Neil Patrick Harris on playing Count Olaf
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Jan 11, 2017  |  Vote 0    0

Neil Patrick Harris on playing Count Olaf

TORONTO — Neil Patrick Harris's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" debuts on Netflix on Friday, a project that reunited the American stage and screen star with the Canadian landscape he so adores.

The series, which is based on the Lemony Snicket children's books, was shot in Vancouver over the summer and Harris was spotted living it up across British Columbia. He attended Vancouver's pride parade, visited Grouse Mountain with his twins and husband David Burtka, and the couple celebrated their wedding anniversary in Tofino.

"I have always been a fan of Canada and Canadians in general," said Harris during a recent conference call with reporters.

"In the '80s and '90s, there was a long period of made-for-television movies based on true-life events and I did my share of them: I hacked up my parents with a wood maul, I was a serial arsonist, I got lost in a blizzard with my baby. And we filmed most of those in Canada."

Harris added that he's spent time in several Canadian cities and finds "the people uniformly kind, respectful."

"A lot of my best friends, most trustworthy friends are Canucks," he said. "So I was happy to film there and I'm glad that I'm not doing 'How I Met Your Mother' anymore just so I don't have to keep telling awful Canada jokes."

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" stars Harris as Count Olaf, the evil guardian to the Baudelaire orphans, played by Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Presley Smith.

Patrick Warburton is the narrator, Lemony Snicket, while other cast members include Joan Cusack, Catherine O'Hara, Alfre Woodard and Don Johnson.

Harris, who is also a producer on the series, said it honours the tone and structure of Daniel Handler's source material.

It's less comedic and more fleshed out than the 2004 film "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," which starred Canadian actor Jim Carrey.

"I think my take on Olaf and our take on the show in general is a bit more acerbic and drier and a little more dark and intense, a little more Tim Burton," said Harris.

The Emmy Award winner said he took inspiration from iconic figures who have had a quiet menace yet were still palatable to younger audiences, like Gene Wilder's role in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

He also improvised some lines, adding in a few contemporary references.

"I think of it as 'The Muppet Show' back in the day," said Harris, who also won a Tony Award for playing a transgender rock singer in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Broadway.

"It seemed like it was an old vaudevillian performing show inside of a theatre with an orchestra and everything and yet they could tell topical jokes. So you weren't really sure where you are, you were just enjoying the escapism of the show, and that's what we're trying to do."

It took between 2 1/2 to four hours to apply Harris's makeup and prosthetics for Count Olaf, an older, eccentric criminal with a unibrow and grey, receding hairline.

"It forced me to stare at my face a lot, a lot more than I normally would in my life, and realize how flaring nostrils, what that accomplishes, how raising a single eyebrow accomplishes (something), what a frown looks like and what a smile looks like," said Harris.

"My face became very technical and that was unique. I'd never really focused on the minutiae of my facial muscles as much as I have in Vancouver."

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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