With multiple Emmys, a long-running syndicated sitcom, a new movie coming out this month, and a recent Tony nomination, Neil Patrick Harris can already be considered legendary. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the actor, currently wowing audiences on Broadway as a trans German rock star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was asked to take over for the departing David Letterman on CBS’ The Late Show.
Harris has a longstanding relationship with the network, thanks to How I Met Your Mother and hosting the Tony Awards four times. Stephen Colbert has since been announced as Letterman’s replacement, but before that was decided, Harris told Howard Stern in a radio interview that he had a meeting with CBS CEO Les Moonves and CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler about his interest in taking over. “In that instance, I felt like I knew what my skill sets were and I kind of knew what it is that I wanted to do after [How I Met Your Mother] … so I was surprised he pitched me that idea,” Harris said.
For his part, Moonves told Bloomberg TV that Harris’ account is “not exactly true.” “Neil Patrick Harris has been a member of our family and I’m very close to him personally…So after Neil was done we said, ‘All right, Neil, what do you want to do? What do you want to do? What are the possibilities? Want to come do a new series with us?’ And we knew probably Letterman and 12:30 might be open, late night. ‘What do you think about that?’ So it was a very general topic. So I wouldn’t say we didn’t talk about it, but he wasn’t offered it per se.”
In the Stern interview, Harris also said that the Letterman vacancy and the 12:30 slot, which is losing host Craig Ferguson, were both discussed and that he declined both offers. “I think I would get bored of the repetition fast, and the structure of it is so set,” Harris says. “I don’t have any interest in doing monologue, commercial, sketch, guest, guest, guest, musical act, good night.” Harris did say, however, that he would be very interested in doing a weekly variety show, giving him more time to prep and to gain audience interest. He says the project is something that Moonves still might be interested in producing one day.
Listen to the interview below: