In an exclusive interview with Out magazine, openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris calls Anderson Cooper “dreamy” and says Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans was his gay idol.

Neil Patrick Harris is the leading man of CBS's How I Met Your Mother. On the situation comedy he plays heterosexual sex hound Barney. But two years ago, after relentless outing by Perez Hilton at his blog, the actor came out. A decision he says he does not regret.

“The Internet stuff threw me for a loop because I didn't understand where the vitriol was coming from. I thought I had been representing well, and in turn it seemed like I was quickly condemned to step up to the plate, and I was fine with that,” Harris said.

On working in Hollywood as a gay out actor, Out asked, “ Hollywood still underestimating the American public's acceptance level of homosexuality?”

“People in the business are equally as terrified now – but I really find it a personal thing. And maybe I'm at the end of that era. I wouldn't even want to stereotype today's generation. But the majority of the casting departments are gay, and a lot of the executives are. I think it's a matter of your abilities and how you carry yourself – I don't behave any differently toward you right now than when I am with David [Burtka, his boyfriend] in our apartment... I can see why an agent wouldn't want to sign on a real overtly effeminate male actor – not because I have an aversion to them but because agents might know it limits their job opportunities.”

Harris, who has previously said he knew he was gay at about fourteen, called Anderson Cooper “dreamy”: “Mmmmm, Anderson. He's dreamy. Just dreamy. I've been a fan of his since season 1 of The Mole. I just thought he was so cool when he talked in this cool, low, secret-agent voice – 'If you can accomplish this task...'”

On the subject of gay role models – his own acknowledged obligation and those that influenced him – Harris admits he's vigilant of his gay image: “I'm striving to be an example of normalcy. Because I'm noticed as an actor, people are aware of what's happening in my life, and that I can't change, and if I tried to, it'd be an uphill battle. I'd be angry and bitter.”

“The first face that empowered me was Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans. I think before him I'd never seen anyone wear [homosexuality] so comfortably. He was around my age. I could look at him as a role model – if you could say that, even though he was on a reality show. He represented a way that I could behave and stand tall comfortably without being an overt advocate and without being someone hiding in the shadows, I liked that,” Harris said.