“While the weather may be wet, the wit should be very dry,” said Neil Patrick Harris, who will visit Seattle for a Town Hall event on Thursday, Dec. 7. He’ll discuss his new children’s book, “The Magic Misfits.”
You can’t get on the phone with actor Neil Patrick Harris without first talking about the time he cooked with Ina.
Earlier this year, Harris and his husband, David Burtka, were invited by food and lifestyle idol Ina Garten to film an episode of her Food Network show, “Barefoot Contessa” at her place in the Hamptons.
“I was kind of losing my mind when it happened,” Harris said recently. “When we pulled up to her barn and the gate opened, David and I turned to each other and asked, ‘How did our lives lead us here?’ ”
Harris made Negronis, Burtka grilled steaks and Garten took care of everything else.
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“She’s surprisingly opinionated,” Harris said. “On the show, she’s mainly dealing with the food. But when you’re having a meal with her, she has great opinions on politics, everything. It ran the gamut.”
Harris is ready to do the same when he appears Thursday, Dec. 7, at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle for a sold-out event sponsored by Town Hall. (He will be in conversation with someone yet to be announced.)
Harris is here to promote his new book, “The Magic Misfits,” which follows a young runaway magician named Carter and five other illusionists as they try to save the town of Mineral Wells from the greedy B.B. Bosso and his “crew of crooked carnies.” The book is aimed at readers ages 8-12.
The story was inspired by Harris’ lifelong love of magic, circuses, sideshows and carnivals, starting with a magician named Ed Alonzo, “the misfit of magic.”
The book is the first in a series of four (“Like four suits in a deck of cards”) that is filled with secrets and codes and even magic tricks. Harris’ intent was to serve readers on three different levels, Harris said: Reading the adventures of the Misfits, learning how magic tricks work and then being able to perform a trick.
“If you’ve gone and found a book about magic, you’re therefore worthy of learning a trick or three,” Harris said. “And they’re simple enough that anyone can do them.
“But practice is important in life, as well as in magic.”
And it wouldn’t hurt to give the book a second look.
“If you’re just reading words in a row, you’ll get stuff from it,” Harris said. “But take a look at the book upside down, take the wrapping apart …”
Even though it has a turn-of-the-century feel, the story isn’t set in any specific time, Harris said.
“I grew up in a small town that had one movie theater and a Main Street,” he said. “So I wanted to have these stories exist in a timeless space and a relatively simple space. So regardless of where you live, you can relate to it in some way.”
He was also sure to inject the book with his sense of humor.
“I think that children are innately sharper, comedically, than adults give them credit for,” Harris said, adding that his parents “talked to us rather than at us,” and taught him about puns early on.
So, might the “Magic Misfits” go beyond the page and get a Netflix series of their own?
“I have no idea about its future,” he said. “There’s been interest. But I honestly never thought about it. There could be ‘Magic Misfits’ twin-sheet sets!
“I don’t have a master plan,” he said. “I want the story to stand on its own.”
Harris wrote when he could, which was at times hard to come by, considering his schedule over the last several years: He has hosted the Tony Awards three years in a row (2011-2013); starred in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway in 2014; done Carpool Karaoke with Tyler Perry; appeared as a doctor (paging Doogie Howser, M.D.) in a Cigna commercial and is the executive producer of the off-Broadway, magic-based production of “In & Of Itself.
He also allowed Vogue Magazine into his home for its “73 Questions With” video series.
“Totally uninvited,” he cracked.
Harris just finished the second season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” a Netflix production based on the dark, comedic-drama children’s books written by Lemony Snicket, the literary alter ego of Daniel Handler. He starts season three after the holidays.
For now, he is focused on the book tour and then a trip to Orlando in the middle of the month, when he and his family will visit Epcot Center.
Harris’ memories of Seattle are a little hazy. He remembered being here for a few weeks 20 years ago for a workshop reading of a play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre with former director Daniel Sullivan. He remembered that Ethan Hawke was there doing “Cider House Rules.” (He was, indeed, in 1995.)
“We went camping and they showed me around and it was a lovely time,” Harris remembered.
He is looking forward to seeing the place again.
“While the weather may be wet, the wit should be very dry,” he said. “I’ll take questions, play it by ear and see.
“I’m a big fan of engaging and interacting with people,” he said. “A selfie with no conversation doesn’t feel like it amounts to much except a bad picture of two people.”
“Should I do a magic trick?” he asked, then answered. “Whatever sells books.”