Neil Patrick Harris, left, and Josh Radnor

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — On Sept. 16, Neil Patrick Harris will definitely, in the words of his "How I Met Your Mother" character, "Suit up!"

Who would have thought that taking the supporting role as Barney Stinson on the CBS sitcom would overshadow Harris' image as Doogie Howser? Who would have thought he'd be nominated for an Emmy for supporting actor in a comedy?

As Barney would say, "It's gonna be legen — wait for it — dary."

Harris is more than deserving — he's great as Barney, one of the most memorable characters on TV today. Although it can be tough when fans expect Harris to be as awesome as Barney.

"It's exhausting," he joked. "I'm, like, in the Emerald City and I'm the Wizard of Awesome."

It's not like he isn't used to being noticed in public. From 1989-93, he was teen doctor "Doogie Howser, M.D." — a great role but the kind of role a lot of actors would never be able to escape from.

But after working steadily as an actor for a dozen years, along came "How I Met Your Mother" (Mondays, 7 p.m., Ch. 2) and Barney, the womanizing, uber-confident guy who suits up, spouts catch phrases and is currently awaiting payback after losing a slap bet.

"It was weird growing up in the business from my early days," Harris said. "People sort of looked and sort of pointed and sort of acknowledged that I was this little kid actor.

"And now I'm grown up and people come and actually talk about specifics of the show — their favorite episode. 'When are you going to get slapped again?' 'Dude, I suited up.' So that makes me feel like they're not only enjoying the show but actually watching it."

Barney is obnoxious and lovable at the same time — a tribute to the show's writers/producers and to Harris, who can play both sides of that personality.

"What I love about Barney and what I think makes him acceptable is he's always kind of fun and having a good time," Harris said. "He'll put Ted (Josh Radnor) into precarious situations. But then they're laughing about it.... And that's Barney's mentality. He likes to create crazy situations and then sit back and watch it all go down."

When we glimpse behind Barney's facade, we see a really caring guy. Like when he kept stealing girls from Marshall (Jason Segel), it was because he wanted Marshall to get back together with the woman he truly loved, Lily (Alyson Hannigan).

"It would be hard to have Barney be devilish and legitimately like a bad person," Harris said. "A bad taste would be left in your mouth."

And Harris said he had no hesitation about taking a role that, arguably, was the fifth of five regulars when "Mother" began.

"(In) the pilot, he got straight-razor shaved and went laser tagging and smoked cigars and he's very boisterous and outgoing and with catch phrases all over the place from the get-go. So I think he was kind of the Fonzie guy in the pilot," he said. "I love it. It's great.

"A supporting role on this gives you a life. You're not working every day and every scene all the time and feeling beat up about it. We have a really nice work schedule."

Plus, he's working on one of the few truly funny half-hour comedies on TV today — a show that "makes me laugh out loud."

"I'm in the dark as much as you guys are with what's happening show-wise. We get a script the day before the table read, and I get to read it and see what great hilarious stuff I get to say. What better job is there than that?"


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