Catching Up With Neil Patrick Harris

TV Features Neil Patrick Harris
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After nearly nine seasons as the legend—wait for it—dary Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris will say goodbye to the CBS sitcom in the series finale airing March 31.

Paste recently had the chance to talk to Harris, who has two children with his partner David Burtka, during a visit to the show’s set. The erstwhile Doogie Howser talked about what it’s been like to have his character evolve, his post-Mother plans and what he’s taking from the show’s set.

Paste: Barney has been a womanizer since the show began, but the entire final season is built around his wedding.
Neil Patrick Harris: That’s been my favorite thing about season nine. I love the structural conceit of the whole season happening in a weekend. It keeps characters like Barney from having to have big relapses. Like we know that he’s going to marry Robin [Cobie Smulders], right? And so I didn’t want there to be a whole other season where he chickens out and he meets another girl for seven episodes and they break up and when is he ever going to learn. At the end of season eight, Robin and Barney are in the limo and they’re heading away, and he was calm. He had grown in his skin and had chosen someone who was very similar and very hot. So he gets to spend season nine having flashback freak-outs and flash-forward things but really not having more ups and down.

Paste: What’s it been like to play Barney’s emotional growth over the course of the series?
Harris: I like it. I expected him to be the weird fifth banana the entire series, and I expected him to always be the voice of single life. I thought the structure of the show was single Ted [Josh Radnor] having married couple versus single friends and the angel/devil on the shoulder play. So when all of a sudden Barney was in relationship world, it took me by surprise. But that’s such a great thing for an actor to do because the former would have been doing the same few tricks over and over and over for year after year after year.

Paste: When did you find out how the series would end?
Harris: I cornered [co-creators and executive producers] Carter Bays and Craig Thomas at our Christmas party, and after, like, five drinks, I got them in the corner, and said, “Now it’s time. I want you to tell me everything. Spill the beans. Tell me how it all ends,” and they did. It’s more complicated than you would assume. And for all of our fans, they will be far from disappointed.

Paste: After the show wraps, you and your family are moving to New York and you are starring in the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. What made you want to do Hedgwig?
Harris: I saw John Cameron Mitchell do it. It was so crazy. I never thought, “Someday I’ll do that.” I just was enamored by his performance. I knew they were doing a revival of it. I’ve been rehearsing a lot. It’s been hard only because it’s the polar opposite of Barney Stinson in almost every way—posture, voice, ideology.

Paste: Are you excited for your children to experience New York?
Harris: I think their eyes will be open to a lot of things I wouldn’t have thought to show them. In LA everything is very compartmentalized, and that’s kind of amazing. You chose exactly what you want to eat and how you’re going to get there and what you want to take to get there, but in New York you come upon things all the time, and with that comes lessons that need to be taught quickly and learned and also just crazy diversity of just everything that they don’t have the opportunity to get here.

Paste: What advice would you give to someone trying to be successful in this business?
Harris: It’s a tricky business because the percentage of rejection is so much higher than the percentage of success that it’s not even 80/20, it’s not even 90/10—you’re just constantly being told that you’re not something. You’re not tall enough, or handsome enough or talented enough or thin enough. Something always, even now. It still gets down to the big movies, and it’s you and another person and they give it to the other person. It’s a constant state of disappointment, but I think take every job that you can. You have to scrap a little bit and work angles and network a bit but you just take jobs. I think the least successful people I’ve found are the ones who are convinced that they’re superstars and don’t take jobs that they deem beneath them and then they just end up not working.

Paste: What would you like to take from the How I Met Your Mother set?
Harris: I’d love to take the bar table that we’ve all carved our initials on but egotistically I think it’s going to end up at the Smithsonian. I might take a Storm Trooper from Barney’s apartment.