Most of us have that terribly embarrassing friend we adore to the ends of the earth. So, it’s no surprise well-suited, fantastically cheesy and gloriously shameless Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother struck a chord. The show kicks off a new season tonight, September 22, so we caught up with star Neil Patrick Harris to talk about the fine balance between embarrassing pal and total jerk.
A womanizer seeks love
“I’m always concerned that Barney remains someone you want to be friends with, even though you wonder why,” Neil Patrick Harris tells SheKnows. “You’re drawn to him, not just disgusted. You never want to watch a character on a television show misbehaving too much, or you get disinterested in them.”
For those who have somehow missed this show, that’s quite a task considering Barney’s ‘MO.’ The eternal ‘wingman’ of the dating circuit always wears a suit, but his tricks run to the cheap and low down. He uses false IDs, cons and games to bed women — and even broke ‘The Bro Code’ last season by sleeping with Robin, his best friend Ted’s ex.
That last move almost cost Barney his place in the social clique of Ted, Marshal, Lily and Robin — but Harris insists it’s what lies beneath that keeps his character from driving away his circle of friends, and of course, not to mention the fans.
Desperate, but not serious
“There’s a bit of desperation behind him and yet he has a decent heart,” Harris maintains. “He cares a lot about his friends and he has their backs. I doubt he has as many as he claims he does. But he’s obsessive about Marshall, Ted, Lily and Robin as well. He wants to see Ted succeed. But he wants to be the mastermind behind it. They’re his world. He doesn’t even talk about work with them.”
Whether or not Harris is right about why we accept his character, one thing is definite: Barney is just about the funniest guy on TV these days. His… wait for it… catch phrases are legendary and make our guts wrench in a good way!
“Barney Stinson has a voice that’s unlike any other,” Harris raves of his How I Met Your Mother alter ego. “Carter Bays and Craig Thomas write things that make me laugh and laugh on the first draft. Then I get to read their rewrites and they top themselves. Then, while we’re filming, they’ll whisper something in my ear that tops the first two! That’s how they operate, and you don’t often find people that are that consistently odd and hilarious. I’m incredibly grateful for it.”
From Doogie to dog
Having played the title role in Doogie Howser, MD as a kid from 1989 to 1993, he’s also grateful to find the freedom of being a sidekick instead of the spotlighted character.
“Ted’s telling the story of the misadventures that happened to him in finding love,” Harris explains. “In the pilot, Barney was playing laser tag, getting straight razor shaves at the barber and coming up with catchphrases. I expected more of the same. You have to have on eccentric voice of contempt and that character lends itself to getting noticed.”
This season on How I Met Your Mother may bring change for the self-proclaimed eternal bachelor. Yes, he got in trouble for bedding Ted’s ex last season, but it quickly became clear he actually has feelings for her. That should mean painful growth for Barney and laughs for the audience. Let’s not forget to mention more laughs for the show’s quirky Canadian, Robin.
“It’s fun to do scenes with her,” Harris says of his potential love interest. “I am so impressed with Cobie Smulders (Robin) as a person and an actor. Between season one and two, she did an Upright Citizen’s Brigade all summer. Between two and three, she went to London to take on Shakespeare. She cares about her craft and is interested in trumping herself and stepping it up all the time. With that being her work ethic, it’s so fun to play with her on set. She’s always gung-ho to do anything. She’s just super cool and real. She’s the girl you want to go with to the Oscars or camping. She’s that great girl and she’s beautiful.”
If the magic doesn’t happen on screen for his character, however, Harris is sure to get enough out of it in his side projects in the real world. Not only is he on the board of LA’s illustrious Magic Castle, but he is also directing Guy Hollingworth’s magic show for the Fringe Festival overseas.
“I’ve been involved in magic since I was ten or eleven and I’m pretty good,” he reveals. “I don’t actively perform because you have to be so committed to rehearsal and practice. There’s nothing worse than a mediocre magician. I’d rather see a terrible one!” Neil Patrick Harris says. “I’m a big variety arts proponent. I’ve always loved magic. I love juggling, circus arts and Cirque du Soleil and puppets. Whenever anyone can be creative and have someone observe it live, that’s a unique and great experience.”
To see Harris do his magic onscreen in How I Met Your Mother, tune into CBS on Mondays at 8:30 pm!