The How I Met Your Mother, 50, is one of the guest stars on tonight’s upcoming special The Giggle, which marks the final of three episodes that have seen the return of David Tennant and Donna Noble as the Doctor and his companion.
While not much is known about the final special, Neil plays the Toymaker, a menace from the distant past of the Doctor’s history.
However now showrunner Russell T Davies has shared that whilst he knew he wanted the actor for the part, the American was totally clueless about the long-running series, which has now been running for 60 years.
‘He’d never heard of it in his life, bless him,’ he said of how Neil was unfamiliar with the beloved science fiction series when being approached about a starring role.
‘I was lucky enough to work with the great man on a show called It’s a Sin, about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and working with him was such a joy.
‘The Toymaker, he’s kind of the god of games, so he shuffles cards, he does magic tricks, and all of that fits Neil Patrick Harris,’ he told EW.
‘If you go through agents, they often tell you to go away. I was able to send just a text saying, “Do you fancy reading this?” He read it and literally phoned me up going, “Let me get this right, so the Doctor’s an alien, right?”.’
Clearly taken aback Russell recalled: ‘I was like, “Oh my god, you really have never heard of Doctor Who!”. But he couldn’t resist it, and he came to Cardiff, and we had the most spectacular time.’
The Toymaker first appeared on the show back in the ’60s, when the character was portrayed by Michael Gough and the Doctor was played by William Hartnell.
Also speaking to the publication, Russell said it was ‘very hard to find the villain who can match’ David and Catherine.
‘To have a character who can be in danger of defeating those two is very hard to find. Sometimes on Doctor Who, you need armies of a thousand robots who could do that.
‘This is just one person, so casting them was absolutely crucial and this becomes a pivotal event in the Doctor’s life. We needed that man, and, god, we had a glorious time.’
Also set to appear in the episode are UNIT leader Kate Lethbridge Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), who is slated to get her own spin-off, Charlie De Melo (Coronation Street) as Charles Banerjee, and Alexander Devrient (Ted Lasso) as Colonel Ibrahim.
It will also feature John Mackay (The Hollow Crown) as historical figure John Logie Baird, who invented an early form of television.
The final Doctor Who special, The Giggle, airs tonight, Saturday, December 9 at 6.30pm on BBC One.
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