The never-ending reinvention of Neil Patrick Harris.

When writing about Neil Patrick Harris, a skilled stage magician, it's impossible to resist describing his never-ending career reinvention as a series of magic tricks.

The actor, who launched his career as a teen doctor on television, has lived through countless artistic phases.

After escaping the typecasting trap that often comes with child acting, Harris has transformed himself throughout the years, seamlessly becoming the reputable theatre star, the charismatic Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Motherthe personable awards show host, and the openly gay leading man.

Neil Patrick Harris' latest role is in Stan's It's A Sin. Watch the trailer below. (Post continues after video.)

Video via HBO Max.

Neil Patrick Harris' acting career essentially came about by accident.

While growing up in Alburquerque, New Mexico, Harris attended a one-week drama camp. It was here that he was "discovered" by playwright Mark Medoff, leading to his role in Clara's Heart, a 1988 film which saw a housekeeper (Whoopi Goldberg) form a bond with a young boy (Neil Patrick Harris).

"Mark [Medoff] saw potential in me when I was 12 years old," Harris told The New York Times.

"I got the job and, fully plucked from obscurity, found myself co-starring with Whoopi Goldberg on the silver screen."

Before long, Harris was attending the first of many award ceremonies after he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes.

After earning a name for himself in Clara's Heart, Harris landed the lead role in medical drama Doogie Howser, M.D., playing a teenage medical prodigy.

At the time, creator Steven Bochco warned Harris that his life was about to change.


Neil Patrick Harris in Doogie Howser, M.D. Image: ABC. 

"Mr Bochco sat me and my parents down," Harris told Rolling Stone Magazine

"I vividly remember he said, '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.' It was a surfing metaphor. '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.'"

When the series ended in 1993, Harris was 20 years old. 

After four seasons of playing a wholesome teenage heartthrob, Harris suddenly faced the challenge of escaping the character that had made him famous.

In the first few years post-Doogie Howser, Harris struggled to find roles in Hollywood as he turned his attention to theatre (including roles in Sweeney Todd, Proof, and Cabaret) and supporting roles in TV movies.

"I was bitter, and I was too young to be just bitter and a stoner," he told Rolling Stone Magazine

"I didn’t want to be angry that other people were getting jobs."

But in 2003, a decade after exiting Doogie Howser, M.D., Harris was offered the ultimate exit from his child star woes — an opportunity to play a fictionalised, sociopathic version of himself in stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.


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The unexpected role completed reinvented Harris' acting career, allowing him to shed his Doogie Howser character for good.

"Who knew that three days on a funny stoner comedy would alter my track the way it did?" Harris said.

Following his role in the stoner comedy, the actor was cast as Barney Stinson, a charismatic, serial womaniser, in How I Met Your Mother. 

Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother. Image: 20th Century Fox. 

The series lasted nine seasons from 2005 to 2014, and earned Harris multiple Emmy nominations.

During his time on the show, Harris went public with his sexuality.

"I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love," he said in a statement released in 2006.


Speaking to GlamourHarris shared that coming out was ultimately a long process. In fact, he drafted his official statement more than five times.

"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," he told the publication. 

"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 are 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."

David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris in 2020. Image: Getty. 

Following coming out publicly, Harris attended the Emmy Awards with his fiance, actor David Burtka, in 2007. (The couple have since married and welcomed twins via a surrogate mother, Gideon Scott and Harper Grace.)

After walking hand in hand with his partner on the red carpet, Harris stepped into the next phase of his career as Hollywood's favourite awards show host.

In recent years, the 47-year-old has hosted the Tony Awards as well as the Primetime Emmy Awards. The actor also became the first openly gay man to host the Academy Awards in 2015.


Despite the achievement, Harris isn't sure whether he could bear to host the Academy Awards again.

"I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it," he told The Huffington Post.

"It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again."

As for acting, however, the 47-year-old continues to reinvent himself, seamlessly switching from comedic roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events and A Million Ways to Die in the West to the more serious role of an obsessed ex-boyfriend in psychological thriller Gone Girl.

Neil Patrick Harris in It's A Sin. Image: Stan.  

Now, Harris is promoting It's A Sin, in which he stars as local tailor Henry Coltrane. The five-part series follows the lives of three young gay men as they face the AIDS crisis in London in the 1980s.

Once again, Harris has seamlessly transformed himself. Once again, he has pulled off a magic trick.

It's A Sin is available to watch now on Stan.

Feature Image: Getty.