PR: Neil Patrick Harris "The Flash" "Justice League: The New Frontier"
Somewhere between the Emmy Award nominations and the critically-acclaimed stage performances from Broadway to Los Angeles, Neil Patrick Harris still finds room in his busy schedule for his guilty pleasure: comic books and the super heroes within.
Harris is now back on the set of “How I Met Your Mother,” but he had time during the industry’s recent “vacation” to enjoy the transition from comic book reader to super hero actor as the voice as The Flash in the DC Universe original, animated direct-to-DVD release, “Justice League: The New Frontier.” In its first week of release, reviews and sales of the new film from Warner Home Video, Warner Premiere, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics have been equally stellar, and Harris has been particularly well received in his key role.
“To voice a super hero is phenomenal,” Harris said. “I could’ve been the sixth-super-hero-on-the-right and I’d have been happy, but Flash actually gets to help save the day, so this is great.”
Harris continues to peruse his local comics stores, even taking a moment during a recent interview to voice his dismay when he thought Los Angeles standard Golden Apple Comics had closed – and relief when he discovered the store had simply moved from its location of nearly three decades.
“I like the impressive art designs of comics,” Harris said. “I’m not so keen on outer worlds and strange proper nouns, but I like Alex Ross and some of the artists like that, so I find myself at the comics store every three or four months doing some shopping. I have a secret comic that I love, a historical comic called Super Magician Comics that Harry Blackstone actually did. I believe they made 12 or 14 of them. But once you start collecting comics, it’s not enough to say ‘Oh, I found issue #8’ – you have to find issue #8 in mint condition, etc. It’s a bad habit.”
Harris started his career quickly in film at age 15 and, within a year, was starring as the title character in “Doogie Howser, M.D.” He has managed to avoid any strict pattern in his roles, bouncing from sitcom to drama, television to film to stage, live action to voiceover. He’s had roles in numerous animation series, including the lead in MTV’s incarnation of Spider-Man. Voicing The Flash presents new challenges.
“This medium isn’t entirely technical – they hire you because they like the flavor and color you provide to the pallet,” Harris said. “Actually I find recording the script is very inflection based, so you have to sort of leave your individuality and ego at the door and do what they tell you to do. You do a great grunt that’s supposed to start with an “o” and you say “raaaar” and they say ‘yes, but you started with an “r” so do it this way.’ It’s very interesting because you have to be very specific to whatever the script calls for.
“When you’re acting on stage or film, it’s your interpretation of the notes that are given to you, so they can get as specific as they want in the direction, but if they get too specific then you feel like you’re not even acting. But in animation, we record the voices much earlier then they animate the characters, so they have to be very specific in their direction – and then when you come back for pick-ups, they’ve already animated the characters and there’s no room for interpretation. You do a two-second ugh or a four-second ugh, depending on how the character has already been animated.”
Still, voicing a character for an animated film offers Harris a measure of enjoyment he isn’t afforded in live-action roles.
“For me, the most exciting part of being a voice in an animated character in anything is that the lag time is so long that by the time you see it, you’re an audience member like everybody else,” Harris explained. “When I finally get to see the animation, I barely remember what the lines were – which is great because not only do I get to be in it, but I get the fan perspective on it, too. “
Animation isn’t the only voiceover gig for Harris. He’s also very popular on the books-on-tape casting circuit.
“Voicing Flash was fun – animation is fun – but books on tape are hard,” he said. “It’s just you in a booth with a manuscript, and you have to be technically perfect. You can’t pop a “p,” you have to have every word spot-on, and after about 45 pages your eyes are just crossing. You have to come up with characters and have everyone stay interested. Some of them take 30-40 hours or recording, and there’s not a lot of visual stimulation in those experiences.”
Harris has spent his time dabbling in science fiction, guest starring in TV series like “Quantum Leap” and “The Outer Limits” as well as his best-known role in the genre as Colonel Carl Jenkins in “Starship Troopers.” For his part, he knows his roles in the science fiction world might be limited by his physique, but he still enjoys a good Sci-Fi film – whether he’s acting in it or just watching.
“I’m the agile, young, exuberant guy – I can’t ever expect to play Batman,” he said. “Batman has that dark, gravelly voice. (Jeremy) Sisto is a great Batman voice. I guess I could be the Robin to Sisto’s Batman. Someday I think I’d like to play some really iconic science fiction guy – you know, like (David) Boreanaz does. That’d be cool.”