Barney Stinson could have been much different if How I Met Your Mother had gone with the original description of the character. Actor Neil Patrick Harris played the character for the better part of a decade and garnered a number of award nominations for his performance. Here’s what the writers intended for Barney to look like, and why Harris was cast in the role.
Barney forced his way into the lives of Ted, Marshall, Lily, and Robin, giving the gang no choice but to accept him. He was highly manipulative and best described as a womanizer. Even though not many details regarding Barney’s job were unveiled until later in the series, it was clear that he lived a lavish lifestyle. Barney’s appearance was also very important to him: he wore expensive tailored suits and stayed physically fit to keep up with his polished image.
Harris’ portrayal didn’t match what the series had originally envisioned for the role of Barney in How I Met Your Mother. Harris has stated on multiple occasions that Barney was written in the fashion that would match more of a Jack Black or John Belushi type of actor. In the scripts, Barney was described as a “big lug of a guy,” which far differed from what they got when they cast Harris. With the way Barney was written in the pilot script, Harris thought he had no chance at winning the role. However, it turned out that the showrunners weren’t dead set on the burly version of Barney.
Harris was invited to audition for the role of Barney in How I Met Your Mother, but he figured it was just a nice gesture since he was friends with the sitcom’s casting director. The actor believed he was a long shot since he didn’t fit the description of the role at all, so he went into the audition with no qualms about making a fool of himself, since his expectations were so low. The audition focused on a scene with Barney playing laser tag and Harris did a dive roll, causing him to slam into the wall. This reckless mentality quickly won over the creative team, since they weren’t yet stuck on a specific appearance.
Before Harris won the role of Barney, a number of actors auditioned for the role, including Jim Parsons. The future The Big Bang Theory star was confused as to why he was invited for a role that carried the original description of Barney. Parsons auditioned anyway, but lost out to Harris in the process. Everything worked out in the end for both actors as Harris spent nine years on How I Met Your Mother while Parsons worked on The Big Bang Theory for 12 years.
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