Neil Patrick Harris Shares The Unique Way He Prepped For Those ‘Uncoupled’ Sex Scenes

The actor bares his soul — and much of his body — on the Netflix series, which follows a gay man who reenters the singles scene in his late 40s.
Gilles Marini (left) and Neil Patrick Harris in “Uncoupled,” now streaming on Netflix.
Gilles Marini (left) and Neil Patrick Harris in “Uncoupled,” now streaming on Netflix.
COURTESY OF NETFLIX

As the star of Netflix’s “Uncoupled,” Neil Patrick Harris had no problem portraying physical intimacy with his co-stars. Obscuring his privates while preparing for the show’s steamy love scenes, however, was a more challenging matter.

“I’ll tell you what’s weird: You’re literally butt-ass naked, except you can’t show your genitals,” Harris told HuffPost. “When you go into your trailer, there are six or seven options of things you’re supposed to put around your stuff. Some of them have drawstrings, some of them have double-stick tape, some of them are much larger — I don’t mind size-wise, but they’re just, like, a giant piece of fabric — and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with any of them.”

Fortunately, the Emmy- and Tony-winning actor came up with his own solution.

“It’s called the NPH — the Netflix Penis Holder,” he quipped. “It’s a kind of rubbery [cock] ring that’s attached to a stretchy, flesh-colored package thing that you wrap around all the stuff.”

That custom-designed accessory got plenty of use on the set of “Uncoupled,” which premiered last week. Created by Jeffrey Richman and Darren Star, the eight-episode series follows Michael Lawson (played by Harris), a 40-something New York real estate agent who finds himself thrust back into the singles scene after his boyfriend, Colin (Tuc Watkins), abruptly ends their 17-year relationship.

The newly single Michael (Harris, center) calls on pals Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas) and Billy (Emerson Brooks) to help him navigate a dating world that's become dominated by phone apps.
The newly single Michael (Harris, center) calls on pals Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas) and Billy (Emerson Brooks) to help him navigate a dating world that's become dominated by phone apps.
SARAH SHATZ/NETFLIX

With the help of pals Billy (Emerson Brooks) and Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), Michael attempts to navigate a dating world that’s become dominated by phone apps. He also comes to rely on his sassy colleague, Suzanne (Tisha Campbell), and finds a kindred spirit in a monied client, Claire (Marcia Gay Harden), who is also on the rebound after being blindsided by an unfaithful ex-husband.

With its affluent, cocktail-swilling characters and frank, if comically presented, take on matters of the heart, “Uncoupled” has drawn a fair number of comparisons to another one of Star’s New York-based creations, “Sex and the City.” But the writer and producer believes critics and viewers who dwell on the perceived similarities between the two shows are missing the point.

“‘Sex and the City’ was about seeing women define themselves on their own — not with men,” he said. “It was very much a show about female empowerment. This show is about heartbreak, and that’s a very universal experience. You’re coming to it through the eyes of a gay character, but the emotions are universal.”

“We are in a divided world now more so than ever, and if we can create entertainment that’s able to be appreciated by many, I think that it helps the cause in its own subjective way,” said Harris, pictured with co-star Tisha Campbell.
“We are in a divided world now more so than ever, and if we can create entertainment that’s able to be appreciated by many, I think that it helps the cause in its own subjective way,” said Harris, pictured with co-star Tisha Campbell.
Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images

“Uncoupled” joins a number of mainstream Hollywood efforts, including Hulu’s “Fire Island” and Billy Eichner’s forthcoming “Bros,” in broadening the scope of the rom-com genre to include queer characters and stories.

But the show is also being released amid a troubling wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the U.S. After the Supreme Court ended its term in June with a number of ultraconservative rulings, many Americans say they fear that LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage, could soon be rolled back at the federal level.

While “Uncoupled” isn’t overtly political, Harris feels the series’ ability “to appeal to a wide berth of people” has its own merits.

“Regardless of the coupling, everybody who’s watching it will understand the emotions around it,” he said. “We are in a divided world now more so than ever, and if we can create entertainment that’s able to be appreciated by many, I think that it helps the cause in its own subjective way.”

“Uncoupled” is now streaming on Netflix. Catch the series trailer below.

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