'Glee': Neil Patrick Harris talks guest spot, working with Joss Whedon again, and why Finn is his favorite character

Glee-Neil-PatrickImage Credit: Michael Yarish/FoxI was on set for the filming of tonight’s episode of Glee, which was directed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon and featured Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as Will’s old rival Bryan Ryan. In between takes of Bryan and Will’s dynamic cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” Harris sat down with me to talk about guest-starring on the Fox series, working with Whedon, and the Glee character he finds “dreamy.” (For those of you who haven’t seen the episode tonight, a mild spoiler alert warning!)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you want to do Glee?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS:
I’m a new fan of the show in that I missed the first half of it and I’ve been catching up on iTunes on the airplane. It’s just a great show to watch like that because there aren’t commercials and you can just power through, like, five in a row. It was great. [Kristin] Chenoweth’s cameo is hilarious. And it’s a 20th Century Fox show which [produces] How I Met Your Mother. When we did our 100th episode, it was choreographed by [Glee choreographer] Zach Woodlee who I’m friendly with. At our 100th episode shindig party that Fox threw, Zach was there, as was [20th Century Fox Television chairmen] Dana Walden and Gary Newman. I told them how much I loved the show. They said, “Oh you should come and be a guest on it.” And I said, “Well isn’t Joss directing an episode?” And then [Walden] said, “Hold on a second.” Dana wanders off with her blackberry in hand and comes back and says, “Ryan loves the idea. They’re going to write a part for you and it’s going to be in Joss’ episode.” I shrugged and said, “Great!” So I didn’t think it meant much. All the random stars aligned and the timing worked out and here I am.

Tell me about your character, Bryan Ryan.
Bryan Ryan is an embittered ex-performer. He was the guy in high school glee club that was the man, the one that got all the big parts. Then when high school ended he followed his dream and he went and did regional theme park work, cruise ship work, and then got a crack addiction. He realized that the glee club path is good for nuthin’! Good for nuthin I tell ya!

So he’s a happy man?
He’s not so happy. And he went to school with Schuester so there’s a bit of a rivalry there as well.

What’s the Glee experience been like?
It’s been both invigorating and just wildly grueling. We’re blessed on How I Met Your Mother to feel like we’re doing a bit of a funny playlet everyday. Here, it’s a bit of factory work. They have so many scenes to do and work all the time so there’s no real sitting back, [saying] “That was funny!” and “Nice job!” It’s just a lot of “Next take! Next take! Moving on! Moving on!” I’m working three consecutive Mondays just because that’s how it works for my schedule. The first one unfortunately landed the day after the Oscars on which I had performed and gone out afterwards and got about two hours of sleep. Then [I] arrived at about 6:30 a.m. to Paramount to do a kind of Glengarry Glen Ross/“You’ll amount to nothing!” monologue to all of the cast, who I’m fans of, who are now sitting there just staring at me as I forget every line. It had been a long week.

Why do you and Joss work so well together?
I admire Joss’ ability to be both highly stylized, highly theatrical, and yet nuanced and subtle. He’s a very avant-garde kind of awesome guy. For someone who’s had so much success, I would have expected him to be not so encouraging creatively. You would think he would be resting on the successes of his past, but he’s always interested in redefining. He’s directing an episode of Glee for God’s sake! What’s that all about? He just loves the show. It’s kind of amazing. I’ve been very fortunate in the unique circumstances with which I’ve been able to work with him. It’s been these cool little gets. Dr. Horrible[‘s Sing-Along Blog]. Then Glee.

Are you thinking of doing another Dr. Horrible?
Absolutely. My fear is that they decide to turn it into a feature film and suddenly Ewan McGregor’s got another job. “Nick Jonas as Dr. Horrible!” So I hope it happens quick!

Is Bryan more villainous than Barney?
No. Bryan is more tortured. Barney has no idea what consequences mean. He’s balls to the wall. Bryan is masking his behavior and the wounds he’s experienced with this take-charge bad attitude. His battitude!

Do you have a favorite Glee character?
I kinda like Finn.

Why?
Well, he’s dreamy. But also I think he represents a really great element of the viewership and what glee club can be because he’s a quintessential straight guy, kind of a bumble-y. He’s such a great actor and he provides that enthusiasm, and yet he’s still a guy so it’s not like your watching a bunch of campy theatrics all the time. And then Puck gets in the mix and then people who are watching in the Midwest go, “This could be cool as an option.”

And I love his relationship with Kurt.
Yeah he doesn’t pass judgment in a position where it’s expected.

Is Bryan someone we could see again on Glee?
There’s certainly the possibility for it. It’s a tricky dynamic because I’m currently employed by another network so it’s not in CBS’ best interests to have me on a Fox show. But they were lovely enough to let me do sort of a one-off.


Comments (63 total) Add your comment
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  • Mandy

    Can’t wait. Love NPH. Love Glee. All the best things coming together. (and with Joss Whedon no less!)

    • emerge

      Anyone notice that Bryan and Barney are almost anagrams of each other? and is this episode *B yearns* to be a star — woahhh, My head is going to explode now. :)

      (too bad Billy from Dr Horrible doesn’t fit the pattern!)

      • emerge

        whoops, um, “IN this episode,” duh.

  • Randi

    He was so fantastic in it! Great episode!

  • sookietex

    Neil was great as Bryan Ryan. The Dream On duet was awesome. Here’s hoping CBS gives him more chances to play hooky and get into the mix again with FOX’ Glee.

    • whoop

      The Dream On duet was out of this world!

    • brody

      Did anyone else get a “What You Own” (from RENT) vibe from the choreography of that number?

      • brody

        Which brings me to my next point: OMG, I would KILL to see those two guys do “What You Own”!!!

  • JBD

    Great episode of Glee! Love Jesse St. James. He has awesome chemistry with Rachel.

  • Atalija Lima

    I’m a little disappointed. There was NOT enough NPH on the episode!
    Having said that, I have to say that every single time Neil was on, I had a big smile on my face. He’s such a scene stealer.
    And his rendition of ‘Dream On’ with Mr. Schuester was legen – wait for it – DARY!

  • daman

    the episode of glee with Neil Patrick Harris was brilliant. I loved Artie and Tina’s storyline as well. However, those internet spoilers involving Idina Mendel and Lea Michele singing pokerface did not happen in this episode. I am pissed!!!

    • Madd

      That’s probably going to happen in the Gaga episode…

    • Ceballos

      Yeah, the Artie and Tina storyline kind of broke my heart.

      It may have gotten dusty in my living room when he stood up in the mall and it became increasingly obvious that his “Safety Dance” was just a fantasy sequence. (I thought that was VERY well done, by the way.)

      • Melinda65

        I loved the meta-ness of a Glee flash mob within the show. That was one of my favorite Glee musical sequences, ever.

      • Ceballos

        Good call Melinda65…I loved how the other cast members snuck in there and how the random people standing off to the side were filming it with their phones.

        I know “Dream On” will get all the attention, but “Safety Dance” was just REALLY well done!

      • orville

        I thought that was an incredible number. Loved the flash mob take on a fantasy scene. For some reason this sequence felt the most “Joss Whedon” to me.

      • brody

        There WAS a Joss-ness to that scene, orville! I’m glad you pointed it out. The camera work felt a bit like “Man on the Street” or the Epitaph episodes from Dollhouse.

  • Grace W.

    That note at the end of “Dream On” was EPIC! I already respected NPH a ton, but my opinion of him just skyrocketed even higher. Great job!

  • Weemz

    I love NPH and Glee, but I wasn’t feeling this episode. It seemed slow and there was waay too much dialogue. There were no Brittany zingers, and Finn, Puck, Quinn, Mercedes, and others barely saw the light of day. I thought there was waaaay too much focus on the guest star.

    • Alan

      I just loved Idina and Lea singing I Dreamed a Dream. I mean, gay men across the country must have been orgasming!

      • LKM

        Not just gay men, but Broadway fangirls like me were also squealing with delight!! It was epic to see the two of them singing together!! (And please, if we have to do a “Wicked” movie, can we cast Lea as Elphaba? There should be no others considered…)

  • Bonnie

    LOVED IT. But weren’t we told that Idina was NOT the mom?

    • Sina

      I do recall them telling us that. I think after the fans response after Idina was cast, then they changed it to making her the mom.

      • orville

        I think that they may have been faking us out as well. For a good portion of the episode, we’re not sure if it’s real or part of Jessie’s and Shelby’s manipulation of Rachael.

      • Dan

        USA Today printed an interview with Idina in yesterday’s edition and she clearly said her character was not Rachel’s mother. Punk’d again!

      • brody

        It was a fakeout. There has been a lot of “So, are you Rachel’s mom?” … “Actually, I’m the director of a rival glee club” (which isn’t exactly a no, but still).

  • Gator

    Best episode so far. We get NPH on and singing. Idina back on and actually singing, and a duet with Lea!!! And then the Artie storyline just tugged at my heart the whole time. He rocked those scenes!

  • Shannon

    You’ve GOT to be kidding me! “Dream On” was just getting started for me with the Emergency Alert System kicked in. Stupid tornado-y weather! I missed almost the whole thing!!

    • brody

      Thank God for Hulu!

  • Sina

    Okay seriously Finn is his favorite character? Whatever floats your boat. IMO, Finn is the worst male singer on the show and Puck is more entertaining. So is Jesse St. James.

    • orville

      But that’s why he likes the character. Finn represents the average mid-American person who may have never considered musical theater as an option. A “guy’s guy” who isn’t judgemental. The character of Finn actually throws open more doors in a way–he shows people who would never have considered Glee club or musical theater as a viable option (whereas people like Rachael, Mercedes, Kurt, etc. would have already been interested) that it can be cool and rewarding.

    • LoopieLou

      Quote: ‘IMO, Finn is the worst male singer on the show’

      Which is what I thought until I saw the Glee tour. Finn/Cory totally exceeded my expectations in the singing department. I do, however, agree with NPH that Cory Monteith is a great actor. The part of Finn is one of my favorite’s to watch because of that.

    • brody

      I agree with him. Of all of the characters, Finn is the realest and the most finely drawn. He’s a decent (but not PHENOMENAL) singer, a truly horrible dancer, and a big-hearted dope of a straight dude. And Cory is a damned good actor.

  • jords

    LOVED IT. Best ep this half of the season. NPH sold me on Bryan Ryan…that rendition of “Dream On” was just.frakkin.hot.
    Bring back more Joss…I could definitely see his eye in the directon and timing….basically Glee tonight was one big theatrical hug to the fans.

  • steph

    Mike Chang! He can tap dance too?! Bestill my heart!

    • AGREE!

      He is the best

    • kate s

      He is adorable! Wish they would give him more screentime as well as the other characters.

    • brody

      Dear Ryan Murphy,

      Please give Mike Chang a story. Thank you.

      Sincerely,
      Viewers

      • emerge

        Hear, hear! Mike is the cutest and perkiest glee-boy and deserves to be more than just “other Asian”!

  • Corran

    I like NPH but Finn as his favorite character? Um…he is the most boring character of the bunch, who sings badly!

    • Gabby

      Glee club took off only after Finn joined in. If Rachel is the talent, then Finn is the heart of Glee. NPH gets this. He really is a true Gleek.

      • emerge

        Finn is just like so many guys I went to high school with! I love the fact that he’s NOT larger-than-life when everybody else is.

        I think he’s the one glee club member who “normal” people can really relate to, who isn’t completely together or an amazingly talented dancer or star but really gets into the performing anyway.

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