‘Unfortunate Events’ villain Neil Patrick Harris says kids crave dark humor

Neil Patrick Harris arrives on the red carpet at the Netflix's premiere of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" on January 11, 2017 in New York City. File Photo by Bryan R. Smith/UPI

March 29 (UPI) — Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the villainous Count Olaf in “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” appreciates that kids — including his own — crave dark humor.

“They’d rather read the Grimm’s fairytale and have something caustic happen as the moral, as opposed to being fed a happy tale with a happy ending and, so, I think because of that hunger, it’s easy to delve into that,” Harris told reporters at a recent roundtable in New York.

Harris has 7-year-old twins, Gideon and Harper, with husband David Burtka.

Famous for his work in the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and known as the go-to emcee for numerous awards shows, the Emmy and Tony winner said he is now drawn to projects he can share with his son and daughter.

“As a parent, I became highly aware of what they can watch because I didn’t think about that when we didn’t have kids,” he said. “We just watched whatever was on TV, but you have to be aware of not only what they are watching actively, but what they are hearing passively and it’s just a different conversation.”

But the show is intended to appeal to all viewers, not just children, Harris, 44, emphasized.

“We can hit the kids. They can be spooked, but still hopeful. We can hit the adults that don’t have kids, but still think it is cool. We can hit the Comic Con gang and they can watch it multiple times and pickup weird Easter eggs and follow clues. And we try to be loud, so the older people can at least hear us,” he quipped.

Season 2 of the pitch-black comedy — in which Harris plays the frequently disguised villain Count Olaf — is to debut on Friday. Based on the beloved series of novels by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), the show co-stars Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and baby Presley Smith as the hard-luck Baudelaire orphans whom Olaf is obsessed with swindling.

Given his own history as a young performer, Harris said it has been fascinating to watch Weissman and Hynes grow “both in size and emotional stature” over the past two seasons.

“I’m very proud of both of them. It’s such a challenge as an actor to be comfortable enough to challenge. Because you are often being pulled from school and you’re plopped on your mark and you’re told to say [your lines] quickly and to not ask questions because if you ask questions, then they have to re-light [the scene] and that takes time and then as soon as they are done, they have to go back to school,” the actor explained.

He said he encouraged the young actors to speak up.

“If they have thoughts or opinions about how something could be different, they should voice them because they are leads in the show,” he said.

His own children don’t seem interested in show business careers of their own.

“They’re both extroverts in their own way,” the erstwhile Doogie Howser said. “I’m certainly not pushing them toward a professional career in any way, just because I’m privy to the pitfalls that come with it, which is mostly an emotional mettle that is required that I wouldn’t instill upon someone, unless that’s what they really, really, really could only do.

“And [my children] see the process so much that they are probably less entranced by it and enchanted by it because they know that I fly back and forth from Vancouver to New York and that it takes three hours to get into prosthetics and I am tired a lot.”

Instead they do gymnastics.

“Gideon loves robots and chess and [Harper] loves to sing, so who knows? I’ll keep them away from a proper spotlight for as long as they will let me,” Harris added.


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