Neil Patrick Harris is the star of Netflix's upcoming family-oriented dark comedy Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but you might not be able to tell if someone didn't tell you, because Harris is so thoroughly hidden underneath prosthetic makeup to play the evil Count Olaf.
On A Series of Unfortunate Events, which is based on the bestselling series of young adult novels by Daniel Handler, the Baudelaire siblings are orphaned and sent to live with their new legal guardian, Count Olaf, who is only concerned with securing their inherited fortune for himself. Count Olaf is a very bad man who has shapeshifter-like qualities to help him bamboozle people into getting what he wants — so in addition to the makeup Harris wears to make himself into Count Olaf, he has to become all these other characters Olaf is playing, too.
Harris tells TVGuide.com that he was drawn to the role first by the opportunity to play a tongue-in-cheek bad guy (he's obviously having a lot of fun being Olaf).
"And then when I heard that I got to wear prosthetic makeup and look nothing like me, even better," he says.
Becoming Olaf took three hours in makeup every day, but he says that spending that that much time focused on really small details informed his physical performance. He figured out exactly the right scowl, exactly the right grimace and exactly how to move each of his eyebrows individually for maximum effect.
"It's a much more physical performance than I've given in a very long time," he says.
A Series of Unfortunate Events premieres Friday, Jan. 13 on Netflix.