Neil Patrick Harris on Becoming the Villainous Olaf for ASOUE: 'I Was Willing to Embarrass Myself'
A Series of Unfortunate Events premieres Friday, Jan. 13
Neil Patrick Harris is stepping out of his comfort zone and into an unusually large prosthetic nose!
Sitting down with PEOPLE, the star of Netflix’s new take on A Series Of Unfortunate Events opened up about entering the world of Count Olaf, the Lemony Snicket villain who has an unyielding love for money and theatrics — a character Harris thoroughly enjoyed exploring.
“I think I was able to be as fearless as I have ever been before as an actor, because I was so hidden,” the 43-year-old actor said. “I was able to hide within the prosthetics and a totally different look and play someone who is just as overtly ridiculously mean as possible.”
“There’s no real humanity to Olaf, because it’s kind of a fable from the eyes of kids,” he added. “They’re not really seeing him with any redemptive qualities.”
Based on Daniel Handler’s best-selling book series, the story features Count Olaf dressing up in a handful of sneaky and downright weird disguises, in the hopes of outsmarting the three orphaned Baudelaire kids, so he can steal their late parents’ fortune.
“I play multiple characters sort of,” Harris said. “And the hardest part was making sure that Olaf was present even when I was playing Shirley or Stefano … because in each book, Olaf comes back in disguise and the disguise has to be good enough so that the kids are shocked and the adults are fooled. I had to play these characters kind of fully realized and yet, Olaf is a bad actor and Olaf isn’t a good person.”
“So I didn’t want to be too good at the disguises and yet if they were not good enough, it would have either made me, Neil, look like a bad actor or would have made the other actors in the scene look so ridiculous that they couldn’t figure it out,” he continued. “So trying to find that balance of still being Olaf but being Captain Sham, that was a bit tricky, but all the other stuff was super fun.”
“As Olaf I was willing to embarrass myself in any way possible,” Harris added. “In fact, it’s probably better for his character.”
A Series Of Unfortunate Events premieres on Friday, Jan. 13, on Netflix.
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