Interview: Neil Patrick Harris: Doogie Turned Barney
by Scott Juba
Published: February 3, 2006
Neil Patrick Harris first found fame at a young age when he portrayed brainy teenage doctor Doogie Howser. Now his career is back on the upswing with his role on the CBS sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. Harris plays Barney, a carefree bachelor whose crazy antics often land him and his friends in awkward situations. “It’s always good to have the voice of wrong reason around,” Harris lightheartedly comments.
He adds, “I like the fact that Barney uses the word legendary so much. Everything’s going to be ‘legendary.’ In addition to thinking it’s a word that should be used more often, I think it’s funny, because it sums up Barney in a nutshell. He’s constantly thinking that everything is legendary or is about to be so.”
This Saturday, Harris will appear on the CBS special, Superbowl’s Greatest Commercials. With the exception of the Bud Bowl commercials, he thinks Budweiser consistently produces the best Superbowl ads. “I think everyone was excited about the Bud Bowl the first year until they realized, ‘What the hell is this?’,” Harris jokes. “The Bud Bowl ended and maybe Bud Light won. Did it mean anything? I don’t think so. But besides that, they had the Budweiser frogs, which was pretty genius in its day. I loved the one too where the falcon flies down and brings the guy’s woman a beer. It’s like, ‘How did he do that?’ Then it cuts to the café and all the people are screaming like it’s a Hitchcock movie. That was pretty funny.”
As far as the game itself is concerned, Harris has mixed feelings about who should win, but he’s impressed and amused by Steelers coach Bill Cowher. “I think he’s a great coach,” he says. “Watching him on the sideline is like watching a bull stalking a matador.”
While Harris is once again a familiar face on TV, following his role on Doogie Howser, M.D., his career bottomed out for several years. “I think people assume that once you start working you’re kind of in the door and can work as much as you want,” he remarks. “I’ve seen that to absolutely not be the case. You can work and things will be super golden, and then all of a sudden you can’t get work, and you don’t work for years and years. Some people don’t work for a decade and finally get another hit. I attribute getting jobs to playing slot machines. You need money in order to play, but if you sit there long enough and pull the slots, you hopefully will hit something.”
The somewhat surprising reality about Harris is his laid-back and low-key nature, which is a stark contrast from the boisterous personality of his on-screen character. After experiencing both the highs and lows of show business, he’s obviously learned not to let the roller coaster life of fame sway his mood. “The first time success comes to you, you’re so excited by it, and you have no idea what it means,” he says. “You don’t know whether you’re going to be a super, giant A-list movie star or whether you’re going to do one little thing and then never work again. The first time around you’re trying to get a feel for what’s real and what’s not. Having lived through that already, and now having a separate chapter years later, I have a bit of perspective. I’m enjoying the ride but not trying to make it mean too much.”
While Harris may have encountered a period of struggles in his career at one time, his current success proves that true talent never goes untapped for long.