What You Don't Know About Neil Patrick Harris

One of the most versatile entertainers in Hollywood, Neil Patrick Harris has been delighting fans from a young age. As the title character in "Doogie Howser, M.D.," the actor portrayed a genius doctor who also happened to be a wonderkid, The Guardian recapped. Years later, he returned to TV in perhaps his most memorable role, as the ladies' man Barney Stinson in the long-running sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."

In film, Harris showed his acting range by appearing in the stoner comedy "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," the psychological drama "Gone Girl," and "The Matrix: Resurrections," the fourth installment of the sci-fi series, Collider reported. Off screen, Harris showed off his skills live on Broadway as a cast member for several shows — none bigger than his lead performance in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

More than just acting on set, Harris is so universally loved that he makes the perfect host. Harris has been the emcee for the Emmy, Tony, and Oscar award ceremonies, per The Hollywood Reporter. In fact, Harris won an Emmy four times for his role hosting the Tony awards, thanks in part to performances like the incredible 2013 Tony Awards opening number.

Life hasn't always been easy for Harris, who was thrust into the spotlight as a boy. But throughout his career, Harris always proved he was willing to go to extremes to delight fans.

Suit up! This is what you don't know about Neil Patrick Harris.

The actor's childhood

In 1973, Neil Patrick Harris was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, per his memoir "Choose Your Own Autobiography." But he grew up in the much more rural town of Ruidoso, Rolling Stone reported. Harris explained, "It was very small-town. Almost Native American, to be honest." He remembered "Fishing in duck ponds, running through pine forests. We would create our own little world." Part of Harris' childhood exploration was running through the woods with "no trail, but knowing exactly how to get home. You knew, in a sort of tribal way, which pine tree meant 'make a left turn here.'" 

Both of his parents were lawyers who also owned a restaurant. As far as siblings, Harris grew up with an older brother, Brian, who was once a manager for the family restaurant. In addition to running through the woods with Brian, Harris remembered his older brother inviting him to parties. The actor explained in his memoir that thanks to Brian, he tried beer and wine for the first time, plus his "first (and only) make-out session with two girls at the same time." Harris also remembered his parents playing records of Broadway musical soundtracks like "Annie." As an 8-year-old, Harris went with his parents to see a touring production of the musical in Albuquerque.

Later in his career, Harris admitted to Vanity Fair that when he's stressed, he "reverts in a culinary way" to New Mexico. This means "turning to chips, salsa, enchiladas, and margaritas."

Neil Patrick Harris becomes a star

Around the age of 10, Neil Patrick Harris landed his first role in theater. Although he grew up listening to Broadway soundtracks, this was his first experience on stage as Toto the dog in "The Wizard of Oz." Harris explained in "Choose Your Own Autobiography" that his older brother Brian and friends auditioned to be Munchkins in the play at Tularosa High School. When the young Harris tagged along, he remembered being asked to join as the dog and claimed to respond, "Bark!" 

The role started the young boy's love of performing, and by the time he was around 13 years old, he went to a drama camp at New Mexico State University. "Mostly the idea was to let him see that he's not the only actor out there," Brian told Rolling Stone about his younger brother attending. Instead, Harris "went to that acting camp and blew away the resident playwright, and he landed a role in Whoopi Goldberg's 'Clara's Heart,' essentially a co-lead in a feature film." This kick-started Harris' career in show business, and he continued to land roles.

Looking back at his quick success, Harris explained, "It happened for me from such an early age that it all seemed like a lark." He further detailed his childhood acting experience as alternating between getting acting work, going back to school, and then getting more offers.

On being Doogie Howser, M.D.

As a 15-year-old, Neil Patrick Harris landed a lead role in "Doogie Howser, M.D.," which was "an ABC pilot about a teenage doctor," Rolling Stone reported. Prior to the pilot airing, Harris remembered the show's creator Steven Bochco talking to him about the high-profile part. "This is a lot of work, and a big deal. And with the good will come a lot of the bad, and you need to brace yourselves for what it means," Bochco reportedly told Harris. He then explained to the teen about the series, "This is going to be a great wave. It will inevitably crash, and the question will be whether you have the desire to paddle back out, get knocked over by a bunch of waves on your way, and wait for the next set." The prediction was correct, as the show aired for a total of four seasons between 1989 and 1993, per IMDb.

Reflecting back on the series, Harris told Entertainment Weekly that he couldn't have predicted the lasting effect of the show on his career. Harris admitted, "I've run the emotional gamut of dealing with being that character" but overall said he was thankful for the role. Even after becoming a famous star in many other performances, Harris said fans still talk to him about "Doogie Howser, M.D." Luckily for the actor, he said that "people who come up and say things are almost always very nice."

Rebranding his career

After ending his run on "Doogie Howser, M.D.," Neil Patrick Harris was in a tough spot. Though he was well-recognized for the starring role, he admitted to Glamour, "That transition was a challenge, from my late teens into my early 20s." As the actor revealed to The New York Times, "I was only getting jobs I was offered, not the ones I was auditioning for, because I had previous baggage."

That is, until an opportunity came from screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. The two men dreamed up "an alternate-universe version" of Harris to cameo in their film "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." Hurwitz hoped the actor would sign on because "When we were writing it, we were hopeful he'd understand it wasn't a Gary Coleman part, that the joke wasn't at his expense." But if Harris declined, the guys planned to use Ralph Macchio in the role.

In an interview for Cinema Blend, Harris said he received a call from his friend who auditioned for the comedy. "You're written in this movie. Neil Patrick Harris is a character in this movie," Harris remembered his friend saying. Since this was Harris' first time hearing about the part, his friend encouraged him to inquire. "I agreed to do it so long as any changes they made had to go through me contractually," Harris said after meeting with the writer. "And they were fine with that and they didn't make any changes," Harris added.

Neil Patrick Harris shared his truth

In an interview for Rolling Stone, Neil Patrick Harris talked about his experience as a young boy growing up in the Southwestern U.S. He remembered in elementary school, "I had crushes on boys that were a little bit older than me." According to the actor, "I was infatuated" with some of his classmates but confessed, "I didn't know how that would be manifested at all." Even small moments like "playing footsie with a friend under the table at school was very charged, to me, but I didn't know then what to do about it." Looking back about how society changed as he grew older, Harris admitted, "I think it would be easier to make that leap at that age now ... But not back then, in a tiny town in the middle of the mountains of New Mexico."

One he began to make a name for himself in Hollywood, Harris held off telling the world about a major part of his life. Then, in 2006, he came out as gay. "Ellen had done it before me," Harris said about the moment, referencing the controversial talk show host. According to Harris, "girls who knew I was gay didn't have any less affection for me than before" after he came out. Since he came out in the midst of his run on "How I Met Your Mother," Harris explained that his character "Barney was so overtly 'dude,' coming out didn't make that falter at all."

Magical man

Neil Patrick Harris remembered traveling with his parents as a young boy to visit his grandparents in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For every visit, Harris told ABC, "I'd save up my allowance and I'd go to the mall to the magic store called Fool's Paradise — great title — and buy whatever I could: little packet tricks, and you don't know the secret until you buy it." According to the actor, "on the drive home I would get to sit there and learn how it was done and I'd get the inside information." Harris clarified about learning the secrets for magic and more: "I think I'm a wh*** for inside information."

He then incorporated magic throughout his career. For example, Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother" was known to show off a trick or two. Harris also once directed a magic show in New York, The Guardian reported. When appearing on talk shows, Harris loved to impress the hosts. "I just love promoting it. I love seeing magic," Harris said on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" before showing off two tricks.

As far as his favorite magic trick, Harris told Vanity Fair that "The Great Flydini" is one of the best. The bit performed by Steve Martin on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson showed the comedian pulling out objects like "eggs, a lit cigarette, a ringing telephone, a Luciano Pavarotti puppet — out of the fly of his pants."

Who is Neil Patrick Harris married to?

This is the story of how Neil Patrick Harris met his husband. He first spotted actor David Burtka while in the audience for the musical "Gypsy" on Broadway. Harris told Rolling Stone about watching Burtka on stage, "You couldn't stop looking at him even though Bernadette Peters was singing her face off 10 feet over," referencing the ageless actor. Thanks to mutual friend Kate, the two men met for the first time. As Burtka explained, she "knew that my other relationship and I weren't doing so hot" and wanted to play cupid. But Burtka admitted that with Harris always magically appearing at the same spots, he first thought, "this is weird. He keeps showing up places, I think he might be a stalker!"

In 2021, Harris posted a photo on his Instagram commemorating the 17-year anniversary of his first date with Burtka. "Best. Decision. Ever," Harris wrote in the caption. The couple tied the knot in Perugia, Italy in 2014, as seen on another Instagram post by Harris. Part of what makes the pair so special are their similarities — like sharing clothes — but also complementary differences. "David is a heart-driven person, and I am a head-driven person," Harris told Rolling Stone. "So we balance each other out, in that way, and challenge each other. Because he demands that I feel more than I want to, and I demand that he think more than he wants to."

The star continues to improve

Thrust into the spotlight at such a young age meant that Neil Patrick Harris grew up with fame — and the pressure that comes along with it. To cope as an adult, he admitted to using different self-improvement techniques. "I'm a therapy guy. I have weekly therapy sessions, even to this day," Harris told Glamour. According to the actor, his sessions in therapy helped him "to try and take things as they are." He also tried other methods, like "Forum, this group therapy thing." He also once went to a Tony Robbins motivational seminar "in Hawaii, where I walked on coals, burning coals!"

Harris further explained his self work in an interview with ABC. He detailed that his twice-a-week therapy sessions were "to work on himself and on being a good parent." As Harris explained, "It's not like I have this big gaping hole I need to work on." Rather, he felt therapy was helpful because "as a parent, I want to be better than my parents were at raising me, and they did a great job." According to the actor, "I think it's important to work on yourself, whether it be through podcasts or through therapy or through conversation."

More than just therapy, Harris also likes to create peaceful spaces to reset from any stress. Vanity Fair reported that Harris has a specific part of his house for meditation featuring a shrine with "calming keepsakes" like rocks and "fortunes from fortune cookies."

Life as a dad

To grow their family, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka decided to have children. Burtka explained on "The Wendy Williams Show" that the couple used an anonymous donor for eggs, which were then given to a surrogate, who gave birth to twins. One of the children is biologically Harris' and the other Burtka's — though the two men don't know which is which. Their two kids, daughter Harper and son Gideon, are adorable and total fashionistas. For example, Harris often posts their first day of school outfits on Instagram.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Harris explained the difference in parenting styles compared to his husband. "I talk to them like they're adults, which drives David mental," Harris said about his children. According to the actor, "I try to teach them large-picture, complex thought. He's like, 'Dude, they're three!'" Whereas Burtka admitted, "I have very maternal instincts when it comes to kids." According to Harris' husband, "Neil is better at doing tasks, sometimes. But, you know, it's a good balance. Neil is ready for them to start thinking on their own and making good decisions." Though Harris reportedly talked to the children about complex topics like life choices and consequences, Burtka felt it was better to maintain their childhood innocence for a little longer. "You've gotta be patient, you've gotta hold off," Burtka told Harris.

His mighty pen

Combining his love of magic and being a dad, Neil Patrick Harris became a children's book author. According to USA Today, Harris created "The Magical Misfits" children's book series to encourage kids to read and "to create a story in which readers of all backgrounds could feel seen." In 2020, he released the fourth and final book in the series called "The Fourth Suit." Harris explained of the conclusive story, "My real goal with the book was to make it as much of a diversion and a kind of escape as possible, while still maintaining a sense of values and of character and moral codes." He also noted that his two children love the books, especially when the author reads them aloud. Harris was thrilled because he revealed, "I grew up working in a bookshop and I just really have an affinity for authors and the stories that they can tell."

For more adult reading, Harris penned an autobiography. But instead of the typical life story in book form, Harris created his memoir in the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series format called "Choose Your Own Autobiography." Harris told the Los Angeles Times about his specific choice of storytelling: "I found that in thinking back on my life, thus far, that it was markedly random. There were all kinds of weird stories that included things I learned, things that changed me — but, also, weird, once-in-a-lifetime things to recount."

The king of Halloween

Every year, Neil Patrick Harris, his husband David Burtka, and their children Harper and Gideon go all out for Halloween. Seriously, the collaborative group costumes consistently amaze fans, as recapped by Us Weekly. Some of the best years were 2016, when the family dressed up as "Star Wars" characters, and 2014 as characters from the "Batman" universe. Even with fans wondering every year what the family will dream up next, Harris told USA Today he felt "no pressure" in deciding on costumes.

As for the reason he loves to go all out, Harris explained, "I make it a point in my daily life to encourage people to go do fun things, whether it be theater or magic or adventures." According to the actor, "I think Halloween is one of the great adventures every year, so I'm a big proponent of haunted houses and dressing up, and if we can take a picture and encourage people to want to go out and get in the Halloween spirit, then I'm all for it."

At first, Harris and Burtka were the main creative forces behind the impressive group costumes. But as Harper and Gideon grew older, Harris admitted, "We have to get approval now from four individuals." He revealed that when it comes to Halloween, each member of the family is "very opinionated about things like wigs and beards and too much makeup and costumes."

Where dreams come true

When it comes to vacation, Neil Patrick Harris often has one place in mind — The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. He and the rest of his family visit the theme park every year around the Christmas holidays. "Our kids have grown up appreciating and valuing not only the amusement rides, but the architecture and the Imagineering that goes on, both in front and behind the scenes," Harris told People. He added that the family bonding time "has been an important part of their lives and I can't wait to continue it until they can't stand me anymore." 

Even when Harris and his family aren't in Florida surrounded by the Disney characters, the experience continues. He revealed to Vanity Fair that he and husband David Burtka constantly played Reedy Creek Radio at their home when their kids were in preschool. The radio channel "is devoted to playing music from Disney theme parks." So, in their home, Harris said it felt "like the queue-line music to Haunted Mansion, or the original theme song from [the discontinued EPCOT ride] Horizons."

When Harris learned that the show that made him famous, "Doogie Howser, M.D.," was getting a reboot on the streaming service Disney Plus, he was joyful. He told Today about the entertainment provider, "Anything that can promote Imagineers and Disney theme parks I'm all about, because I love that stuff."

Becoming Hedwig

Writer John Cameron Mitchell co-created and starred in the off-Broadway musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" in 1998, per Broadway World. The show, a "bittersweet story of an East German singer who seeks rock stardom in the U.S. after botched gender reassignment surgery," was a huge hit, The Guardian reported. Creators turned the story into a film and years later, revived the musical. "We knew eventually Broadway would come around to it," Mitchell said about the show. As for the revival, Mitchell believed "It was an opportunity to bring the story to a wider audience and Neil Patrick Harris was the perfect person to do that: he appeals to so many people and he was keen to go a bit grittier and he triumphed."

More than just rehearsing lines, Harris went all in physically for the performance. According to Rolling Stone, the actor lost 21 pounds to play Hedwig. While the extreme transformation gave him "eight-pack abs," it came at a price. "I'm so intent on looking feminine, on changing my silhouette. But I'm running out of energy, and it's affecting my mood," he said during his time in the role. He completed intense cardio workouts and admitted, "I need to eat more."

Looking back at his run on Broadway, Harris told The Guardian, "It was probably the most I've ever grown or learned or been at peace while rehearsing, while performing and post-experience. It certainly has changed my views about things."

The actor's charitable side

Given his charming smile and welcoming personality, it's not surprising that Neil Patrick Harris is extremely generous in his personal life. He and his husband, David Burtka, often donate their time to various charities. Even more, both men have taught their children about giving back, and the entire family helps others. "We are involved with a couple of organizations that help deliver meals to those less fortunate, so we make it a point to do it right before Thanksgiving with the kids, and we will do it again during the holidays," Harris told Yahoo!. The actor explained that since his family lived in Harlem, "there's a lot of people in the area nearby that could certainly use the help, and it gives the kids a valuable and much-needed perspective on life." 

Another way that Harris helped out was for an event with Coca-Cola and Bono's (Product) RED charity to support its Project Last Mile initiative. As a reward to help support the initiative to deliver medicine "to those who need it most in remote communities in Africa," Harris and Burtka raffled off a night on the town with themselves. After Harris suggested the prize, he said Burtka fully supported it because "he does way more charitable work than I do, so he understands."

According to Look to the Stars, Harris has been involved in dozens of other charities and causes, from New York to Los Angeles.

How much is Neil Patrick Harris worth?

As a veteran actor in TV, theater, and film, Neil Patrick Harris has built up an impressive resume. His longest role was as Barney Stinson on the buddy sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" for nine seasons, per IMDb. The show was a huge hit, thanks in part to Harris' character. As a result, the actor earned an impressive paycheck for his time there. According to Celebrity Net Worth, "at the peak of the series, Neil earned $225,000 per episode of the show. That works out to $5.4 million before royalties and syndication earnings." Adding to his bank account was Harris' Tony-winning performances on the Broadway production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Also an author, Harris has created multiple streams of income. As of 2021, he was worth an estimated $50 million.

With some of his earnings, Harris invested in a gorgeous Harlem townhouse, which he showed off in Vogue's "73 Questions" video series. The five-story brownstone was once a bed-and-breakfast until Harris and David Burtka "bought it in 2013 for $3.6 million, and moved in with twins Harper and Gideon, and the family's two dogs in 2015," Architectural Digest reported. The couple renovated the home with impressive features like a library and "10-seat home theater — as well as a gym, wine cellar, and a playroom." Then, in 2021, Harris and Burtka listed their four-bedroom, 8,000-square-foot home for a reported $7.325 million.