Neil Patrick Harris (born June 15, 1973) is an American actor, producer, director and singer. He is best known for playing Barney Stinson in the television series How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014), for which he was nominated for four Emmy Awards. He has also played the title characters in Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–1993). He had featured roles in the films Starship Troopers (1997), The Smurfs (2011), The Smurfs 2 (2013) and Gone Girl (2014). Harris was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010, and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2011. He has also hosted the Tony Awards on Broadway in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, for which he won several special class Emmy Awards. In 2014, he starred in the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, for which he won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
I first met dear little Neil on the DOOGIE HOSWER set. He may have been 20 years old at the time, but he looked about 12. And he was playing the title role! In a TV series! It was demoralizing to run into such a young kid who had his own goddam show. After all, I was in my 50’s and had been an actor for 30 years, and here before me was what looked like a 12-year-old tot, under a lucrative contract, playing the lead, while I was the miserable co-star. It was too horrible to contemplate. But this is Hollywood, I thought. He’ll never last. I mean what child actor ever really goes on to make it big? Right?
Well, I next met Neil on the set of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. I played “Yuthers” who seemed to be a kind of go-to boss for all the guys. My first episode began as the boss of Jason Segel who was utterly charming and helpful and kind. Next up I was boss to Neil’s character “Barney.” And then I turned up at some reception as the boss of the third guy. He was not as nice or charming or helpful as the other two. But then who knows how his day was going. Right?
When you are a guest star on any TV show, it is absolutely essential that you don’t allow yourself to turn into a fan. It puts the star in an uncomfortable headspace. They are expecting to deal with an actor, and not the gushing idolatry of a groupie. So, when we were introduced, I kept my comments to Neil to a minimum. I did make a stab at ingratiating myself by casually mentioning my guest-starring role on DOOGIE HOSWER. He graciously claimed to remember the episode (something about young Dr. Doogie sawing a man’s leg off after a hunting accident). I decided against adding that we were both in STARSHIP TROOPERS, since we didn’t actually work together. But my mind was racing to find a connection of some sort. Alas after that opening salvo, my only other conversation with him had to do with working on the scene; incorporating the director’s notes.
But after the third take, there needed to be a lighting adjustment. This meant that Neil and I were stuck together on the set for about 5 minutes with nothing to do. I was dying to get into how he met his boyfriend (now husband), and which one was really the TOP. And would he like to come over to dinner. But I remembered, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” (At least according to “Sir John Falstaff” in Henry IV.) However, and I don’t know why, but I suddenly panicked and blurted out: “Neil! I just want to say, that next to the pyramids at Giza and the Eiffel Tower, your song and dance with Hugh Jackman on the Tony’s was the high point of Western Civilization!” It was the gayest remark that had ever been made to anyone. Neil turned to look at me, utterly at a loss for words. He was beginning to form the glimmer of a response, when the wretched director shouted: “Okay everyone, let’s take it from the top of the scene. And…ACTION!” And off we went.
Then I heard “Cut!” Followed by, “Mr. Yuthers is wrapped. Thank you Bruce Gray.” A round of perfunctory applause from the crew. Costumers, and production assistants descended on me and whisked me off the set. I looked over my shoulder as I was being herded out the studio door to wave to my erstwhile scene partner. But all I saw was the back of Neil Patrick Harris’ head as he headed over to a gaggle of producers to discuss the next scene. Meanwhile, I headed out to the parking lot.
Today’s paper just announced that Neil Patrick Harris would be hosting the Oscars. Not bad, for the child actor, whose career wasn’t going to go anywhere.