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Neil Patrick Harris and the Uncoupled Cast and Creators Kiss and Tell About Their New Rom-Com

The series, created by Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman, stars the How I Met Your Mother alum as a suddenly single gay man in his 40s as he navigates New York's dating scene.

by | July 29, 2022 | Comments

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Uncoupled. Neil Patrick Harris

(Photo by Netflix)

The concept of lead characters being blindsided with the news that their long-term partners have left and they’re suddenly single is not a new trope in romantic comedies.

Neither are the ideas that these characters are usually blonde, thin, attractive, live in affluent New York City apartments and dress exceptionally well.

They’re just usually women.

In Uncoupled, Neil Patrick Harris plays Michael, a luxury realtor who thought he’d be spending the rest of his life with his boyfriend of nearly 20 years (Tuc Watkins’ Colin).

He was wrong.

Now uncoupled and in his late 40s, this real estate agent is back on the market.

Harris, who also executive produces the series created by Darren Star (Emily In Paris) and Jeffrey Richman (Modern Family) tells Rotten Tomatoes that the goal from the get-go was to make Michael “as relatable as possible.”

“He is a regular person, he’s suffering a breakup — he was broken up with; it wasn’t that they realized [collectively that] it was not going well,” Harris says. “He thought everything was great. Then boom, all of a sudden, 17 years later, he’s single, he doesn’t know whether he should date again, he doesn’t know whether he should change who he is and try again with a different partner, he doesn’t know whether he should find out what happened.”

Harris feels that “all of those questions are something that people who are watching have either gone through, or are going through or are afraid to go through. And, I think, being able to have a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that also is human in its relatability was important.”

Uncoupled. Neil Patrick Harris

(Photo by Netflix)

Like a lot of series in Star’s canon of work, this one isn’t timid about showing sex scenes and hook-ups. Interestingly, though, some of them are much more vanilla than ones in his other shows.

“This is the lives of these characters and it’s what they’re going through,” Star says. “We can’t tell the story without seeing the sex but the sex was never meant to ever be salacious.”

Richman adds that “I don’t think there’s any sex scene that doesn’t have a comic component to it.”

Bisexuality is talked about matter-of-factly, as are the implications of what it means when Michael learns second-hand that Colin is taking the HIV prevention drug PrEP.

There’s also some seriousness that a lot of rom-coms don’t touch. During a random hook-up with a younger man, Harris’ Michael is disturbed that his paramour doesn’t use condoms. Depending on the age of the audience watching, he over-reacts stupendously or reacts in a way that’s not uncommon for someone who remembers the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ’90s.

Harris credits this scene to the episode’s writer, Don Roos, and says that it originally went much longer and dealt with other modern-day dating issues like waxing. He says the scene is “an acknowledgement not just of [Michael’s] age, but of the idea that Millennials and younger kids who are just hooking up when they see someone cute don’t have a lot of points of reference to people who have come before them.”

Uncoupled. Neil Patrick Harris and Tisha Campbell

(Photo by Netflix)

There’s also the idea that Michael must chart a new course financially now that he doesn’t have Colin’s (more lucrative) second income.

He and his business partner, Tisha Campbell’s fabulously dressed and manicured Suzanne, go after a big — but demanding — fish in Marcia Gay Harden’s wealthy, and angry, Upper East Side divorcee, Claire. During a square-off in Claire’s lobby, Michael and Claire debate over who now has it harder: a gay man in his 40s or a gorgeous, but volatile, woman in late middle-age.

Harden says, when playing Claire, she’d think back to her early years as an actor-caterer and the rich women with ridiculous demands who’d hire her (think French service for spaghetti, which meant slops of sauce all over everyone).

“I would look up these divorces and see what what the personalities of the people were like,” Harden says. “And it’s very illuminative. I think, some of them really liked being very public in the divorce … They had so much anger that they wanted revenge. But that keeps you in the relationship.”

Uncoupled. Marcia Gay Harden

(Photo by Sarah Shatz/Netflix)

Campbell says the the characters of Suzanne, who dates everyone she wants and doesn’t care who knows it, and the hardened Claire represent the two extremes Michael that fears.

“He doesn’t want to be either; he just wants to his relationship back when you first meet him,” Campbell says, meaning that the show is “really about hope and discovering yourself and understanding that it is a beautiful devastation.”

The actress, who divorced actor-athlete Duane Martin in 2020, adds that “you may feel alone and you don’t want to hear that at the time. But, you know, in my real life, I had to discover the same thing.”

Uncoupled. Neil Patrick Harris. Emerson Brooks, Brooks Ashmanskas

(Photo by Netflix)

Michael is also lucky because he has a close support system. In addition to his parents and coworker, he also has friends like Emerson Brooks’ bit-of-a-player Billy and Brooks Ashmanskas’ sweet and lonely Stanley. Each has his own detailed storyline that doesn’t always revolve around Michael’s life crisis.

Brooks says that this makes the series “a little more complex than your typical comedy [because] we don’t really like to call it a sitcom.” His Billy is “just a man who’s out there being himself; a man who’s out there just trying to live his best life and and trying to put a smile on everyone’s face.” While Ashmanskas says that “early on, when you’re first getting to know Stanley, you think that it’s just this sort of sidekick-y funny friend whose lonely. But, right away, I think it starts to have different colors attached to him, much like in life.”

Even the idea of whether Colin is an all-out villain is up for debate.

Watkins admits that there is the question of “how do you reconcile the behavior of a guy who leaves his partner after 17 years with no explanation?” but that “ordinarily, in a breakup comedy, the couple breaks up, the ex is a bad guy, and the hero moves forward and lives happily ever after. But this is a little more layered than that.”

Personally, he says, he went through a midlife crisis and “made, in retrospect, bad choices that I wouldn’t have made.”

Uncoupled. Brooks Ashmanskas and Neil Patrick Harris

(Photo by Netflix)

“But in a sense, if I didn’t make those bad choices, I would have gone around my problem rather than through my problem, and I’m where I am now,” he says.

Star also know that this show is going to bring comparisons to Sex and the City, his hit HBO program about a New York female foursome in their 30s and 40s. Uncoupled even has a scene where a blonde woman falls through a New York sidewalk hatch.

Sex and the City, to me, was about women who were not defining themselves by marriage — which was what was revolutionary about it; they didn’t need men to define themselves,” he says. “This is a show about about someone who’s been left by the person they thought they were going to basically be with together forever and find themselves having to start over at 50. They’re two different premises.”

Just keep Michael away from any city buses and mud puddles.

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