New York magazine's cover story alleges that Neil Patrick Harris is a Hollywood rarity: An openly gay actor who "can host award shows, play a womanizer, walk the red carpet with his boyfriend, then get cast as a straight dad."
Homosexuality and Hollywood have always had a tumultuous relationship, from '50s stars like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter to Ellen's "Yep I'm Gay" Time magazine cover and the trend for certain websites to attempt to out celebrities. And as Salon's Heather Havrilesky notes, while there are more gay characters on TV these days, they are the Token Gays: "Just like straight people, only smarter and funnier and more interesting." Clichés abound. Yet despite hosting the Tonys, NPH manages to avoid most gay stereotypes.
When talking about his sexuality, NPH says that for years, "I wasn't thought of in a sexual way, which is easy when you have big ears and are called Doogie all the time." For a time, NPH was in the "glass closet": Friends and family knew he was gay; he had no fake girlfriends, and he answered a People magazine question about his "dream date" by leaving out the pronoun.
When he heard about the Harold &Kumar script — in which the character of "Neil Patrick Harris" snorts coke and talks about "fur burgers," he wasn't sure if they were mocking his gayness. Turns out the writers just didn't know he was gay.
Writes New York's Emily Nussbaum:
He also wasn't precisely out when he was cast as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother in 2005, although he brought Burtka to the first cast barbecue. But as Harris's star rose, it became inevitable that his life-however open to those who knew him-might become a tabloid story. The blogger Perez Hilton was on the attack. And Harris and his team met to strategize, striving to make their statement succinct and positive. "No one was ever old-school Hollywood, with a cigar in their mouth, saying ‘You can't do this, see! It'll ruin your career, kid.' " With his mild New Age streak, Harris expresses faith that intentions are what matter: "So long as you're representing yourself well, you're making good choices for good reasons, all of the circumstantial things will vanish."
(By the by: NPH and his partner, David Burtka, would love to have a kid: "We'd make very good parents," NPH says. When they spend time with Burtka's twins — from a previous relationship, NPH says he gets to "be the fun guy who takes them to Disneyland.")
There's certainly no right or wrong way to be gay in Hollywood, but NPH seems to have a found a way that works for him. He's signed on to play a married father in a flick called The Best and the Brightest, which is a comedy about New York private school admissions. Will audiences buy him as a straight dad? Director Josh Shelov tells New York: "There was a four-second conversation about sexuality. But our team were big How I Met Your Mother fans. And we basically felt like the audience has spoken already, they've said they find him acceptable in a straight role. There's no stigma here, it's a pure talent issue at this point."