Is there anything Neil Patrick Harris can’t do? He acts! He rocks jokes! He sings! He dances! He hosts! He performs magic! And now let’s add yet another talent to that list: He writes a damn good cover story! EW learned this firsthand — and you will too — when you open this week’s issue. We placed a pencil in the 38-year-old actor’s
mouth hand and asked him to pen his version of a Hollywood Survival Guide, which details everything from the highs and lows of teen stardom, thanks to his role as a precocious doctor on Doogie Howser, M.D., to the joy of finding unexpected success as legendary bachelor Barney Stinson on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother. NPH also offers some sage advice on navigating interviews (reveal your personal life, not your private life) and how to act on a set (“Never be a d-bag to the crew”). Herewith, a few excerpts from his story:
LEARN THE OBOE, GO TO DRAMA CAMP, AND PRAY LIKE HELL FOR A LUCKY BREAK
I was very musical at a young age. So much so that Churchill Cooke, our elementary school band and choir director, let me teach parts in the choir when I was in the fourth grade. First I played the xylophone, then marimba, cymbals, French horn, bassoon — I became a sort of jack-of-all-trades. It’s a mindset that I think never really left me. Mr. Cooke would say, “We need an oboe part for this piece, Neil. Learn oboe.” And I would say, “Sure, Mr. Cooke. Who needs friends?”
BRACE FOR THE WAVE(S)
Mr. Steven Bochco is a very wise man. After a many-monthed nationwide search to find a precocious teenage doctor, he hired me. But I suppose he’s wise for other reasons, too: Right when Doogie Howser, M.D. was beginning, he took my parents and me to a restaurant, sat us down, and said, “A career is like surfing. You paddle out and paddle out and get wet and hit by these waves. When you finally get out where you’re supposed to go, you have to sit on a surfboard for a long time, just waiting. If you’re really lucky, you’ll catch a wave, and it’ll be the most amazing feeling. But the key is that that wave will inevitably crash to the sand. Then what you have to do is paddle back out and get hit by a bunch of waves again. But trust that in the long term there will always be waves to catch.” To a young family from New Mexico, you can imagine our reaction: “What the hell is surfing?” But thinking back, it was a very impressive thing to hear as a kid and, as it turns out, absolutely accurate.
BE A SLUT (PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING)
It’s good to have a lot of once-in-a-lifetimes in your lifetime. If you get the chance to skydive, go skydiving. If you’re offered a part in a weird Shakespeare play in San Diego, slap on some tights and rock out some iambic pentameter. If you’re offered the opportunity to have a swastika painted on your ass, glitter on your nipples, and to simulate sex with a man and a woman behind a curtain, go for it… provided it’s Cabaret on Broadway and not in some dude’s basement.
For more from Neil Patrick Harris, including what to expect from Barney this season on HIMYM, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Sept. 23.