If Neil Patrick Harris had to describe his starring role on Netflix as something other than “unfortunate, ” he’d call it “shockingly dark.” As the nefarious Count Olaf, a temporary guardian out to sabotage the Baudelaire orphans and steal their luck, Harris espouses with relish the nastiness in A Series of Unfortunate Events .
“Netflix was concerned that adults werent going to be able to value it because it was skewing toward a younger demographic, ” Harris said at a Netflix junket in 2016. “I suppose now that its done, they want to make sure that the children still value it and that its not gone too Stranger Things .
“But thats not my concern, ” he added with a flashing of Olaf-ian apathy. “I genuinely wanted Olaf to be bad , to be a bad person, ’cause otherwise I only dont think it justifies[ the Baudelaires’] constant dread of him.”
Harris said that, “The hard portion is to try to add humanity to nastiness. Some people take that to an extreme and find people that they are similar to in their real lives that are these that have some kind of humanity to them. And Olaf, by design, is only not that.”
A series of Unfortunate Events vacillates between utter affliction and moments that rattle the viewer with incongruous humor. That might voice intimidating if it weren’t precisely the tone of Lemony Snicket’s book series. As a outcome, Olaf hides the fouled beneath the funny, a balancing act Harris between “piercing darkness and sort of delusional dementia.”
Harris said he, “didnt want to be overly charming. I was really just trying to be awful, like distinctly entail, and then let the levity of the situation inform the takeaway from the viewer, ” he added.
Harris read and reread the books to prepare for his role, since the eight episode series can fit more of the book’s content into its runtime than the 2004 feature film.
“There was one scene in the books that was fun, where he first welcomes them into the house, ” Harris recalled. “Hes sitting along this long table and hes merely being dismissive, and I got to get up and slide all the way across the table and offer them a cupcake. And it was so sort of mentally twisted and yet physically telling that I enjoyed that.”
Beyond losing himself in Olaf, Harris delighted in immersing himself in Snicket’s world as brought to life by the “extraordinary” production designer Bo Welch.
“Ive never, sincerely never, considered anything like it, ” Harris gushed. “We would stroll onto these situateds that were so fully realized Olafs mansion was so decrepit and broken down and yet had the eye symbol as the wallpaper and the floorboards were broken apart and things…thered be an old-time exercising bicycle in the corner, just like weird elements.”