Host Neil Patrick Harris on Tony Awards: 'Book of Mormon' Is a Problem for Show Censors (Q&A)
The "How I Met Your Mother" star explains why Tony acceptance speeches are the best of all awards shows and he doesn't want to be the center of attention on theater's biggest night.
Neil Patrick Harris hosts the Tony Awards for the second consecutive year this Sunday. The "How I Met Your Mother" star tells The Hollywood Reporter's Merle Ginsberg why speeches are better at the show than any other awards program, how Book of Mormon is a problem for censors, and why he doesn't want to be the center of attention on theater's biggest night.
The Hollywood Reporter: Are you excited or trepidatious about hosting the Tonys the second time around?
Neil Patrick Harris: Well, two years ago, I hosted like 7 different shows! I did the Tonys, the Emmys, the TV Land Awards – I even performed on the opening number of the Oscars. So my teleprompters skills are now finally honed. Hosting the Tonys is an easy fit for me. I go to Cirque du Soleil, l see live theater in New York all the time. These days, it's so easy for us to just watch Netflix movies in Hi Def, so for a national audience, it should be a special occasion to see live people doing things in front of you. The theater gives you dramatic acting, song and dance. And with the Tonys, you get ALL of that energy. They are not pre-taped. The singers are really singing. And the speeches are better than other awards shows, because theater actors are used to talking in front of a live audience. At the Oscars, you see actors' hands shaking, they don't know what to say. And they're movie stars! I think the Tonys really have a lot to offer.
THR: What will be the difference in the Tony Awards Broadcast this year as opposed to other years?
Harris: Well, it's not in Radio City this year, the show is now uptown in Beacon Theater, a smaller venue -- which will make it an entirely different show. We have to play to the size constraints. They had to build a tent behind the theater, to house whole casts waiting to go on. That will be exciting, they'll all be stuffed in a tent together. The way they organize the production is on a big board like Lorne Michaels does with SNL Two years ago at the Tonys, Frank Langella was supposed to come out to introduce some nominees, and he instead - he did a monologue, and went on and on. It was a four-minute speech in a 20-second spot! Backstage, everyone running was around, saying 'now what happens?!' Then a clip package had to be shorter, my speech got cut. But honestly, that's the fun of it.
THR: We have to assume you're going to sing and dance – being an ace song and dance man.
Harris: Well, I haven't rehearsed that much, but I'm hoping to. It's an interesting year this year, there are so many musicals. You have to pare down the amount of musical numbers on the show as a result. I'm wary of performing too much myself. I don't want it to seem that I'm trying to win people over. I shouldn't BE the show, just facilitate the show. A little bit of me goes a long way. I don't want to get to the saturation point.
THR: It's being reported that the show could get a little blue this year – since The Book of Mormon isn't exactly made for the religious set.
Harris: Well, it got the most nominations, and every single musical number in that show is a problem for the Tony censors – whether it's dialogue, or even the idea of a song – like, religion. They're struggling right now to see what number they CAN put in the show. If it doesn't get by the censors in the end, I can see myself announcing, 'Please stand by for two minutes while we black out.' It should be the edgiest Tonys for a while. And that's a good thing. Let's shake it up!