilary: Talk about getting a few magical phone calls in my life. One was Darren Star, and one was Isaac and Elizabeth. And I got the phone call for How I Met Your Father … I was actually months pregnant with Mae. And I’m like, “Why are you calling me? Why do you want me for this job? I’m about to have another baby, my third baby.” And Elizabeth literally couldn’t be on the phone call that day because she was heading to Cedars to have her baby. And it was just this weird … Again, “We want you for this. What do you have going on? Will you just read the script?” And I think Isaac thought I was going to say no. And I was like, “Send it over, let me read it, of course.” I read it that night. I called him the next day, I was like, “Can that be mine, can this be mine? Are you offering this to me? Because I want this.”
Hilary: I was super intimidated by the title thinking that it was a reboot and coming off of the Lizzie stuff, I was just not down for a reboot. And he was like, “It’s not a reboot. And of course, it’s going to take a little bit of convincing to get people to understand that. But this is a completely new group of friends, as told from the females’ perspectives. Of course, we’re borrowing how to tell the story, but it has nothing to do with the old show.” And I’m like, “Okay, great.” And then I was like, “I want to be a producer. I just, I’ve been on TV too long now to not produce.” And they were totally on board, which was great because it’s been a very collaborative process. I was involved from day one with all the casting. And then I hired Anthony Tran, who’s the same wardrobe person that I met on Lizzie. That was our short, ill-fated experience. I called him, “Look, I knew our story wasn’t over. Come join How I Met Your Father.” And he’s great, so just the look of the show, the whole thing it’s been so much fun. And yeah, I mean now we have 20 episodes for season two, which was huge news.
Lindsay: Yeah. Congratulations.
Hilary: Thank you so much. Huge news. And talking about exploring female friendships, I think we’ll get an even bigger opportunity to do that because there are great women on this show too. And the one thing that makes me a little nervous is Sophie’s dating and that’s her main goal is to find her true love. And so I think a lot of the guys are going to be an option. And I’m always, “She can’t cross any boundaries.” She can’t cross a girlfriend to get to a guy.
Lindsay: Absolutely not.
Hilary: So it’ll be interesting to see how we navigate that. But when it comes to scheduling and stuff like that, it’s helpful to be a producer. But the other really important thing to me was being on a few other jobs where I just didn’t feel heard or what I had to say mattered or how I felt mattered. I sat down the cast from day one and I’m like, “The only way this is going to work is if this is a level playing field, and everybody’s coming with their best energy and their best heart forward. And any issues you have, please feel free to come to me. Go to Isaac and Elizabeth. Let’s just have open dialogue, open communication,” because I want to be the leader that I always wish I had.
Lindsay: Yeah. No, I completely understand that. The last question we have to ask is about working with Kim Cattrall on the show, playing the same person. What has that been like? We’re huge fans of Kim Cattrall as well.
Hilary: Who isn’t? She’s an icon. When she said yes, I just was like, “Wow, that this is so cool.” I have a lot of “that’s cool” moments, and then I also have a lot of … I don’t know, I’m not jaded, but I’m not too excitable anymore.
Hilary: I look at my kids sometimes and they’ll be jumping up and down for bubbles or something. And I’m like, “God, when is something going to get me that excited ever,” to physically move my body up and down, take the effort to move my body up and down because I’m so excited. It doesn’t happen that often. But when Kim Cattrell signs on to do your show and play you, you do that.
It elevated our show. She is so eloquent. She’s just smooth and cool and confident and beautiful. And I’m grateful. I didn’t have to work the day that she’d shot all of her stuff and I showed up and I was like, “Where is she? Get out of my way.” I just wanted to breathe her air and talk to her and hang out. And she was so gracious and kept being like, “Oh my God, I wish we could have had time to hang out. God, I would’ve picked your brain about the car …” I’m like, “You got this. You don’t need me.” It was cool. And I pitched something that day on set where I was like, “You know that moment where everyone just wants to have the older you write a letter to the younger you. Letting you know that everything’s going to turn out okay and answer some of your questions.”
Hilary: I’m like, I don’t know if Sophie gets stoned one day or takes mushrooms or has a dream where she’s looking in the mirror and then Kim’s there, talking her through something. And I’m like, “That would be…”
Lindsay: I would love that.
Hilary: Right? I’m just trying to worm my way into getting to shoot something with her.
Lindsay: I mean, you definitely should. Please do. Season two.