Harris was discovered at a drama camp in New Mexico, by playwright Mark Madoff, who placed him in his film Clara's Heart, opposite Whoopie Goldberg. He snagged a Golden Globe nomination for this film debut. It was only a year or so later that he landed the title role in Doogie Houser, MD, a TV series centering on a teen-aged doctor (I never saw the show, so cannot vouch for its quality, but it ran 4 seasons, and was created by Stephen Bochco and David Kelley, so it must have had some redeeming features).
Our Neil didn't seem to have a problem graduating to adult roles, as so many child actors have, perhaps because he took the stage route. He appeared in the Second National Tour of Rent, which might seem a demotion for a former television star, but it turned into a shrewd career move. The tour visited Los Angeles and San Diego, and he was plucked to play Romeo at the Old Globe. A few years later, he appeared as Tobias in a San Francisco concert production of Sweeney Todd, opposite Patti Lupone and George Hearn. He warbled "Not While I'm Around" in several concert stagings of Sondheim's classic during this period, with such notables as Christine Baranski, Kelsey Grammer, Audra McDonald, Melissa Manchester, Ken Howard, Davis Gaines, and Judy Kaye in various roles.
Harris has appeared on Broadway in Assassins and as the Emcee in Cabaret (a survey of all the gents who played the Emcee in the most recent, long-running revival of Cabaret reveals that the grosses during Neil's tenure surpassed those of Alan Cumming, John Stamos, and everybody else who played the part). He has become our modern version of the classic song-and-dance man, and displayed his talents on three prominent awards shows in the past year.
Neil's hosting duties on the Tony Awards in 2009 were capped with this closing number, written as the show itself was progressing, and featuring details of the events of the night. This is somebody who can truly think on his feet, as he delivers this showstopper without rehearsal, and with the lyrics having been written only minutes before:
Neil's triumph at the Tonys lead to his hosting the Emmy Awards a few months later. He again delivered a terrific performance, including this opening number:
To complete his trifecta, Harris performed the opening number at the most recent Oscars, go here if you want to take a peak.
Harris would be winning Emmy awards for these appearances on the various award shows, if the TV Academy had not eliminated the "Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Musical Program" category in 2009.
Neil lives in West Hollywood with his long-time partner, not that that's anybody's business. He acknowledged his sexual orientation several years ago, with this classy statement:
"...I am happy to dispel any rumors 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."
If all the homosexual actors in Hollywood treated their orientations with such nonchalant respect and openness, Gay Pride Weekends would lose their importance. That would be a good thing.
Neil Patrick Harris will be directing a concert staging of Rent at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. He turned 37 last week.
(UPDATE 8/10/10: THE EMMYS HAVE ANNOUNCED THEY ARE PLACING HARRIS'S NAME AMONG THE PRODUCERS WHO ARE NOMINATED [FOR THE 2009 TONY AWARDS SHOW] IN THE CATEGORY OF BEST SPECIAL CLASS PROGRAM. SHOULD THE 2009 TONY BROADCAST WIN THE EMMY, ITS HOST, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, WILL ALSO WIN A TROPHY. Go here to find out if Harris won.)