Anyone living in the San Fernando Valley may be likely to see around town, hanging out with his family or attending a production at El Portal theater. A longtime Studio City resident with his partner , the couple now lives in Sherman Oaks with their twins.
While on hiatus from his TV series How I Met Your Mother, Harris filmed the live-action Smurfs movie. Harris plays Patrick, an ad exec expecting his first child with his wife, Grace (Jayma Mays). When the Smurfs arrive in his New York City apartment, they wreak havoc on his home and business.
This summer fans can get an NPH fix before his show comes back on the air for the fall. Patch spoke with Harris about family life in the Valley, his work with the local theater and Smurfy things. The Smurfs opens July 29.
PATCH: Is it time for kids to get in on the NPH phenomenon?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: Here’s hopin’. Yeah, if we can get as many kids on board the Smurfs train as possible, that would be great. But I’ve been working that angle. I did Phineas & Ferb, Sesame Street and Batman: Brave and the Bold. I do as many kid-centric things, Beverly Cleary, as I can.
PATCH: Did you find yourself saying Smurfy a lot after making The Smurfs?
NPH: I only use Smurf as an expletive or as a euphemism, but that’s because I had to shake the family vibe up a little bit. But that being said, I Smurfed myself two or three times a day in my trailer.
PATCH: Do the Smurfs reflect your sense of humor, or do you tend to be darker?
NPH: I tend to be a little darker, but I like the wit and the bantery comedy that Patrick and Grace had together. That’s what I do in my own life so I wanted it to seem as realistic as possible in the “book” scenes. I didn’t want them to seem like filler.
PATCH: What offers are coming for your hiatuses, or hiati?
NPH: Yes, hiatuseses. They’re all sorts of random things. Just weird, random things. Now we’re actually fielding stuff for next hiatus because we’re sort of at that point where How I Met Your Mother is going to start up again so you’re sort of looking way down the line. But I took on, I think, almost a little too much last year during the show. I found myself just spending too much time on set at Fox on the phone about other things or trying to get out of a day’s work so I could go do another thing. I was just micromanaging my life too much. But yes, weird things. I got asked to do Company at Lincoln Center. I was asked to direct a pilot for CBS for a multi-camera show. The Obama administration wanted me to introduce him for an event and then I did some voiceover stuff. I’m going to Disney World this holiday season to read the story of Jesus. It happens.
PATCH: Is that just one day’s gig?
NPH: Three days, the Candlelight Processional.
PATCH: You live in the Valley.
NPH: Sherman Oaks, at present.
PATCH: What makes the area a good place for a family?
NPH: Wider streets, easier parking and less rambunctious 20-somethings. Less Hollywood hipsters.
PATCH: Why the move out of Studio City?
NPH: We were in this awesome three-bedroom, two-bath place in Studio City, which we loved. It had great views and was super-fun but just not very family-friendly. A lot of brick and a lot of different levels. We needed more bedrooms for the kids and for a playroom for them. So we moved there and now have a six-bedroom house.
PATCH: How’s the commute to 20th Century Fox from the Valley?
NPH: It’s all right. I figured out how to do it in like 27 minutes regardless of traffic. I have my secret Bat-routes.
PATCH: The same ones the people in Sherman Oaks know?
NPH: Some do, but I hope no more do.
PATCH: You worked with El Portal also. What do you like about that space?
NPH: Well, the NoHo Arts District is nice. I wish they would get more traffic, frankly. It’s so hard in L.A. to get people to go see shows. It’s so not in the forefront of what people want to do and I think it’s because they’d rather spend their time probably at home watching content on a screen because it’s a very Hollywood-centric town. Or they’ll go have dinners, but they rarely will go to a 6 o’clock dinner, 8 o’clock show. That’s just a hard thing to maneuver with traffic. But the El Portal is a great theater, great space. I directed a play reading there years back. The Glee that I shot, the musical number was there. My friends, Chris and Becky, produced there all of the holiday season last year, that I was involved with a little bit. We’re doing Snow White this year. So yeah, El Portal’s great. I just wish you could figure out how to get people to go there.
PATCH: Is Snow White a holidays show again?
NPH: They’re doing pantos. The Lythgoe family productions is doing these classic British pantos, which is a big thing in the U.K. and not big here. But it’s a very family-friendly thing where the audience shouts at the villains and the characters sing sort of pop songs. They did Cinderella last year and I helped cast Cinderella. They went around to Westfield malls and found a girl who wasn’t an actress and she got the job. So they’re going to do that again and they’re going to do Snow White. I think I’m going to be the man in the mirror the evil wicked witch talks to. The Magic Mirror.
PATCH: Going into Season 7 of How I Met Your Mother, is it different knowing you have two years instead of one more?
NPH: It hasn’t been different yet, but yeah, I think the crew will be a little more comfortable. I’m hoping that the writers plant some seed, are thinking that far ahead so that they plant some weird things that make no sense but that will make more sense 30 episodes later and that we’ll be able to call back some things. I think with that many episodes to play with, I hope they have some fun within its structure.
PATCH: Do you worry about portraying Barney’s real issues undercutting the comedy of Barney’s personality?
NPH: No, I worried much more about him being so harsh that you didn’t understand why they would hang out with him. It’s always easier to add a glimpse of oh, I wish I loved her or I feel bad about that. Those are always nice ways to anchor what he’s doing and they’re very good with making sure that Barney’s the life of the party and not just a dick.
PATCH: So you were happy with the father themes and getting really deep the last two years.
NPH: Yeah, for sure, because we did a whole season of "let’s put Barney in funny costumes." That’s fun for 15 episodes but when you have 20-something, come on. It’s definitely nice to get a John Lithgow to come in and have a proper amazing work week and great scenes with him.