After nine seasons in a suit and tie on TV’s How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris is ready for a whole new look—one that includes fishnets, glitter and a giant blonde wig. The Emmy winner is going glam to star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the story of a transgender rock goddess searching for her place in the world. Broadway.com chatted with NPH on video at the Empire Hotel about his new gig, but his answers were so awesome, we just had to include the full transcript. Check out video highlights from the interview and read his uncut musings below!
Hedwig is a crazy demanding show, why did you want to make it your Broadway return?
It seems like it's such a left turn from what people have been seeing me do recently, which is an alpha-male womanizing dude on mainstream TV. So I wanted to do some theater just for me, physically, just to do something different, and Hedwig is such a complicated role in almost every way. Physically transformative, emotionally damaged, bizarrely funny and rock-and-roll in a way that I’ve never been. So it’s challenging me on a bunch of different levels, and I like challenges. And I really like the material, so I’m looking forward to it being a kick-ass night.
How did you first fall in love with Hedwig?
I first saw the show and it was confrontational. I didn’t see it and say, "Oh, someday I’ll play this role." I saw it and I was like, "Holy 'S,' that’s like, intense!" And honestly, I never thought I would even wanna do that, just the drag element of it. That’s a lot of work. Heels and fishnets and tucking and boobs and tomatoes and makeup and glitter and wigs...it’s a lot. But now that I’m 40, I think those kind of challenges are great. And I’m excited to see what it will accomplish for me just in my own life, as Neil, to have that kind of physical freedom that you don’t ever get the chance to explore. I’m not a closet high heels wearer, so the only time I’ve ever been wearing them is in a rehearsal room. You can’t really live in that world, but I get to live in that world now for 20 weeks.
You've done rock musicals before, but this is a serious rock show. What's it like wailing your heart out?
It’s gonna be crazy. We’re in rehearsals right now, so I’m learning just how much I’m able to wail. Stephen [Trask] and John [Cameron Mitchell] wrote these songs that sound like hardcore rock anthems, but have a lot to say in them. They’re lyrical in a really poetic way. When you get into that and you’re breathing through it and you’re just thinking about the words, it does affect your body. You suddenly feel more Iggy Pop-y and David Bowie than ever, which I think is coming from a real place, instead of from a “how am I supposed to look right now” place. And that carries you through. So I’m hoping it will be challenging, but also surprisingly easy once I'm in it. I’ll be like a Cirque du Soleil performer, just be in that world.
And you’re doing it all without an understudy!
Yeah, no understudy. It just seems weird. They’re plastering my face around and it’s kind of a one-woman show, so I just feel bad. I feel an obligation to be doing all of them. Daniel Radcliffe did when he did his Broadway show! But I also would feel bad for a standby, it just seems like it would be so comparative. Plus, if Hedwig is singing terribly and sick, that’s kinda funny. I’ll have to make it work. I’m gonna be a monk in my outside life and getting rest and not drinking. I gotta take care of myself, ‘cause this is a big show. But I’ll be there. I may be sitting on a chair for half of it, but I’ll learn some chair dancing. It’ll be dirty!
See Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, beginning March 29 at the Belasco Theatre.