A Man's Man
By Bill Keith
OUT: You've come under fire from a lot of gay people for what was perceived as a reluctance to come out.
NPH: My job is jester -- not advocate. I'm on a situation comedy responding to [Josh Radnor's character] Ted Mosby and his wacky adventures -- that's my job right now. If people want to comment about where I go to dinner, they are welcome to, but it's not my job to respond to those statements. The Internet stuff threw me for a loop because I didn't understand where the vitriol was coming from. I thought I had been representing well, and in turn it seemed like I was quickly condemned to step to the plate, and I was fine with that.
OUT: If you aren't an advocate, though, you realize that you're a role model whether you like it or not.
NPH: I'm striving to be an example of normalcy. Because I'm noticed as an actor, people are aware of what's happening in my life, and that I can't change, and if I tried to, it'd be an uphill battle. I'd be angry and bitter. I'm a big proponent of monogamous relationships regardless of sexuality, and I'm proud of how the nation is steering toward that. Then you can look around and say, 'I really deeply feel like I'm in love with this person, there are people who feel the same thing, and those models are normal.' The 'normal' couples were sort of in the shadows for the past 15 or 20 years because you sort of needed other people to come forward and speak out.
OUT: Do you remember the first person you saw that you related to as a gay man?
NPH: The first face that empowered me was Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans. I think before him I'd never seen anyone wear [homosexuality] so comfortably. He was around my age. I could look to him as a role model -- if you could say that, even though he was on a reality show. He represented a way that I could behave and stand tall comfortably without being an overt advocate and without being someone hiding in the shadows. I liked that.
OUT: You recently did an interview with Howard Stern where you talked to him about whether you are a top or a bottom and the first time you had sex with a man. But before doing this interview with Out, I was asked to submit a list of questions.
NPH: My team has to be very conscious of what steps I make [and] when, so they're just the most productive and positive they can be. And I'm spearheading that team. [If] I get misquoted once, that misquote becomes its own story in other places, and then that looks like I went to those periodicals and said some crazy statement to get attention to myself. Then people react: 'Who is he to say that stuff?' I feel much more like a politician in interviews now because you have to be specific about your sentence structure. Because if something is taken out of context, then there are a lot of ramifications.
OUT: You're referring to the Associated Press story that erroneously suggested that you didn't want Britney Spears to guest-star on How I Met Your Mother?
NPH: Yeah. I had to do a lot of damage control because I didn't want people to think I'd said something that I didn't say. I literally craft a statement. I send it to people and say 'What do you think of it?' and 'Should it be more of this or that?' and then I send it to a specific outlet that we think is the best outlet for that, and then everyone comments [like,] 'Oh, well, maybe CBS talked to him and someone wrote a statement for him.' Which didn't happen, but then you can't respond to that. I come up with that stuff myself. I want to be able to be open enough to be on Regis and Kelly and speak my mind and not just seem like a corporate puppet. Because I'm not.
OUT: Speaking of Live With Regis and Kelly, you've often guest-hosted with Kelly Ripa. How great is that gig?
NPH: Kelly Ripa is the greatest. She's got it all. She's got a great life; she works an hour and a half a day. She's funny, she's sexy, she's savvy, she plays the Kelly Ripa part, and she gets the joke. And it's so fun not to have to memorize lines. You go out there, you spend 20 minutes just talking about stuff. You interview people and you don't really even have to know what you're talking about because someone behind them has the cards with all the questions on it.
OUT: And they love a gay cohost over there at Regis and Kelly. You, Sam Champion, Anderson Cooper...
NPH: Mmmmmmmm. Anderson. He's dreamy. Just dreamy. I've been a fan of his since season 1 of The Mole. I just thought he was so cool when he talked in this cool, low, secret-agent voice -- 'If you can accomplish this task...' Listen, no one can tell anyone how big their steps should be or when they can take them. You can take issue with someone making overtly denying statements, and you can take issue with people straight-up presenting themselves as someone that they're not -- because I think that's kind of shady and not very stand-up. But you can't fault someone for going through the process at their own time. You can't. But again -- to speak to the public nature of things -- it is in our capacity to respect the job descriptions that people have separate from the life that they live. And I don't care about the person on the news'I literally tune in to hear the news. I might find them dreamy, but I don't really need to know much more about them.
OUT: Right. That's the third time you've referred to Anderson Cooper as 'dreamy.'
OUT: So two years after coming out, why is now a good time for you to do your first interview with Out?
NPH: I like the magazine. I'm a subscriber. I didn't think I'd be in bad hands or that there'd be some sort of 'We've got to get this statement out of him in some way.' Plus, fall fashion seemed like a good time as opposed to the summer swimsuit issue, where'd I'd have to go on a fast for a couple of months and get a crystal meth addiction. Ah! See! Now a meth quote is going be everywhere. Now you have your story.