Neil Patrick Harris is taking a major career leap, going from the comfort of his role in TV’s recently ended “How I Met Your Mother” to a daring role in the Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
It’s not just Harris’ career that is getting a transformation, but also his body, in order to play the role of a transsexual, down-on-her-luck East German rocker.
“I’ve lost 20 pounds almost for the role to try and be more sort of more feminine, which changed my whole posture,” Harris told ABC News.
The 40-year-old actor says every time he eats something now as he tries to keep the weight off, he thinks of another actor who recently won an Oscar after losing 40 pounds to play a transsexual with AIDS in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
“I’m becoming like Jared Leto ‘manorexic,’” Harris said, laughing. “Every time I eat like half a sandwich I’m like, ‘All right, just one chip.’ And I eat the chip and I’m like, ‘Oh no, what have I done?’”
Harris, who earlier this year moved to New York from Los Angeles with his fiancé and twin toddlers, was a perfect fit for the Broadway revival, Stephen Trask, the show’s composer, said.
“I always just liked the sound of his voice,” Trask said. “I’ve heard him talk and sing and I was just like, ‘Oh, he’s right. That’ll be right.’”
“I just knew all along.”
Harris’ transformation into a transgender woman from East Berlin after a botched sex change requires nearly two hours of hair and makeup before each show.
He says he very purposely chose the room where he transforms each night – his dressing room at the Belasco Theatre – to be pink.
“I got to choose the colors and I wanted this room to be just super kinetic,” Harris said. “I’ve embraced the glitter.”
Harris says he feels like he is on a “fun journey” with audience members.
“For me, it’s fun to play Hedwig and start the show with a lot of people kind of quizzically staring at me and thinking it’s for show value and by the end feeling like they’re united with her,” Harris said.
But for all the laughs, the show has a serious and poignant message.
John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote the Off-Broadway musical — along with Trask as composer — and starred as the original Hedwig in that production and in the critically acclaimed movie, said the story is about misfits and losers.
“I mean, everybody’s felt like a misfit,” he said.