Neil Patrick Harris has become one of the darlings of film and television thanks to some hugely popular roles. He first broke out as Doogie Howser, he was in one of the most popular web series of all time as Dr Horrible, and he has even hosted awards shows on the grandest of stages. Most people, however, know and love him for his stint on How I Met Your Mother as Barney Stinson.
For the whole duration of the show, he was a member of the regular main cast. He was friends with the main character, Ted, and the rest of the gang, and a constant presence in their scenes. Whole episodes were often devoted to his exploits. If you haven’t seen the show, you might be in the minority, as it attracted huge ratings and viewership numbers throughout its run. His character was best known for a string of humorous catchphrases that probably trip off your tongue when you think of the show.
We’ve done some digging to uncover a whole bunch of interesting facts about what it was like for Neil Patrick Harris to become Barney Stinson. Who did he nearly lose out on the role to? What things does he have in common with his character? Which episodes were inspired by Harris’ real-life experiences? How does he keep the character as part of his life today now that the show has ended?
All of these questions, and more, will be answered below. So listen up, kids: I’m going to tell you an incredible story, about how…
15. Neil Is Genuinely A Magician
On the show, Barney Stinson is a magician who uses his magic tricks to wow women into bed. It may surprise you to learn that Neil is actually a magician himself. He even serves as a board member of the Magic Castle in LA, to give you some idea of how far his involvement in the magic industry goes. He has stated that he does not and probably will never perform magic professionally, simply because of the training and rehearsal required to pull it off. It’s not something that would fit around his acting schedule, clearly – not to mention the fact that he is also a husband and father. He’s also a fan of other tricky acts like juggling and puppets, and says that he has been interested in magic since he was about 10 years old. He does perform some tricks on the show, so you can be sure that it’s all real – no stunt doubles were required during filming.
14. He Loves Red Bull
Another aspect of Barney’s character is that he loves to drink Red Bull. You can see him drinking it during the show’s run many times, and he gave a lot of free publicity to the company this way. It was never an agreed contract between him and the company – he actually just genuinely loves the drink. He drank it a lot off-set, too. As a result, the brand ended up getting in contact with him and giving him some gifts to say thank you. They stocked him up with a mini fridge as well as a lifetime’s supply – and for a man who drinks so much of it, that must be a whole lot of Red Bull. It’s interesting to see how some aspects of Barney actually come straight from Neil Patrick Harris himself. They weren’t written into the show originally, but became a part of it because of his own personality shining through.
13. His Partner Is On The Show
On HIMYM, several of the cast members have had their spouses come in to play a smaller role as a nod to their relationship. For Alyson Hannigan, it was her husband Alexis Denisof, who came in to play Sandy Rivers. For Cobie Smulders, it was her husband Taran Killam, who played Blauman. And for Neil Patrick Harris, it was his husband! Since the remaining two main cast members are straight men, you could say that there was a no-wives-allowed policy in place. David Burtka, who is married to Harris, played the role of Scooter. Scooter was Lily’s old high school boyfriend who hadn’t gotten over their relationship yet, and he came back a few times to reprise the role. He appeared in 7 episodes overall. It must have been great fun for Harris and Burtka to get to work together as well as seeing each other at home later on!
12. He Took The Playbook And The Booth
Several of the team and cast members each took something home from the show when it ended and they had to part ways. These mementoes were to help them to stay in touch with something that had been such a big part of their lives for so long. In Neil Patrick Harris’ case, he took two things home with him: first, the Playbook, and secondly, the booth in MacLaren’s where they all sit in the majority of the episodes. No word on where he stores it! Josh Radnor also took home the famous blue French horn, while the series creators kept the three yellow umbrellas – one for each of them as well as an extra one for the show’s director. The Playbook has actually since been released as a book that you can actually buy, although Neil is unique in being able to lay claim to the original prop that was really used.
11. He Invented The Bro Code
In the show, Barney claims to have invented the Bro Code. This code is what he feels a man must live by in order to be considered a ‘bro’. It’s a serious thing that he swears by, and it comes up in a lot of the episodes. Interestingly enough, it seems that he really did invent the Bro Code himself. When tracking Google searches, it appears that the phrase was never searched for before 2008. After that time, of course, the number of hits starts to increase dramatically. There is now a published version of this book, which contains 150 different articles about all of the things that a man must do. Barney himself gives several different origin stories about the Bro Code, but we can perhaps safely say that he actually made it all up himself. History certainly tells us nothing about a secret Bro Code devised by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and one Barnabus Stinson.
10. He Was Paid A Whole Lot
Not only was Neil Patrick Harris paid an awful lot for his role as Barney Stinson, but he was also paid an awful lot more than his co-stars, interestingly enough. According to reports, the main cast were each paid $120,000 per episode. Neil Patrick Harris, though, was making $210,000 per episode. It’s a big leap considering that he doesn’t have more screen time or do anything more strenuous than the other cast members. On the other hand, though, he was a fan favourite. He also has a lot of screen time in other hit shows behind him (though that doesn’t explain why Alyson Hannigan might be paid a bit less). Whatever the reason may be, it’s clear that Barney isn’t the only one who likes to ‘suit up’. Neil Patrick Harris also managed to get his lawyer, manager, or agent involved to get a better price for his time on the screen.
9. He Almost Lost The Role To Samm Levine
When auditions for the show were going on, Samm Levine was pretty excited to be called back more than once by the show’s team. He was looking fairly good for the role, even though he has since admitted that he doesn’t think that he would have been a good fit. Eventually, the role went to Neil Patrick Harris, and the rest is history. The two of them crossed paths on Kevin Pollak‘s Chat Show and ended up talking about the situation. Levine admitted that he thought Neil was a much better actor for the role, and that he brought Barney to a place that he himself would never have achieved. It’s nice to see an actor not holding a grudge over a role, and even being big enough to say that someone else is far more talented and deserving. Incidentally, Samm was considered because of his role in Freaks and Geeks – which is also what got Jason Segel into HIMYM.
8. When Barney Doesn’t Wear A Suit – 18 Times To Be Exact
Here’s a fun fact for fans of the show to enjoy: Barney is known for always wearing a suit. In fact, “Suit up” is one of his catchphrases. He has suits for all kinds of occasions – he even has suitjamas to go to sleep in. He has special outfits for Halloween to ensure that he is still wearing a suit. He goes on about suits constantly to the other cast members, often berating them for not wearing one too. It may surprise you to learn exactly how many times he was seen on the screen without a suit on, in that case. There were a total of 18 occasions. As regular viewers will know, only bad things happen when Barney doesn’t wear a suit. He usually gets mugged, slapped, sick, or has something else bad happen. Either that, or something bad has already happened and he’s too sad about it to put a suit on.
7. Barney’s On-Screen Brother Portrays The Real NPH
There’s a nice little nod to reality in the show when Barney’s brother shows up. His brother, James, is portrayed as a gay man who ends up getting married to a guy named Tom. The couple had two children together, a boy and a girl. In real life, Neil Patrick Harris is married to David Burtka. Notice how both pairings also have very normal, common names? The Harris-Burtka household is also home to two children, a boy and a girl. The set-up was a clear nod to Harris’ real-life situation. They also have a cute story about how they got their children (in real life). They found an egg donor and a surrogate mother, and tried two eggs: one which was fertilised by Neil, and one by David. Both of the eggs ended up taking, so biologically, each of them does have their own child. They don’t know which one is which, however, preferring to remain a whole family unit.
6. He’s Seen Josh Radnor Naked… A Lot
Before they starred together in How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris and Josh Radnor were already familiar with one another. In fact, they were very familiar. They both took roles in a play called The Paris Letter in 2004. In it, they play a pair of lovers. They both walk onto the stage fully nude at one point. This was the case through the play’s entire run. They reprised the roles later to do a stage reading and did it fully clothed, but the fact remains that they certainly had intimate knowledge of one another that the other actors would not have had. Hopefully, it helped to bring them closer and build a rapport, rather than just making things awkward for them on set for a while! Carter Bays, one of the co-creators of the show, actually saw them do the staged reading and reported that they were both incredible actors.
5. There’s A Very Big Whedon Connection
Joss Whedon tends to work with the same people as often as he can, and as a result, anyone who has been part of the Whedonverse tends to get tangled up with all of the others. Here’s the complex web of connections that has been formed through HIMYM. Are you ready? Okay. Alyson Hannigan’s character Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said that she was a fan of Doogie Howser, M.D.. Joss Whedon and the co-creators of HIMYM all went to Wesleyan University, which is where Lily, Ted, and Marshall AND Willow went to or were accepted to. Neil Patrick Harris was also in Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog which was created by Whedon, and co-star Cobie Smulders has been in The Avengers which he also directed. Finally, doppelgängers are a big thing in Buffy, and are also used as a recurring joke in HIMYM. Deep breath. We’re done.
4. Barney’s Airport Trouble Was Based On Real Life
In the episode titled “The Magician’s Code”, Barney tries to sneak one of his magic tricks through airport security. This leads to him being detained and taken to airport prison while they figure out what is going on. This is something that actually happened to Neil Patrick Harris in real life! When Carter Bays and Craig Thomas heard about it, they thought that it was just too funny to ignore. This is one of the big moments that was based on something from Neil’s life, but there are many others scattered throughout the show as well. It’s a very organic show which seems to take in a lot of real aspects of the actors’ lives, from their tastes to their quirks and even to their family members. It’s interesting to get a deeper look at the actor even when they are playing a character so different from themselves. After all, no one would argue that Neil Patrick Harris could be called a womanizer!
3. His Character Portrayal Was Very Deliberate
When he was playing Barney, Neil Patrick Harris had a definite mission to always keep in mind. “I’m always concerned that Barney remains someone you want to be friends with, even though you wonder why,” he said. “You’re drawn to him, not just disgusted. You never want to watch a character on a television show misbehaving too much, or you get disinterested in them.” This was something that concerned him a lot through the whole show. He has even spoken about being disappointed with the finished product sometimes. He argued that when an editor cuts lines from several different takes together, it loses the timing that he was trying to create. He doesn’t talk about a specific time when this might have happened, but it seems clear that it happened often enough to start upsetting him when he watched the show back. Still, it didn’t upset him enough to make him quit the show!
2. He Can’t Eat With Chopsticks
The cast and crew like to put a lot of inside jokes into the script and the filming. One of these inside jokes was actually started by Neil Patrick Harris himself. He has this thing that goes on in the background and you might not have ever noticed. Every time that the group of friends gets Chinese take-out, they start eating it with chopsticks. However, Barney never once manages to get the food into his mouth this way. He can’t eat with chopsticks at all! It’s curious that he never gives up and goes for normal cutlery, but that’s part of the joke. There are some other notable jokes too: for instance, there are a number of times when someone will shout “Guys, guys, guys!”. This is a tip of the hat to Michael Shea, an assistant director and director on many of the episodes. He has this catchphrase which he uses to get everyone’s attention, hence the writers putting it into the script as a tribute.
1. His Funniest Moment Ever
When talking about the show, co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas picked out one of their funniest moments during filming. They said that the best one was when Neil Patrick Harris had to deliver a line in the episode ‘As Fast As She Can’. That line was: “You think I can’t talk my way out of a ticket?” They had him repeat the line around 80 times on set, and according to them, just about every time was as hilarious as the last, all of them with different nuances. They only managed to fit three of the takes into the episode, which Carter Bays said was a shame. He said, “It could have been a full 22 minutes of that line.” It just goes to show that Neil has real comic timing, and that he’s a bit of a genius when it comes to putting in those subtle inflections which make all of the difference.