Neil Patrick Harris on Marriage Equality: TV Is an Immersive Environment for Change

Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’

What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV?

“Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When Ellen came out on her show, that was a much larger conversation. She represented more of a personality coming out as opposed to a character within a show.

What did that mean to you?

I was interested in seeing whether the media would behave like piranhas or whether they would be overly gracious. It was lovely to see in our society there was not a lot of hellfire and brimstone. For all the naysayers, there was an impressive amount of support for that kind of standing tall.

How did it affect you and your decision to come out?

I attributed my personal life growing up to a magician. Magicians throughout history have been tight-lipped about their lives, about their identities. I was intrigued by the idea of not using specific pronouns, and being able to have an element of mystery surrounding me. I didn’t like it when I was aware that people were gay and were going out of their way to say they weren’t. So that was the road that I took. I figured it was an inevitability. I wasn’t trying to pretend I was something I wasn’t.

How did coming out affect your career?

I do the best job that I can do in any given role. I’ve been fortunate in getting to play against type while people know what my actual type is. That’s been empowering to others, and certainly to me, that I can tweet pictures of my husband and my kids. I can make out with David at the Tonys. And I can still play opposite Rosamund Pike in a movie, and have sex with her, and people aren’t conflicted. I think it speaks to society’s shift in what they deem important.

What role has TV played in changing attitudes?

I think TV has played a massive role, by the fact that it comes into people’s homes. If you watch a film, you have to choose to watch it again. Whereas on TV, if it’s a scripted show, you’re getting hundreds of episodes. It’s that repetition. There’s different levels to me of advocacy. Some people possess this innate ability, and push and cause change. That’s incredibly necessary and super-effective. But one can also accomplish impressive things with very little aggression — just through immersion. Thankfully the industry is great; there’s so much representation now. It levels the playing field.

More TV

  • LEGION -- "Chapter 10" - Season

    'Legion': Jeph Loeb, Nathaniel Halpern Talk 'X-Men' Universe Connections

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

  • JD Pardo Mayans MC

    ‘Mayans MC’ Creator Kurt Sutter Reveals How He Cast Series Lead JD Pardo

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

  • Exclusive - All AroundMandatory Credit: Photo

    Nicole Maines on Why the ScarJo Casting Controversy Matters

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Elmarie Wendel, '3rd Rock From the Sun' Actress, Dies at 89

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Board Approves Deals on Non-Primetime TV, Telemundo

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

  • Issa Rae, Natasha Rothwell and Yvonne

    'Insecure' Season 3 to Introduce New 'Timely' Show Within The Show

    Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the Oscars and Tonys (winning four Emmys), and last year took home a Tony for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ What’s your earliest memory of gay characters on TV? “Soap” with Billy Crystal. But it all seemed very on the outskirts. It was not something that resonated with me. When […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content