Neil Patrick Harris breaks down his four ‘Unfortunate’ personas

Neil Patrick Harris and director Barry Sonnenfeld discuss the fun they had bringing Count Olaf, the villain of ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ to life for Netflix.

NEW YORK — Look away, Netflix subscribers.

Nearly 13 years after Jim Carrey brought villain Count Olaf to life on the big screen, Neil Patrick Harris is stepping into his devious shoes in the eight-episode A Series of Unfortunate Events (now streaming). Adapted from Lemony Snicket’s popular children’s books, the calamitous show picks up as the young Baudelaire orphans (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith) are sent to live with their nefarious uncle Olaf, who takes on a variety of eccentric personas in order to trick the children and secure their immense fortune.

After the lighter, slapstick-heavy 2004 film, “I wanted to make sure that Olaf was more villainous, and I felt that Neil could be a darker Olaf,” says executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld. “No one but Neil could’ve played these four roles. They were so physical and so different.”

Harris breaks down each of Olaf’s elaborate disguises for USA TODAY.


Harris most frequently appears as the dastardly Olaf, a greedy, aspiring theater actor with peculiar suits, unkempt grey hair and a sinister unibrow crawling across his forehead. At the start of shooting, Harris typically spent five hours in the makeup chair having prosthetics applied, which was eventually. To get into character, he says it was most useful to find “a cologne that reminded me of Olaf — leather and smoke, a dark kind of thing. I wanted him to…