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Neil Patrick Harris on HIV, It's a Sin, and Safe Shopping During COVID

Neil Patrick Harris on HIV, It's a Sin, and Safe Shopping During COVID


The out star of Russell T Davies's new series teamed up with PayPal and Venmo to promote touch-free shopping.

Need some extra tips for safe shopping? Neil Patrick Harris has you covered.

In a new partnership with PayPal and Venmo, the actor shares tips and tricks for safe shopping in-store in a hilarious promotional video, including paying touch-free with PayPal and Venmo QR Codes at CVS. "We have all learned how important it is to follow safety protocols like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing to help contain and slow the spread of the virus," said Harris. "Paying for everyday essentials touch-free with PayPal and Venmo QR Codes at your local CVS is just one simple way you can protect yourself, fellow shoppers and store employees as we navigate these challenging times together."

Advocate caught up with Harris to chat about his own family, finding gratitude in a pandemic, and his role in the critically-acclaimed British drama, It's A Sin. From the mind of beloved writer and producer Russell T Davies, the show celebrates the lives of characters living through the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1980s London. The devastatingly beautiful BBC mini-series is headed to HBO Max next month, so we asked Harris about the parallels between the HIV/AIDS crisis and COVID, why he took his role, and lessons a new generation of queers can learn from the past's trauma.

The Advocate: It's been almost a year since the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. How are you and your family staying safe and sane?
NPH: We're making the best of it. I'm surprised at how quickly a year has flown by. To be honest, I'm trying to live in the moment and be as grateful as possible. Before we were all forced to sit still, our family was moving around a lot.

Our days were filled with playdates and exercise classes and Dave and I would be at the gym or we'd have meetings and so we'd really only see each other at dinner time. Now I feel like I've gotten to know my family in ways that I didn't otherwise. That's frustrating, but at the same time, I find it super rewarding. When we get vaccines and we're all about to exist and look at all this in past tense, we'll look at it with gravity but hopefully be able to look at it with some gratitude.

Tell me about this Venmo/PayPal system and why this is your preferred way of paying right now?
I think everyone needs to be doing everything they can to help contain further spread of the virus, right? When PayPal asked if I wanted to partner up with them to discuss ways to do it, at a CVS no less, I said sure! I shop at CVS, I use Paypal and Venmo, this makes perfect sense!

We filmed the spot overnight in a CVS all about the different ways you can maintain safety protocols. Try going at off hours, do wear masks over your nose, wash your hands, be nice to each other, and download this app that allows you to be touch-free with Paypal and QR codes. It's great, you don't have to touch anything.

It's A Sin just came out last week and between HIV/AIDS conversations, sex scenes, and the beloved characters, it seems to be making waves around the world. Why did you take your role as Henry Coltrane?
I honestly would've taken any role Russell T Davies wrote and asked me to be a part of. I think he's so smart and he's so effusive and kind and normal and writes about such epic and large, kind of dangerous subjects, whether that be Years and Years, Queer as Folk, or now It's A Sin. I'm a big fan of his.

Getting to take on a part, a British part no less, in Manchester and have it also be a story that an older generation can relate to but a younger generation can respond to? I think that's important. There are a lot of people in their 20s and younger that don't know much about HIV/AIDS at all. While I don't think they need to be grabbed by their shoulders and shaken, I certainly think they need to have different points of perspective. It's A Sin is a really good way to follow lives, care about them, and care for them at the same time. It's a really moving experience.

It's eerie looking at the show and seeing some of the similarities between HIV and COVID. Did you feel any parallels watching it now?
The only parallel I took when I was watching it was that sense of unknowing. Not even uncertainty, but just the unknown. Of realizing that something is not just a story you read in the paper or online but is actually happening and is uncontained. That kind of observation of an uncontained scare, it's traumatic.

Watching the history of the '80s and HIV/AIDS in the U.K., it certainly adds a level of sadness knowing what it became and that's even more profound sitting in lockdown where you're in, not similar situations, but in your own unknown bubble.

What do you hope audiences will take from this groundbreaking show?
That's my favorite element of this. What Russell does so well is the entertaining. He can entertain and at the same time, educate you. For those older generations, they have those points of reference but for the younger kids, they don't know much about it. To be able to learn about a very important time in LGBTQ history and not have it be rudimentary and wrote as if it's medical, but have it be more visceral, feel like you're on the dance floor, dancing alongside, feeling sexy. That's a really important way to teach and I'm glad that people around the world are responding to it the way they are.

It's A Sin is headed to HBO Max on February 18.

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Taylor Henderson

Pop culture nerd living in LA. When Taylor's not obsessively tweeting about Beyonce or Katy Perry, he's probably eating or working on his first YA novel.
Pop culture nerd living in LA. When Taylor's not obsessively tweeting about Beyonce or Katy Perry, he's probably eating or working on his first YA novel.