Neil Patrick Harris Talks ‘It’s a Sin’ + Offers His Tips for Acting on Camera

Video Source: Youtube

The following interview for our Spring 2021 BackstageFest, a virtual celebration of the year's best and buzziest TV, was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming interviews and to submit your questions.

If there is one word to describe Neil Patrick Harris, it’s versatile. An actor, singer, comedian, writer, producer, and TV host, Harris’s career knows no bounds. Best known for his work on “How I Met Your Mother,” “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “Glee,” and, of course, getting his start on “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” the Emmy and Tony winner recently joined us as part of the first-ever BackstageFest to talk about his standout work on British Drama TV series “It’s a Sin,” as well as his personal road to success and his best advice for prospective TV actors.

Harris is grateful for “It’s a Sin” creator Russell T. Davies, who tapped him to portray a dynamic, AIDS-stricken man named Henry.
“Most actors can trust that whatever Russell’s writing is going to be effective. It didn’t matter to me what the context was. Once he told me the stakes, that it was this historical, ’80s [series and] that it’ll be sexy but pivotal, I was extra curious that he wanted me to do it. I was so appreciative to be able to do this specific role and this specific piece. It allowed me to come in, do a small-ish part in a bigger story, so I didn’t have to spend too much time away from my family. And then, sort of the track of Henry, my character, I just found it really fun to connect those dots. He wasn’t very singular.”

The actor prioritizes the text itself and then looks for outside resources when he’s diving into a character.
“I tend to look at the script as the bible, and that the word itself is where it all needs to start and end. So I don’t think, ‘This is how it’s written, but I’m gonna bring another level to it, and I’m gonna change it up.’ I try to think, ‘How can I serve the written word as best as it has been designed?’ For me, it was reverse engineering because I’m not British, and I’m not from that era. So I did a little observational research. I tried to find someone I could look towards for physicality, and once I could sort of zero in on how he carried himself, then a lot of the other things were justified because of the way the sentences were written.”

Being confident in your own identity is the key to getting cast, according to Harris.
“The more you can recognize your actual self, who you actually are, you will stand taller and send off more energy that will get more work. My younger self was trying to be someone and didn’t want to just be myself. Now that I’m 47, and I’ve played a bunch of different parts, I’m more forthcoming with my private world, I’m getting to work as much if not more than ever. Some of that has to do with just being cool with it all. As actors, we’re rejected so much of the time, by design, by structure. There’s casting directors who bring in 100 people to hire one. That’s how it works; 99 people fail. I’ve hosted awards shows where only 10 percent of [the nominees] win anything….[Losing] is kind of constant, so you have to have a sense of: This is who I am. If you wanna hire me, I’m happy to show you what I’ll do. If you don’t want to hire me, that’s cool. I’m sure whoever you hire will be good. Instead of being like, ‘Ugh, what should I have done differently? When is it gonna be me?’ I think you’ll get hired more.”

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