Actor, author, and magician Harris combined his passions in order to create his Magical Misfits middle grade series, about a group of kids who use the art of illusions to solve problems and save the world. The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third, the next title in the series, will be out in September. He’ll appear today in conversation with Eva Chen, fashion editor and exec (and star) at Instagram, mom, and now author of two picture books. She wants to inspire young readers to dream big and go for their goals. Juno, the protagonist of her Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes and A Is for Awesome, is a fun and fearless guide to the imaginative world of fashion, and to Chen’s personal pantheon of female heroes.
Neil Patrick Harris: Simply Magical
On the origin of the Magic Misfits: Magic has been a passion and hobby of mine since I was a child. So when I set out to create my first children’s book series, I wanted to have kids creating bonds and solving problems together, but not by waving wands or stepping through portals, but through illusion and mentalists and misdirection. And in combining those elements of magic with adventure and friendship, the Magic Misfits turned into the kind of series that would have thrilled me when I was young. I hope today’s readers feel the same.
On balancing acting, writing, family, and more: I have lots of different chapters in my life right now, both personally and professionally. So it was a challenge carving out time to just sit still and write. But once the characters started to form, once their relationships were established, I found the process exciting and kind of intoxicating.
Advice for young readers who want to get into acting, magic, writing, or all three: Go do it. See stuff, write stuff, get involved. I strongly believe that immersive experiences are so powerful, they create lasting moments and memories. So go see a Broadway show, or a circus, or a magician. Audition for a role at your local theater. Dance at a concert, attend an author event at a bookstore, bungee jump. Try things that might make you uncomfortable. Why not? Just by putting yourself out there, you’ll be rewarded with new knowledge and perspective. And, bonus: you’ll have gotten to do a lot of awesome things.
Neil's favorite book as a kid: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
Favorite Word: Labyrinth.
Eva Chen: Fearless Fun, & Fashionable
On why she wrote these books: I grew up being told, “You can do whatever you want. If you want to go to the moon, you can go to the moon. If you want to be president, you can be president. You will make change and have impact in this world.” But girls aren’t always told things like that—not all girls grow up with this kind of message. I also grew up absorbing every message of every book I read, from the Baby-Sitters Club series, which ultimately is a tale of entrepreneurship, and friendship, to Amelia Bedelia and Ramona Quimby. All these books I read had enormous impact.
On what she learned from books: It’s okay to try things and not feel like any of them are just right for you. You have to find your own path. It’s really important for kids to see lots of different emotions, which is why I show Juno being sad and confused and striving and all these different things.
On picking the sheroes to include: It was really hard. I knew I would include my personal hero, Oprah. I knew that Anna Wintour would be included, because I worked with her for so long. I wanted different types of women—artists like Yayoi Kusama and a mix of different women who have inspired me throughout the ages.
On Neil Patrick Harris: He and I have met socially a few times, at various events. I launched a clothing line in conjunction with Juno and he kindly came to that event, so he’s part of the Junoverse. He does so many different things. I’ll try not to get sidetracked with questions about How I Met Your Mother or Doogie Howser, although that would be tempting.
Eva is Currently Reading: Harry Potter for probably 10,000th time.
Favorite Books as a Kid: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. All the Dr. Seuss books. I loved rhyming books.
Favorite Book as a Teen: All of the Baby-Sitters Club books.
Neil Patrick Harris and Eva Chen in Conversation 12:45 p.m.–1:20 p.m. // Downtown Stage