Emmy Preview: Host Neil Patrick Harris Preps For the Big Night

TV Guide
Neil Patrick Harris | Photo Credits: Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

It's going to be legendary. Triple threat Neil Patrick Harris will step into the emcee spotlight at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles for the second time to host the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, Sept. 22 on CBS.

The How I Met Your Mother star's comic timing, Broadway song-and-dance dazzle and Old Hollywood panache (just watch him work a tux) have made Harris a go-to host for marquee awards ceremonies. His four times as the show-stopping emcee of the Tony Awards have won him two Emmys, and he's nominated for that gig again this year.

Harris has a third Emmy for a guest-starring role on Glee, during which he showed off his skills as a magician. So what tricks will keep audiences rapt as 27 awards are handed out over the course of three hours?

"We're not trying to reinvent the Cadillac wheel," says Harris. "We're just trying to polish it up and give it some dope rims."

TV Guide Magazine: Which iconic hosts are you hoping to channel this year?

Harris: I've taken a shine to Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. You're required to be very classy and serious yet have an element of childish glee. They could class it up if something went sour but could also make a joke if Helen Mirren falls going up the steps, which will be hilarious.

TV Guide Magazine: What is your plan if someone trips?

Harris: Plan A: Point and laugh. Plan B: Hands on belly, double over laughing. Plan C: Hit the podium that I'm standing behind and chortle.

TV Guide Magazine: Will you open with a Broadway-style music and magic extravaganza, as you did for the Tonys in June?

Harris: I have an opening that I do, but I don't want to repeat myself from the Tonys. There's a dance number in the middle of the show put together by the Emmy-nominated choreographers. I wouldn't be surprised if you witness a groove or three. There may be some unfortunate grooving going on.

TV Guide Magazine: What's the most nerve-racking moment of putting together the show?

Harris: The day before, when we're running through everything without an audience, and it's all falling flat. That's not a great day. Every time, I overstress and then the show ends up being very newsworthy regardless of what I have done.

TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of newsworthy, online series like Netflix's House of Cards have major nominations, five years after the TV Academy first allowed them to compete. Will this change the Emmys?

Harris: It's not like they've been trying for five years to provide great content online without succeeding. But for Netflix to take it on in such a big way, with Kevin Spacey, David Fincher and Robin Wright, and not only have it be a successful show - critically and for viewers - but also to get nominations, it's definitely a turning point.

TV Guide Magazine: What's new in the telecast's format this year?

Harris: More second-screen technology. You have your TV screen, and then your laptop or iPad on, where you'll see more interviews backstage and scrolls of text with trivia and sound bites. We're also trying to incorporate some musical element, so it's not just clips packages. We're trying to find ways to honor not just nominated shows, but all the people who have made television worth watching - people and ideas that have helped shape television in a larger way.

For more with Harris, check out this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, available for download on digital devices on Thursday, Aug. 29!

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