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Neil Patrick Harris' New Comedic Role Suits Him

For one generation, Neil Patrick Harris will always be teenage doctor Doogie Howser. Harris is all grown up now and, thanks to his cocky character Barney on the new comedy 'How I Met Your Mother,' he is forging a new more adult image for a new generation of TV viewers.

Neil Patrick Harris recently chatted with AOL Television editor Sean Doorly about what makes Barney tick, how Terry from 'Survivor' kicks ass and whether Barney and Doogie would be buddies.



What drew you to the role of Barney on 'How I Met Your Mother'?
Oh, he just gets to be the funny jester guy. It's fun to be in complicated roles, but it's equally as fun to do something kind of silly and straightforward. It's a nice show. It's a tight-knit ensemble, but I'm the guy that requires the least amount of depth. It's a nice workload for me. I get to go in, put on the chuckle face and then go home.

How do you get into the mind of Barney each week?
It's a combination of two parts cynicism and one part Red Bull. Shake well. Drink with a chaser.

Is there any of Barney in you personally?
I'm relatively sardonic, but I'm certainly not the playboy that he is. He's a quantity man. He's after as many crazy adventures and one-night stands that he can get, and I'm a bit more regular.

Has that always been the case?
Oh, that's always been the case. I was born and raised in New Mexico, so I had sort of mellow upbringing, and I lived the wild chapter before I was even legally able to go into bars! So by the time my fake ID wasn't useful, I didn't find much use for the clubs.

What about all your catchphrases like when guys hit the town all dressed up and say "Suit Up." I hear it all the time. How does that feel?
Oh, it's great! It's a big shout out to the writers you know. I don't come up with much of any of that. And that's all them deciding they want to bring a new catch phrase into the world. And what I like is if the catch phrase is dumb or won't last, the fact that Barney thinks it is hilarious is what makes it funny. But there have been some good ones. I think "legendary." And the "Lemon Law" is pretty funny, and they gave Marshal "lawyered."

What did you think of the Barney origin story?
That was "Game Night." It's the one where in order to hear my most embarrassing story I had to hear everyone else's story as well. That was great because it gave them a chance to see that Barney was an actual person before he became the horrible lothario that he has become. I get a kick out of the writers writing crazy stuff for me and I hope to take it another level even beyond that. That's my job, so they came to me and said, "You're going to like this one." They said, "You're going to get to sing songs, weep and wear a pony tail," and I said, "Bring it on!"

What would you like to see Barney do next, character wise or story wise?
I would say either start a committed relationship for a long period of time and see where that goes or some kind of nerve agent where he pratfalls all over the place. Like 'The Carol Burnett Show,' when Tim Conway is the patient at the dentist's office and he keept being injected with the numbing agent and he could not move his body parts. I've asked for more pratfalls. That's all I want. Doogie Howser

So what would Barney think of Doogie? Would they be pals?

Why not?
Barney needs people that have a much freer social calendar than young Dr. Howser does. He'd be working too much. In 'How I Met Your Mother,' everyone claims to have jobs, but they hang out and drink quite a lot.

There's a running gag with your character that no one really knows what you do.
I love that. Lilly is supposed to be a kindergarten teacher, but she's always out at parties and bars. Ted's supposed to be a bloody architect, which requires a lot of work from what I hear! But he's out on dates, all-nighters, drinking and puking. No one has caught us in that lie yet. Survivor: Terry

If for one episode you could play any other character on television, who would that be?
I'd probably have to be Terry on the current 'Survivor: Exile Island.'

Why is that?
Because he kicks ass. He's won four immunity challenges in a row! He's really good at everything, and I love those ropes "coursey" adventure kinds of things. It's either that or Hamlet.

I thought you'd go more Jack Bauer.
Oh well, yes, but Jack gets into a lot of trouble in a day. I don't know that I could handle the pressure.

What draws you to working in theater?
Theater flexes your acting muscles in a way a show can't. When you have a camera crew and writers, you don't have to be spot on all the time because there's multiple takes and there's a lot of editing that can be done to benefit a performance. When you're live on stage, it's just you there and them watching, so you have to raise your game in a practical matter. I'm doing Arthur Miller right now and it's the complete opposite of Barney in 'How I Met Your Mother' as far as an actor is concerned, so it's nice to make sure the box I'm getting labeled in doesn't look like a square.

That's a good way to put it. Have a little variety in your life.
Exactly. Plate spinning. Sword swallowing.

And ropes courses.
(Laughs.) And rope courses. Now if I could find a rope course, I'd be thrilled! Never done it, really.

What do you tell your friends about 'How I Met Your Mother' to get them interested in the show?
It plays like a sitcom with multi-cameras and it plays like 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' but it doesn't play out in a linear way. The whole thing is a big story that the older Ted in the future is telling his kids about relationships and what it all meant. So we're allowed to jump back and forth between 12 hours ago and 12 hours since, and two hours later, and back and forth.

Is that what drew you to it? That it's not like your standard sitcom?
Yeah, I think people are getting frequently bored with the situation comedy format where something happens in the first act and you have to deal with the repercussions in the second, and deal with the conclusion in the third and make jokes in between, but this sort of allows for different layering. In the episode, "The Pineapple Incident," the story kept overlapping and you'd think the story had ended, and you'd reveal another plot point and go back and see it all again, and was it new knowledge. Then you'd reveal another plot point, and you'd go back. So I think that's enjoyable to watch. It's certainly enjoyable to create. I just hope the network will start advertising our show again! Howie Mandel and his crateful of Samsonite luggage are really taking a toll on us!

If you could go back in time at any point in your life and give yourself advice, what age would that be and what would that advice be?
I'd probably go back and tell myself around the age of 16 or 17, no, maybe even older. I'd go back to my 20-something self and convince me it's not incredibly important what others think of you. You just have to do your own thing. It's hard to be in the public eye when you're deciding who you wanted to be. I was very aware of trying to make sure everyone was pleased, and living your life that way is difficult. I think you can be selfless and still be a good person, but I think you need to be an individual and not quite care about making sure that everyone else is happy.

What are some of your current favorite TV shows?
Great question. I love competition reality shows -- not the romance ones, but 'Survivor,' 'Amazing Race,' 'Top Chef' and 'Project Runway.' All of those kinds of shows I can't get enough of. Lost

What about all-time?
My all time favorite shows, I loved 'Three's Company,' big fan of 'The Carol Burnett Show.' I like really old school variety art stuff like 'Ed Sullivan.' I love 'Letterman.' '24' is a great show. Oh you know what I'm watching now, this show, I don't know if it's going to be a hit or not, it's called 'Lost.'

That little show about some people on an island?
Yes. I hope people start watching it. I bought a video iPod and I'm watching season two now episode-by-episode on my iPod, which is an absolute technological thrill. It's the coolest thing ever because there's no commercials, and you can be anywhere, you know, at the gym or a restaurant if you're eating by yourself or what not. Before my play, 'All My Sons,' I'll just sit there and watch 'Lost.' It's great.