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Neil Patrick Harris is showing a side of himself that we’ve never seen before.
In Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman’s new Netflix series “Uncoupled,” Harris stars as Michael, a gay New York real estate agent whose partner of 17 years Colin (Tuc Watkins) leaves him.
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As Michael navigates dating again, stories of love, heartbreak, middle-age and unexpected sexual encounters unfold.
Harris is seen in various states of undress. In fact, the actor has his first on-camera gay sex scene on “Uncoupled,” with “Sex and the City” movie alum Gilles Marini.
“We did make out in that first scene and then between takes he goes, ‘Oh it is true? It is true what they say?’” Harris recalls. “And I said, ‘What do they say?’ And he goes, ‘I heard that it is better kissing another man than a woman and I can see this now. It is true what they say.’ My knees buckled and I was like, ‘Gosh, thanks so much.’”
The cast also includes Tisha Campbell, who plays Michael’s best friend and business partner, as well as Emerson Brooks, Brooks Ashmanskas and Marcia Gay Harden. Tony winner legend André De Shields pops up as Michael’s neighbor, Jack.
For this week’s edition of the “Just for Variety” podcast, I sat down with Harris at Netflix’s offices in New York City just a couple of hours before he walked the red carpet at the show’s world premiere at the Paris Theater.
Here are some of the highlights:
On family life
Harris says he wasn’t looking for more work when he was offered “Uncoupled” because he’s trying to spend more time with his and his husband David Burtka’s 11-year-old twins, Harper and Gideon. Filming in New York helped seal the deal.
“I just want to be able to prioritize these next five or six years with them before they’re off to college,” Harris says. “I know even before then they’re going to want more independence and not want to spend time together with us, necessarily. I didn’t want to be having to go to Atlanta to film something for six weeks and then having a week off and then going to Toronto to film something, which I had been doing.”
Darren Star may have created “Sex and the City,” but Harris says he wasn’t as familiar with the hit HBO series as one might assume.
“It’s the same way that I don’t know the ‘Golden Girls,’” Harris admits. “It’s the same way that I don’t know Barbra Streisand. My gaydom started with like ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Les Misérables’ and musical theater. It didn’t really start with Judy Garland.”
The naked truth
Harris says he wasn’t too worried about his nude scenes on “Uncoupled.”
“I do legitimately feel more comfortable in my skin now than I did even five years ago,” he says.
Harris recalls stripping down to his underwear for a skit when hosted the Oscars in 2015.
“I seemingly opted to do that, which I thought was funny at the time,” he says. “And then I realized that’s just the picture people use when they talk about me as the Oscars host and I was wearing really nice suits. I had a really good wardrobe for that.”
Harris had to wear two pairs of tighty-whities. With only one pair “with the bright lights shining directly on it, you kind of saw through it.”
When it came time to find a photo of his private parts for Michael to post on gay hookup app Grindr, an image of a prosthetic penis was considered.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we just find a good picture online of someone?’” Harris says, adding, “I had to be fairly humble about it. It was a little insecure making because you don’t want to choose a massive dong because that’s like its own meta weird joke. You don’t want to choose a tiny dong because that’s its own weird joke. [We needed] something that’s normal, average size. But in the scene afterwards, the guy says that it’s a beautiful penis. So it had to be nice-ish. I don’t know. It was very weird to be choosing.”
During one scene, Michael is hooking up with a dermatologist who suggests injecting his butt with Botox to make anal sex more comfortable.
“I laughed so hard when they were just telling me that this storyline was coming down the pipe, as it were,” Harris says. “I said exactly what you said, ‘Is that a thing?’ And apparently it is. I hope we don’t turn it into a larger thing.”
For the record, Richman spoke on the matter at the premiere, sharing that most — if not, all — of the hookups are inspired by real-life experiences talked about in the writers’ room.
Harris recently returned from shooting the new season of “Doctor Who” in Wales. Showrunner Russell T Davis offered him a role after they worked together on “It’s a Sin,” HBO Max’s limited series about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. “Sex Education” star Ncuti Gatwa will make his debut as the new incarnation of the Doctor.
“I got to meet and interact with him a bit and he’s glorious,” Harris says of Gatwa. “He’ll be the first gay Doctor, which is going to be super cool, a sexier Doctor.”
“Uncoupled” is available now on Netflix.
You can listen to the full interview with Harris above. You can also find “Just for Variety” wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
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