An openly gay man playing a prime-time pussy hound and securing major endorsement deals, Neil Patrick Harris is doing just what closeted actors and their minders have called impossible.
OUT: How would you say the business has changed for gay actors in the past 20 years?
NPH: It’s all uniquely so personal to each person. I can’t say that the business is any different now than it was then, because I wasn’t 30 years old then and in a position to stand tall and say something. I think the fears that enveloped me then would be the same fears that would envelop people that are 15, 16, 17 now.
OUT: So your advice to a gay actor who is 16 now is no different than it would have been when you were 16?
NPH: Oh, no. Clearly there’s way more exposure and a much larger gray area with sexuality and the public’s opinion towards it -- on almost every level -- professionally, artistically, legally. What made it more unique 20 years ago was that there were less examples -- so that made it a shock. And I think the shock value has kind of worn off.
OUT: But is Hollywood still underestimating the American public’s acceptance level of homosexuality? The stigma still seems to be a reality in that business more than many others.
NPH: People in the business are equally as terrified now -- but I really find it a personal thing. And maybe I’m at the end of that era. I wouldn’t even want to stereotype today’s generation. But the majority of the casting departments are gay, and a lot of the executives are. I think it’s a matter of your abilities and how you carry yourself -- I don’t behave any differently toward you right now than when I am with David [Burtka, his boyfriend] in our apartment, watching American Idol. OK, So You Think You Can Dance. [Laughs] I can see why an agent wouldn’t want to sign on a real overtly effeminate male actor -- not because I have an aversion to them but because agents might know it limits their job opportunities.
OUT: You were hired for the Harold & Kumar movie before you were out of the closet. In the films you play yourself -- a markedly straight and strung-out version of yourself. Did writers know you were gay when they wrote the part for you or when you were filming it?
NPH: No. You know...that just never came up. Honestly. When you’re making a movie everyone is in their own motor home and then they call you in and you do your thing. You don’t really sit down and say “So -- who’re you fucking?” when you’ve only met a week before.
OUT: No, that’s more like a day on my job.
NPH: Yes, you probably do. You’re unique that way. The writers were very kind and accommodating and reverential, which was strange, at 29, 30, whatever -- it was crazy. But it was hilarious. I’m a magician at heart, so smoke and mirrors is great. The idea of smoke and mirrors tends to suggest suppression and the idea that you don’t want people to know about who you really are, but as an actor you kind of do want people to not know who you really are. I think it was nice to have a bit of a smoke screen in a way.
Source: Out Magazine, A Man’s Man By Bill Keith