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Neil Patrick Harris Talks 'Mother,' 'Harold and Kumar' and More

Neil Patrick Harris
Actor
Thursday, July 24, 2008 10:00 AM

Emmy-nominated actor Neil Patrick Harris was online Thursday, July 24 at 10 a.m. ET to take your questions about his life and his work on "How I Met Your Mother," "Doogie Howser MD," the "Harold and Kumar" films, the online musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and more.

A transcript follows.

It's been a busy summer for Harris. He was recently nominated for his second consecutive Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of the womanizing Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother." Season 4 of the show premieres Sept. 22 on CBS.

In "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle," and the sequel "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," Harris played a decadent parody of himself. The DVD of the second film will be released July 29. And he was the title character in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, currently available on iTunes. Harris will be in San Diego Friday to participate in a panel about the project at Comic-Con.

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Germantown, Md.: It seems rare for an actor to transition from one successful show as a young actor to another one as an adult. Was it difficult? By the way your character on "How I Met Your Mother" is the best on TV.

Neil Patrick Harris: Word. I guess one has to have patience and perspective. Those things grow with time, so getting to act as a youngster helped me out there...

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Maryland: I loved the book "Starship Troopers," and was fully prepared to loathe the movie. You were so awesome (dramatically upstaged the others) that I decided to just think of the book and movie as totally different things that happened to have the same name.

How did you get involved with the "Starship Troopers" project, though? I look at the rest of your career and it kind of jumps out as random.

Neil Patrick Harris: Wow, thanks. "Troopers" was a grand spectacle while we were filming. $100 million budget, I think? So with a background in TV, I was certain I would never be cast. Thankfully, Paul Verhoeven doesn't watch a lot of television, and I guess I looked just Aryan enough to book the gig.

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Vienna, Va.: Did Dr. Horrible try to warn Captain Hammer about the broken Freeze Ray just before Captain Hammer pulled the trigger?

Neil Patrick Harris: He did. He is human, after all. But he does manage a smirk when an injured Hammer runs out of the room, so he's far from perfect.

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Chicago: Hello Mr. Harris,

I was wondering if it annoys you that a straight actor will get all sorts of credit for playing a gay man, yet you don't see the same kind of praise when a gay man plays someone who is straight. For example, I don't hear reviewers say, "Oh, what a committed actor Neil Patrick Harris is. It is so brave of him to make out with Cobie Smulders on HIMYM."

What do you think of the obvious double standard?

Neil Patrick Harris: Honestly, I think we're all just actors. Gays should play straight, straight should play gay. It's really just a character, and hopefully it's the best actor that gets the job.

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Tempe, Ariz.: I am pulling for you to win the Emmy this year! You so deserve it! My question is this -- is there anyone in particular that you draw inspiration from in creating the role of Barney?

Neil Patrick Harris: Mostly, Larry from "Three's Company."

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Mercedes, Tex.: The Old Spice campaign is amazing! Can you tell us how it materialized and what your reaction was to the idea?

washingtonpost.com: Old Spice Neil Patrick Harris Commercial (youtube.com)

Neil Patrick Harris: I was approached about it, and was worried (once again) about disrespecting Doogie. I never want to seem like I regret that chapter, so I'm very conscious of trying to protect it. So I had meetings with the creative folk who were putting the spot together, and I liked their pitch. I also loved Will Ferrell's take on his commercial. I tried to emulate that. The Leslie Nielson school of comedy.

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Columbia, Md.: "How I Met Your Mother" is truly a great show. I just want to know where all those pick up lines came from on the show? I wish I knew them when I was dating.

Neil Patrick Harris: Props.

Writers, writers, writers. They are the backbone of the show. I look forward to the next week's script like a Christmas present.

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Bethesda, Md.: I know I speak for so many people when I say that your appearance in "Harold and Kumar" rewrote who you were as an actor in a way that very few roles could. Thanks for doing it because it made the movie for me.

Neil Patrick Harris: I agree that my career changed after that.

So weird to think that "Harold and Kumar" would be responsible for it. Just goes to show that you can never predict what project will accomplish what.

Thanks, BTW.

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Huntington Beach, Calif.: Caught you and Laurie Metcalf in a wonderful "All My Sons" at the Geffen Playhouse...how often do the boards come-a-callin' to you?

Neil Patrick Harris: Nice! Thanks. Laurie was just stellar in "All My Sons." A great treat to share the stage with her. Plus, she's a gentle kisser.

I miss theatre a lot. Just saw "In The Heights" on Broadway last night, and if that won't inspire one to get up and sing, I don't know what will. It's a great discipline.

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Sarasota, Fla.: I think "Mother" is by far the funniest show on TV. You all in the cast seem to have a great rapport -- is all the dialogue scripted, or is some of it ad-libbed (my personal theory)?

Neil Patrick Harris: Almost all of it is scripted.

There is no live audience, though, and lots of takes. So if we have something we want to try, they are all for it. But it's mostly just to placate our overinflated egos.

And other than the fact that we have all stopped speaking to each other, yeah, we get along great.

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Washington, D.C.: I thought Joss Whedon was calling in favors to make "Dr. Horrible." How did you get mixed up in that project?

Neil Patrick Harris: I've been clamoring to work with him since "Firefly."

He's supertastic.

When he mentioned super villain and musical, I drooled.

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Baltimore: Do you keep in touch with Max Casella (aka Vinnie Delpino)? Also, your electronic journal entries at the end of each episode were, in some ways, the first televised blog entries -- can you take credit/be blamed for creating the blogosphere?

Neil Patrick Harris: I just ran into Max at the Emmys last year. He was pulling for his "Sopranos" gang. I was there for "HIMYM."

He's one of the nicer guys you'll ever meet. And I'm very proud, too, of all his recent theatre work.

Big, big fan.

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Alexandria, Va.: Neil, I've enjoyed all of your works thoroughly and hope your success continues. As a professional chef, though, I'm very curious as to what got your interest in the culinary arts. I absolutely loved the episode of "Kitchen Impossible" that you appeared on.

Neil Patrick Harris: My better-half cooks. So I became a sous chef.

"Dinner Impossible" was grueling...

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Adams Morgan, D.C.: The only reason I've watched the Thanksgiving Day parade the past two years is you. Two years ago when it was cold and raining was the best. You were hilarious. I was glued to the parade in the hope that they would cut back to you. Do you have fun doing that and do you think you'll continue to do it?

Neil Patrick Harris: Loved it.

Hosting the parade is the greatest of gigs. I get the best seat in the house, and don't have to memorize anything.

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Indianapolis: How many times a day is your life interrupted by people saying "wait for it" or wanting to make a slap bet?

Neil Patrick Harris: Rarely "wait for it." Because I rarely do.

But I've been slapped probably 35 times in the last week. Total strangers.

Good times.

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Awesome!: Congratulations on the Emmy nomination. Barney is one of the best characters on TV. Do you have a favorite suit from Barney's wardrobe?

Neil Patrick Harris: Paul Smith is pretty hard to beat.

(Does saying that mean I get sent a free suit..?)

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Haaaaaaaave you met Ted?: I love "HIMYM," especially the part of Barney! It's one of two shows on TV that I can't miss. So I guess the cast totally gets along and hangs out all the time right? Do you have the best job in the world or what?

Neil Patrick Harris: I feel crazy grateful right now, career-wise. I feel like I'm getting to act in roles because I WANT to do them, rather than because it was the right move. So getting to play Dr. Horrible, be on "Sesame Street," fill in for Regis, play in game shows, Barney friggin' Stinson - I'm just very, very grateful.

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Baltimore: Hi Neil: Just wanted to say that I saw you in the role of Lee Harvey Oswald in the revival of "Assassins" a few years back and I was knocked out by your performance -- and by the entire cast. What made you decide to take on such a difficult and unsympathetic part? Thanks.

Neil Patrick Harris: I do try to make lots of interesting turns in my career. So dark and creepy is a great response to something more mainstream. Plus, I'd known every word of "Assassins" for years. It's a truly magnificent work by Mr. Sondheim. That experience was surreal.

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Fairfax, Va.: Everyone who's watched"Dr. Horrible" knows you can sing, and pull an evil laugh. Joss Whedon's often made reference (jokingly, perhaps, it is hard to tell with that man) to a potential live form of "Dr. Horrible." Would you be interested in even a one-night "Dr. Horrible Live" on stage?

Neil Patrick Harris: Only at Lincoln center. And only with a Greek chorus.

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Falls Church, Va.: Do you ever feel deficient because you haven't gone through the standard post-child-star self-destructive freakout? Have you ever considered beating up a prostitute or knocking over a liquor store, you know, just to keep it real?

Neil Patrick Harris: I freaked out a bit. It's tough going through adulthood in Hollywood.

But rather than lash out, I moved back to New Mexico for a spell and spent time rock climbing with friends...

Though, don't underestimate knocking over a liquor store. Their shocked expressions are priceless.

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Edmonton, Alberta: Do you have a director or actor that you would love to work with but haven't yet had the chance?

Neil Patrick Harris: Director: David Fincher or Christopher Guest.

Actor: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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Brooklyn: Can you tell us a little about how your decision to be out and proud Hollywood actor? And how your career is different being out as to being closeted. So many actors and actresses face this decision, so I'm wondering if there are significant consequences that make people choose one way or another.

Neil Patrick Harris: I think it's important to stand tall, whoever you are. In any situation. It may alter a career, but if you approach it with dignity, I don't think it'll destroy you. It just makes you dive deeper into the given role...

Don't be afraid of the consequences. Life happens.

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Los Angeles: What was your favorite "Dr. Horrible" moment or song?

Neil Patrick Harris: Loved "Brand New Day." The lyrics were a challenge to learn. Very "Rent."

Also loved "My Eyes." That was a great duet. Fun notes to sing.

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Toronto,: With another fantastic season of "HIMYM," "Harold & Kumar," "Dr. Horrible," "Sesame Street" and an much-deserved Emmy nom, are you aware that much of the online community has declared 2008 the year of Neil Patrick Harris? What are your thoughts on this?

Neil Patrick Harris: Wow. Thanks.

Is there some sort of trophy?

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Damn: I'm straight and I think I'd go out with you. Probably upset the wife and kids, though. So what do you think happened to Doogie? Did he grow up, buy a Porsche and start a family practice in the suburbs?

Neil Patrick Harris: He probably developed an addiction to painkillers and wanders around with a cane at some hospital somewhere...

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Washington, D.C.: Thank you for not withdrawing yourself from Emmy consideration.

Neil Patrick Harris: Thank Kathryn Heigl for leaving a slot for me.

Okay, they say times up. Thanks for the questions, and the support. What a great way to wake up...

All the best, gang.

Word.

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