fashion

Neil Patrick Harris on It’s a Sin, coming out, labels & walking on hot coals during therapy


Neil Patrick Harris is the king of many talents. He spent nearly a decade playing the loveable lothario Barney in How I Met Your Mother, has taken on a wealth of Broadway roles – with Tony award winning glory, turned creepy AF in Gone Girl, and became the stuff of childhood nightmares playing Count Olaf in Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Oh, and he’s previously been named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. Let’s just let that CV soak in.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

WATCH: Neil Patrick Harris opens up about parenting, therapy and coming to terms with labels

Now, the proud father of two – who married his husband David Burtka in 2014 – takes on his most heartbreaking role to date in Russell T Davis’s new Channel 4 show, It’s a Sin. The show follows the queer community in 1980s London as the HIV and AIDS epidemic hits the capital with devastating effects. Neil’s portrayal of the local tailor, Henry Coltrane, is nothing short of heartbreaking – so get those tissues at the ready for episode one!

Here in the latest episode of GLAMOUR UNFILTERED – our celebrity chat show hosted by Josh Smith – Neil Patrick Harris opens up about coming to terms with his identity and the game changing effects therapy has had on his life…


It’s a Sin amazingly touches on the societal pressure that is placed onqueer people within communities to live up to certain expectations and that internal battle you have with yourself to try to be a man and whatever that even means. How have you seen, in your own life, that societal pressure change and shift?

I agree with you so much and it’s one of my favorite things about watching the series is that you watch – at least I watched it – with two different lenses, simultaneously. I really wanted to watch these kids learn who they were, be voracious, have sex with all kinds of people, grow up and have fun. I was also simultaneously watching it with a lot of caution and trepidation because I was concerned for them.

For me, in my mid 40s, I’m the last generation of lots of labels, it feels. There’s so many examples now of gay actors, gay politicians, gay everyones, that the label itself becomes less important because the saturation point has been reached. When I talk to kids who are a younger generation, like in their early 20s, really a lot of the cast of the show, the labels don’t define them.

It seemed like when I was growing up, if a boy made out with another boy, it meant that he was gay and he had to then process what that would mean. And, was he willing to take that step and acknowledge that he’s gay, G-A-Y? Now it seems like for the younger generations, if they feel like making out with somebody that they can and it doesn’t mean that much. They don’t carry the emotional baggage of what a label may represent. The labels have vanished. We live in a world where there’s great gender nonconformity where you get to specify your own personal pronouns and other people need to respect that. That’s different. That’s been a litmus change that I think is obviously for the better.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

When you were discovering yourself, what was that journey like for you?


It was so unique, man, because I started working as an actor before I started puberty, and I started puberty really late. I was acting on a TV show before I really had any yearnings, really. I kept working happily, I never felt stifled in my profession. I did feel stifled in my personal life, because I lived in Los Angeles at a time when there was lots of labeling going on, labeling from who you’re sleeping with to are you a TV actor, or are you a movie actor, or are you a theatre actor. There were all kinds of boxes.

Once I started realizing I wanted to hump dudes, then I was like, “How do I accomplish that?” I’m in Los Angeles. I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t have that experience of dorms and redefining myself whenever I wanted to. I didn’t really know where I could go out. I didn’t feel comfortable going to the few West Hollywood dance clubs that were there. That felt very overwhelming as an option. I was friends with a lot of mostly straight couples and we would all hang out all the time and have wonderful times, legitimately wonderful times. But I was the fifth banana – emphasis on banana!

When did you start to come to terms with yourself?

Oh man, I feel like we’re constantly in that conversation. At least for me, I’m nearing 50 and I still wonder why I’m this way and wonder why my isms are that and when am I going to have more realizations about this? It shifts. I’m a parent to ten-year-olds, a boy and a girl. Even last night – late last night – I’m up, hands on my head, stressed about how I’m parenting and what my thoughts are on school for the kids and scholastic learning and what that means for them. I’m insecure about who I am, even as an adult.

But the coming out process, I just feel strongly, that it is so individual, there are so many variables and shades of grey within it, that it’s no one’s right to dictate any of it. There’s a lot of metaphoric thought processes that come with making decisions. I think it’s a long process.

For me, it started later because I wasn’t very sexual early on. I wasn’t some sexual Lothario that people were pining after. So I was hungry to represent myself in that way, but wasn’t physically representing myself in that way. And then I was confused about who to date, confused about where I wanted to live. So you put yourself in positions, you open yourself up for being okay with making choices and the ramifications of those choices. I’m just so grateful that we live in a time now, where there is so much security.

There’s a lot of bigotry. There’s a lot of easy labels, but there’s also so many strong people that defy those stereotypes. I think it’s great to see a younger generation be so free and proud. When you look at pride celebrations over the years, they’ve changed so much. It used to be a big deal to go out and reveal yourself. And now, it feels like it’s a different conversation, a great conversation now. But more of a celebration and less of a stance. I love that.


The way It’s a Sin portrays mental healthis so powerful. What’s your own journey been like with mental health? What have been some turning points in learning to look after yourself?

It’s a really good question. I’ve been blessed with a family and an upbringing that’s relatively idyllic to me. Parents that were only married to each other, still married to each other, still alive, no abuse, an older brother who I’m still close with. We lived in a small town where we had autonomy and were able to make our own decisions about a lot of things. So my upbringing was pretty swell.

If anything, my own journey had as much to do with who I want to snog and more about what I wanted to do. I was oddly thrust into a position of actor, early. It was super fun and I loved doing it, but I did have to process, ‘was this what I want to do? How do I define that, given that I was working on a television show in high school?’ Very strange. I’m a therapy guy. I have weekly therapy sessions, even to this day. I did Forum, this group therapy thing. I did a Tony Robbins seminar in Hawaii, where I walked on coals, burning coals!

What’s a message or lesson you’ve taken away from that therapy experience?

It seems like everyone has their ‘stuff.’ It’s easy to get mired in your own ‘stuff,’ so doing those kinds of things, at least on a very simple level, it’s nice to see that other people have other ‘stuff.’ I’m putting stuff in quotation marks through all of this. That is often much more intense than what you have gone through so to be able to put it in a more of a global perspective was helpful.

But also, when you’re within your own insecurities and your own stresses, it’s hard to not have everything relate to that. If you’re worried about your weight and that’s all you think about, is you’re not comfortable with your body, and then someone walks up to you and compliments you and says, “Oh, you look really nice today.” Sometimes you don’t even hear that as a compliment. You hear that as, “Why? Do I normally look terrible?” You spin whatever’s happening around you into the narrative that you’ve already created.

So therapy is helpful in that way, to try and take things as they are, and things will change. And we’re often two things simultaneously. It’s okay to be hard on yourself and love yourself. It’s okay to not like someone and respect them. You don’t have to choose the one. We are dualities of ourselves all the time. We’re constantly wanting to do something and then choosing the opposite thing. And it’s not that we could have done one or the other, they’re both happening simultaneously.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

We’re actually just a whole sea of so many different emotions all the time…

True. I struggle with just being hard on myself about that. Being hard on myself about the fact that I’m being hard on myself. It’s a cycle that’s a quick one, that’s easy to get into. But I think trying to be curious about why you’re hard on yourself is a good way to still be present to it, without sitting in the sauce of it. Is going, “Oh, I’m doing this again. I’m hard on myself again. I’m curious as to why I keep doing that.” And then you’re thinking about it from a different perspective sometimes. I’ve found that to be helpful as well.

It’s a Sin is also about community and friendship. If you could go back and be a friend to yourself at a time in your life, when would it have been and what would you say to that you?

I probably would have been friends with myself when I was probably 17 or 18. I probably would have let younger me know that things change radically and often. And the circumstances that you’re currently in, won’t be the circumstances that you will currently be in, in a year, much less a decade. Your own personal circumstances change, but the world changes now, often and quickly. Technology changes, your tastes change every seven years. But it’s hard when you’re wanting to be an adult and you’re on the cusp of that. It’s hard to not look at the things that you aren’t. For me, it was that. That transition was a challenge, from my late teens into my early 20s, of wanting to define myself and then needing to be told that by defining yourself, you’re labeling yourself, and there’s no need to do that.

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Open my cookie preferences.

The undertones to this conversation has been the subject of pride but when have you’ve been the most proud of yourself, do you think?

Probably the last 18 to 24 months, I’ve been probably the most proud of myself as a person because when you’re a father, there is so much change and unstable ground as they grow and change so radically, so quickly. It just creates self-reflection and insecurity and yet, unbearably exciting milestones, and the opportunity to witness what hard work can accomplish.

It’s A Sin is streaming on All4 now



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more