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A child actor who achieved popularity and critical acclaim at an early age, Neil Patrick Harris managed to avoid the typical fate of child stars who often slipped into obscurity after spinning out of control; instead he thrived on stage, as well as in film and on television. Harris first emerged into the national spotlight as the titular character on "Doogie Howser, M.D." (ABC, 1989-1992), playing a child prodigy who works as a surgeon while still trying to cope with the struggles of an everyday teenager. For a long time after the series was cancelled, Harris was solely identified with the role, though he nonetheless continued to deliver strong performances in television movies and on stage. Following a few down years in the early 1990s, Harris re-emerged at the end of the decade with a revamped feature career, thanks to prominent roles in "Starship Troopers" (1997) and "The Next Best Thing" (2000). After delivering huge laughs with a parody of himself in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), Harris made a triumphant return to regular series work, co-starring as the opinionated womanizer Barney Stinson, whose catchphrase "Suit up" helped propel "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14) into a...
A child actor who achieved popularity and critical acclaim at an early age, Neil Patrick Harris managed to avoid the typical fate of child stars who often slipped into obscurity after spinning out of control; instead he thrived on stage, as well as in film and on television. Harris first emerged into the national spotlight as the titular character on "Doogie Howser, M.D." (ABC, 1989-1992), playing a child prodigy who works as a surgeon while still trying to cope with the struggles of an everyday teenager. For a long time after the series was cancelled, Harris was solely identified with the role, though he nonetheless continued to deliver strong performances in television movies and on stage. Following a few down years in the early 1990s, Harris re-emerged at the end of the decade with a revamped feature career, thanks to prominent roles in "Starship Troopers" (1997) and "The Next Best Thing" (2000). After delivering huge laughs with a parody of himself in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), Harris made a triumphant return to regular series work, co-starring as the opinionated womanizer Barney Stinson, whose catchphrase "Suit up" helped propel "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14) into a ratings winner, allowing Harris to finally exorcise the ghosts of Doogie Howser. Despite playing the skirt-chasing Stinson, Harris came out in 2006; an admission many felt would harm his career. Instead, the public greeted the news with a collective shrug and the actor went on to enjoy even greater success. Because his resurgent stardom led to hosting gigs for the Emmys and Tony Awards, Harris was able to bask in his ever-growing fame while becoming one of Hollywood's most in-demand stars.
Born on June 15, 1973 in Albuquerque, NM, Harris was raised by his father, Ron, and mother, Sheila, both of whom were lawyers. He first caught the acting bug at age six, when he played Toto in a school production of "The Wizard of Oz." While attending La Cueva High School, where he continued to perform in school plays, Harris met playwright Mark Medoff at a drama camp at New Mexico State University. Medoff cast the young Harris in "Clara's Heart" (1988), playing a young boy dealing with his parent's divorce while at the same time, cultivating a meaningful friendship with his Jamaican housekeeper (Whoopi Goldberg) - a role that earned him his first Golden Globe nomination. Over the next few years, Harris quickly racked up a number of television credits, including appearances in the TV movies "Too Good to Be True" (NBC, 1988) "Home Fires Burning" (CBS, 1989), "Cold Sassy Tree" (TNT, 1989) and a starring guest role in "Blues for Buder" (ABC, 1989), one of the "B.L. Stryker" detective TV movies, starring Burt Reynolds.
In 1989, Harris landed the role of the pubescent doctor on "Doogie Howser, M.D.," likeably playing the 16-year-old medical school graduate who struggles to deal with both his patients and his adolescence. Thanks to his skillful, award-winning performance as the young idealistic medical professional, Harris became inextricably linked to the role, which threatened to limit his future career prospects after the series' 1992 demise. But Harris managed to keep busy with a slate of television appearances in long-forms and series guest roles. In 1991, he landed episodes of "Blossom" (NBC, 1990-95) and "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). The voice work on the latter prepared him for a regular starring role on the short-lived animated series "Capitol Critters" (ABC, 1992), playing Max, a country mouse who ends up in Washington, D.C. Featured guest parts on "Quantum Leap" (NBC, 1988-1993) and "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996) were followed by playing a series of characters in fact-based television movies, most notably in "A Family Torn Apart" (NBC 1993) and "Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story" (CBS, 1994), in which he played a man who, along with his wife and five-month-old child, survives after days trapped in a Nevada avalanche.
Though mostly under the radar, Harris remained active in a series of television movies: "Not Our Son" (CBS, 1995), "My Antonia" (USA, 1995), "The Man in the Attic" (Showtime, 1995) and "Legacy of Sin: The William Coit Story" (Fox, 1995). After time away from television to pursue stage roles and feature work, Harris returned with a starring turn as a young successful businessman on a journey to self-discovery in the holiday offering, "The Christmas Wish" (CBS, 1998) and a supporting role the following year as King Charles VII opposite Leelee Sobieski in the miniseries, "Joan of Arc" (CBS, 1999). He returned to regular series work with "Stark Raving Mad" (NBC, 1999), playing the neurotic, germophobic editor of a zany horror novelist (Tony Shalhoub). The series' plum time slot - nestled between heavy-hitters "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) - and highly capable, watchable performances from Harris and Shalhoub failed to propel the otherwise by-the-numbers sitcom.
After a nine-year absence from film, Harris returned to the big screen with a supporting role in Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi actioner "Starship Troopers" (1997). After starring that same year alongside Matthew Lillard in the independent drama "The Animal Room" (1997), Harris essayed the role of a Harvard Law student who gets emotionally involved after being hired to sire the child of a successful, infertile couple (Madeline Stowe and William Hurt) in the 1930s-set drama "The Proposition" (1998). Back on stage, he played Romeo to Emily Bergl's Juliet in a 1998 Old Globe Theater production of the Shakespeare classic, then was touted by critics as a highlight of the Los Angeles concert version of the Sondheim musical, "Sweeney Todd" (2001). He returned to features with a supporting turn in "The Next Best Thing" (2000), which starred Madonna and Rupert Everett, respectively, as a woman and her gay male friend who suddenly find themselves as unwitting parents after an unexpected drunken night of sex.
Harris made another return to the stage, embarking on a highly successful run on Broadway by performing in such A-list productions as "Proof" (2001), opposite Anne Heche, and the 2003 revival of "Cabaret," alongside Deborah Gibson and Tom Bosley. Drawing critical acclaim for his performance as the Emcee in "Cabaret," Harris was tapped next to play the role of Lee Harvey Oswald in Stephen Sondheim's controversial musical, "Assassins" (2004). On the big screen, Harris delivered a hilarious cameo in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), playing a sex-crazed, drug-addled parody of himself - a role he revived in the sequel, "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" (2008). The newly hot actor then landed a co-starring role as serial womanizer Barney Stinson on the hugely popular ensemble sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14), about a married couple telling their children the story how they met and fell in love. An instant hit in the ratings, "How I Met Your Mother" had the residual effect of sparking the public's interest in the personal lives of its stars. Harris, in particular, became a target of rampant gossip after it was rumored at the start of the second season that he was a closeted homosexual. After an initial denial from his publicist, Harris personally ended the mounting speculation with a statement to People magazine's website in November 2006: "Because of speculation and interest in my private life and relationships [I] am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest." (Harris married his boyfriend of over 10 years, actor and cookbook author David Burtka, on September 6, 2014, with "How I Met Your Mother" director Pamela Fryman officiating.)
While a few Hollywood insiders wondered if his admission might hurt his career - especially in regards to his role as a womanizer on the top-rated sitcom - Harris enjoyed the exact opposite effect. Not only did ratings for "How I Met Your Mother" remain solid into its third season, Harris received his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2007; a feat he duplicated for the next three years. He also won new admirers in the sphere of writer/director Joss Whedon with his starring role in the cheeky online musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" (2008). In 2009, the fan favorite hosted the 63rd Annual Tony Awards, receiving overall glowing reviews by the harshest of critics. He was such a hit as Tony emcee that he was given the very prestigious job of hosting the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, and he later returned to host both ceremonies in later years.
Back on the big screen, he voiced the excitable monkey Steve in the animated hit "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009), based on Ron and Judi Barrett's popular children's book of the same name, and, in 2010, he won an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his guest turn on "Glee" (Fox, 2009-15). In 2011, Harris finally had a major movie hit with his key role as Patrick, an unlikely human friend of the titular blue CGI-created creatures in "The Smurfs," and he returned for its 2013 sequel as well. In fact, franchises were Harris's bread and butter around this time, with the raucous "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" in 2011 and the food-centric fantasy "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" in late 2013. His next appearance, as a villain in Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways To Die in the West" (2014), was followed by a change of pace dramatic role in David Fincher's "Gone Girl" (2014). Following a recurring role in the "Freak Show" season of "American Horror Story" (FX 2011- ), Harris brought his hosting skills to "Best Time Ever" (NBC 2015- ), a live variety show with music, sketches and audience participation segments.
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