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Why Being Cast In Starship Troopers Felt Like A Big Deal To Neil Patrick Harris

Hollywood is full of actors and actresses who become known for one role, so much so that it's nearly impossible to imagine them as anyone else–much to those actors' and actresses' frustration. In the 1990's and early 2000's, one actor who embodied this unfortunate reality better than practically anyone else was Neil Patrick Harris.

Harris was cast as the lead role in "Doogie Howser, M.D." when he was 16 years old. The show about the precocious teenaged doctor catapulted him to fame, but it also made him synonymous with the lead character. Although Harris continued working steadily in television after "Doogie Howser" went off the air, he didn't truly break into new types of roles until 2005.

Then, there's Harris' film career. His first film role was in 1995's "Animal Room," in which he starred alongside Matthew Lillard and Amanda Peet. Two years later, he was cast in "Starship Troopers." It's one of the more well-known non-Doogie roles in Harris' career. In Paul Verhoeven's science fiction satire about a futuristic society at war with a race of insects, he plays Carl Jenkins, the brainy scientist who develops weapons to defeat the enemy. The role is very much tongue-in-cheek, and reflective of the sorts of characters Harris would play later in his career.

Here's why Harris thought Carl Jenkins would be a bigger role for his career than it ultimately was.

Neil Patrick Harris hoped Starship Troopers would help him break into film acting

Neil Patrick Harris talked about the role while discussing his career with GQ (via YouTube). Harris explained that he was excited to get the role because at the time, he was pigeonholed into being a TV actor thanks to his work on "Doogie Howser, M.D."

"Back in the mid-90's, when you were an actor on television, you weren't welcomed into the world of film. And in turn, if you were a film actor, you weren't really welcomed into the world of television. They were very separate beasts," Harris said. "So, having done a TV show at a relatively young age, I kept trying to be in movies. But I was just a TV person, which is fine. You hope you can pull a Sally Field and stick around long enough that the rules change."

Unfortunately for Harris, his role in "Starship Troopers" wasn't quite the game-changer for his career that he hoped it would be. While he did have small roles in subsequent films like "The Proposition" and "The Next Best Thing," he mostly worked in television until 2004. That was when Harris' cameo in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" proved that he could do much edgier fare than he was previously known for. The following year he was cast as the gleeful lothario Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother."

Harris' film career never quite took off, however. After "Starship Troopers," his next major role in a dramatic movie came in 2014, when he was cast as Desi Collins in "Gone Girl." Still, Neil Patrick Harris has had a career that most actors would envy.