Neil Patrick Harris Shares Behind-the-Scenes Details About Playing Doctor Who’s Villainous Toymaker


  • Neil Patrick Harris had never heard of Doctor Who before being cast in the 60th anniversary celebration.
  • Harris’ character, The Toymaker, is a villain who poses a significant threat to David Tennant’s Doctor and Catherine Tate’s character, Donna Noble.
  • Harris’ skills as an all-round entertainer and that twinkle in his eye make him the perfect fit for the role of The Toymaker.

Neil Patrick Harris became the latest adversary to take on The Doctor in the 60th anniversary special of Doctor Who. While the How I Met Your Mother star previously confessed to not having heard of the legendary series, he fit right in as the new incarnation of the classic Who villain, The Toymaker. Speaking in a behind-the-scenes video, Harris expressed his joy at playing the deliciously flamboyant villain. The actor said:

“One of the cool things about The Toymaker is that he just dons visages based on whatever he’s feeling is most appropriate for the scene. So, it’s not that he is playing different characters, it’s that sense he’s not human, and he wants to be in the mid-1920s as a toymaker. And he’ll just – boom – have the perfect hair for that, the spectacles, the outfit. The wardrobe is amazing on this show. I wore a tux and tails, a top hat for one scene outside, just waltzing around amongst chaos and fire. It’s kind of what my brain is actually like, with puppets and toys and magic and juggling and dance. If I could be vomiting the ecstasy of my brain.”

Fans can check out the full video below:

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies previously addressed Harris not knowing anything about the franchise in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:

“He’d never heard of it in his life, bless him. 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. 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?’ 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.”

Related: Doctor Who: The Best Seasons of the Nu-Who Era, Ranked

Neil Patrick Harris is The Toymaker

Doctor Who

Release Date
March 26, 2005

BBC America

The Celestial Toymaker first appeared in the Doctor Who mythology back in a 1966 broadcast, and he was portrayed by Michael Gough. Audiences today, and genre fans in particular, recognize Gough as Bruce Wayne’s loyal and devoted butler from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and its three sequels. Gough was also the first actor to join forces with Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and defeat Sir Christopher Lee’s Carpathian Count in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958). And despite not knowing a thing about Doctor Who, the role of The Toymaker now lies with Neil Patrick Harris. Showrunner Russell T Davies said in the same interview with EW:

“It’s very hard to find the villain who can match David Tennant and Catherine Tate. 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. It’s so lovely working with Neil. When I text him now, [we ask], what’s our third project together? We’ve got to keep going!”

David Tennant is the 10th actor to become The Doctor in the immensely popular sci-fi saga having succeeded the 9th Doctor, who was portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. Despite all the thespians over the years who’ve portrayed the famous time traveler, it was Tennant who was cast to return to the role for the special 60th anniversary episodes. And Tennant couldn’t have imagined a better actor to play his adversary, The Toymaker, than Harris. Tennant also told EW in the same interview:

“Oh, he’s good. I don’t quite know if he knew what to expect, but he dived in with such gusto and brio. This part requires a lot of skill sets and Neil turns up with them all. I don’t want to give away too much about what might be required of the Toymaker, but you need a sort of an all-round entertainer to play that part and a very good actor, so there aren’t a lot of people who could have ticked all the boxes required.

We were really excited when Neil said ‘yes,’ and actually it’s impossible to imagine who else it might have been. He’s a sort of theater animal, so he’s got that bit of graft about him that my Scottish Presbyterian soul rather enjoys being around. And he’s got a twinkle in his eye, which is sort of the combination of elements that you need for Doctor Who, I think.”

Neil Patrick Harris stars as The Toymaker in the third of the special Doctor Who 60th anniversary episodes titled The Giggle on Saturday, December 9, which airs on the BBC in the United Kingdom at 6:30 p.m. The Giggle will stream at the same time on Disney+ in international markets. And fans can check out the teaser for the next and final installment of the special event below, which also features Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor at the end.


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