Neil Patrick Harris Forgets His Kids’ Names — No Really

"I love that David and I are a same-sex couple with kids and are treated very normally as parents."

by Donna Freydkin
Photo Credit: Dreily S. / Wondercade

Neil Patrick Harris has a new project and it’s delightfully, wonderfully retro: A newsletter. An actual personalized, stylized, whimsical newsletter full of all the things the Tony- and Emmy-winner loves: Magic, books, travel, oysters, more travel, and escape rooms. The father of two — he has twins Gideon and Harper, 10, with husband David Burtka — doesn’t have anything left to prove on a professional level, so he’s taking on a passion project that involves the whole family. It’s all part of Harris’ ethos, that even amidst grim headlines and doom-scrolling, there’s a joy to be found in the world. “Life should be entertaining. I’ve led a remarkably entertaining life in my 48 years, and I’ve gotten to do a crazy amount of weird things,” he tells Fatherly during a noon Zoom interview.

Recently we caught up with our favorite scheming Count from A Series of Unfortunate Events, fresh from his voice work on Star Wars: Visions. Here’s what’s new with NPH.

Holy hell, that room you’re in looks amazing. Can I move in with you?

That’s a little forward, Donna. We just met. This is my office. Isn’t it dope? That’s up in the attic.

What inspired you to create Wondercade?

It is a single space for me to share things that I’m passionate about, that I want to recommend that I have just experienced. I have a little bit of knowledge about a whole lot of things. I’ve also got this deep-seated passion to learn new things. It’s almost voracious. And so I spend a lot of my time seeking out recommendations from others who have experienced things that I think are cool. Maybe I want to go to an escape room. I would like to then find someone who has expertise in escape rooms in Pittsburgh, so that I’m not just going to a random one right now. And I feel like at this point in my life, I would like to be one who recommends. I believe in these things.

I didn’t want to do something where I was on someone else’s platform as an artist. I want to be able to actually, authentically get you to trust that the things that I’m talking about, I actually like — that I think are actually creative and cool or useful or helpful.

Will the kids be involved?

I have these two kids whose names I often forget. I kid you not. They are going to be contributors. The whole family is — David knows so much about food. He wrote a whole book that involves cooking and or table-scaping. I’m good at manscaping. When you get to the table-scaping, I’m like: candles. David could talk more about those things.

And then the kids, they’re excited about it — Gideon’s going to talk about some video games that he’s playing and why he likes them. He’ll do video game reviews. He’s a big proponent of child labor when that labor is researching video games. Harper is super into anything that is inappropriate for her. She’s very excited to contribute which Halloween horror movies she has yet to see, but insists to us that she must watch tonight. So she’ll probably write about that.

How do you and David support each other as parents?

David is the most remarkable human being with parenting. He’ll go harvest vegetables. He’ll bring them in, break them down, have lunch provided for them. He’ll figure out dinner, he’ll start dinner. Then he’s off writing a new television series that he’s about to start filming and pitching for a company. Then he’ll exercise. I don’t know how he does five things simultaneously. So my long-winded answer to your question of how do we support each other? I just respect him. I respect all that he does.

We have different ways of parenting. And they often come in conflict and the kids are figuring their ways around it left right and center. They are smarty pants kids because they’re super-smart and conveniently wear pants. So they know that if dad’s going to say no, then Papa might say yes, me. It’s the dance that you do as parents. I respect his skill set and the time that he spends on what he does.

You seem to work nonstop, as does David. Do you feel you’re instilling a solid work ethic into your own kids?

That’s a really wonderful question. And I’m not sure because I don’t think there’s a singular answer for it. I feel like our work ethics are impressing upon our kids that one should work hard and I worry at the same time that it’s making them feel like we work at the expense of spending time with them. I think if anything, I want to instill in our kids a good work ethic and simultaneously self-worth and self-acceptance that things often don’t go as planned.

David and I both work really hard all day long, almost to a fault. I wish that both of us would carve out more time to just co-exist and be free to just go with what the kids’ whims are. But that’s just not how I was raised. My dad was a lawyer by day in a small town in New Mexico. He would trade his law services for old furniture if the person needed help. And then he would spend his evenings revitalizing the furniture and making it amazing and putting it in our house. So he just always had a strong work ethic. And my mother was no different. She went to law school when we were teenagers.

You share snippets of your life on social media. How do you decide what to post, and what’s personal?

We have our professional lives, as we all do. Then you have your, personal life and then you have your private life. Our private life, that is important to us, but our personal life is pretty public. If we’re at dinner and other people are at a table and they’re interested in what we’re eating like I’m not going to glare at them and look away. And I love that David and I are a same-sex couple with kids and are treated very normally as parents, as we co-exist with others. It’s good to be an example for that. I’ll post what I want.

Before I let you go, please tell me how you’re so buff, while the rest of us spent the pandemic gorging and sleeping.

Thank you. First of all, we’re narcissists. We also knew we were going to Croatia for the summer. So we had to have a little bit of summer body. And this is going to sound like I’m shilling but I’m not. There’s something called Tonal. It’s the mirror thing. It attaches to your wall and it was the greatest home workout situation. You can scroll, it’s a whole gigantic screen. It’s like the Tesla of home workout gear. They are legitimately amazing workouts. We did that all through the pandemic, which was very helpful. And it’s not even a paid partnership! but now that I’ve said that, I feel like I should reach out to them.