So getting back to the show: This is your fourth go-round, and every time you got bumped up the BBC chain [the first series aired on BBC Three, the second on BBC Two, the third on BBC One], and now you’re a US-UK co-production. Did you have any idea that it would be this kind of ride when you started?
JB: No, I had no idea. I wanted it to be this kind of ride when we started, and my wish came true. We started off on the smallest digital channel from the BBC, we got the biggest ratings on that and moved to BBC Two, we had stellar ratings on that. Moved to BBC One, stellar ratings also. I knew they were working to push this further, but wasn’t allowed to talk about it, so when I was saying publicly my opinion that I wished there were more episodes than five, that it would be silly if we didn’t do it again, that was John Barrowman speaking, because I love Captain Jack, I love the show, I know how much the show is loved.
So I got in a little bit of shtick from people saying I was too outspoken and speaking out against the BBC – I wasn’t. I was actually just saying what my opinion was: If you have a good job, you want more of it. And fortunately, Russell and Julie, who runs the BBC, and Starz were all banding together to make it happen, and they have. So I did get my wish! I got more episodes, I got more Torchwood, I got more Captain Jack.
Work on world peace next time.
JB: [laughs] Stick me in a room with all these leaders, I tell ya – I’ll show them a thing or two. That’s what I always think they should do: Strip ’em all down and sit ’em in a room naked, see what happens. I wouldn’t want to be there, I wouldn’t want to be watching that, but it might calm things down a little.
Is the show divorced from Doctor Who now?
JB: No, we mention the Doctor in this series. Because we’re part of that world, we came from that world. You can’t deny your history. But we are a stand-alone show now. What I always say is that we separated from the mothership, but we still make references and hopefully, one day, Jack will go back to Who. That’s my opinion, not anybody else’s, but I would love to cross over with the new Doctor and just see what would happen with him and Jack.
I would have loved to have done that with [Elisabeth] Sladen – Lis always wanted to work more with me – but unfortunately that won’t happen now. Our matriarch is gone. [Sladen, beloved Doctor Who co-star and the star of the Davies-scripted Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, died April 19 after battling cancer. Barrowman and Sladen appeared together briefly during the 2008 Doctor Who series finale.]
For U.S. television, Captain Jack is something of an anomaly – we have a handful of queer characters, but not many action heroes. Does he stand out less among the characters on UK TV?
JB: It’s just part of the landscape, I think. We don’t really make an issue out of it. I’m not the first person on American television who’s a bisexual character, but there are a lot of characters represented. I’m quoting what Russell has said, I’m sure there’s others out there, but it’s the first time that a bisexual hero has been played by an openly gay man. There’s no heroes out there where the men [who play them] are openly gay. And that’s just what it is, really, but it’s not an issue in the UK, even when it started.
I remember the episode of Doctor Who where I kiss the Doctor, it just kind of came and went, and no one made an issue out of it. No one said anything; the newspapers actually kind of missed it, and we didn’t make it a big sensational thing out of it. I don’t think it will be an issue over here, and if it is – well, excuse me, but change the fucking channel. [laughs] Do you know what I mean?
It’s just that queer characters are all over the American TV landscape, but they tend to be lawyers, or they’re in comedies. We don’t get a lot of derring-do.
JB: No, you don’t, but it’s time we do. What people have to remember is that I’m a gay man at home and in the outside world, and at work I’m a hero. I don’t bring my personal life into the – well, actually, this sounds stupid, but I have sex with men, Captain Jack has sex with men, so maybe I do bring my personal life into it. [laughs] But I’ve played heterosexual characters, I’ve played ingénues, I’ve played the lead characters in most of the shows I’ve been in, and most of them have been straight. So this is actually something different for me, in a way. Listen, it will be interesting to see how it takes, and I’m sure I’ll get some kind of … people will always complain about something.
|Gareth (Ianto) and John at a Comic Con where they are always asked to kiss!!!|
And actually, if anyone has sailed these waters in American TV, it’s Starz with Spartacus.
JB: Correct, and thank god for Starz. We’re so glad to be with such a good network, because they’re the ones who break the boundaries a little bit more than the others. A lot of people were worried that we were going to be watered-down when we went to American, but we’re actually not – we’re even edgier than before. There’s some really great sex scenes with Jack and some men, and it’s really portrayed truthfully and honestly, it’s fantastic. People who complain, generally, are the people who don’t even watch the damn show.
And I’ve had first-hand experience with that in the UK, where they’ve complained about something I’ve done, and you go and read what they said, and you know they’ve not read the article, they didn’t listen to the radio show, and they’ve not seen the TV show. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
That’s the nature of the internet commenter. It’s great that Russell has maintained so much control over the show, because Showtime recently aired Episodes over here. I don’t know if you saw it, but it’s about two creators of a British hit show having everything changed in the U.S. version. And that’s happened to a lot of UK talent when their shows have crossed the pond.
JB: Well one thing you have to remember is that we’re a collaboration between the BBC Worldwide, and also BBC One with Starz. We still have the heart and essence of what’s made Torchwood so special, and we still have that. And we have everything that’s even edgier on top of that. So the soul of the show has not changed. I can guarantee to the audience who’s going to watch it because they’re staunch fans, they’re gonna know what they’re looking at.
Had you been much of a sci-fi fan before this gig?
JB: Oh god, yeah! I grew up on Star Wars, I still have all my Star Wars toys – actually, I gave them to my nephew Turner, he looks after them now. The original Battlestar Galactica, Space: 1999, Star Trek, um, Thunderbirds, even coming up into the new era of V, I remember the original miniseries. And Doctor Who! I was a Doctor Who baby; I grew up watching Sarah Jane as one of the assistants, Tom Baker, John Pertwee, all the Doctors of that time. I used to stay up and watch PBS, because that’s where you got Doctor Who. I’m a fan-geek, and I’m proud, and I love it. To this day, I still download shows I can’t watch when they’re airing. I still have Battlestar Galactica to get through, the new series. But it’s great, one of the directors from that, we’ve worked with her here.
Do you see an end to Torchwood?
JB: Well obviously, there will be an end to it at some point, but you know, I’m not ready for it to end. Touch wood, what I’d love to have happen is we do four or five more series, keep going strong, and then finish, and then maybe a year after, do a movie. I don’t know what I’ll look like, you know…
Playing an immortal can be a drag.
JB: Exactly! I am gonna get older, so we have to figure something out. But I would be happy – although I do other entertainment stuff, I do other TV shows, I do books with my sister for young teenagers, I’ve got my music – if someone were to say to me, you’re only going to play Captain Jack for the rest of your career, I would be completely content. I love him, I love the show, I love what we stand for, I love what he stands for, and I love coming to work every day. It’s a thrill.
Will you ever do a musical episode?
JB: I’d love to. I don’t know if Russell’s game for it, but I’d love to do one. We’d have to be on a planet where music controls everything, or is the only mode of communication. I would have no problem. But I think we’d have to dub Eve [Myles’] voice, she’s not a singer. [laughs]
She could always talk her way through like Rex Harrison.
JB: Kai [Owen] would be great. Alexa [Havins]? Not so sure. Mekhi [Phifer]? He’s a great rapper. So we’ve got every demographic covered.
Any final thoughts?
JB: Thank you to everyone for all the support you’ve given me over the years, and to all the people who hit the website and put me in the top five every year in the best gay men out there poll, I really appreciate it and I’m proud to represent the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community, and I will always do that, no matter what. Anyone who doesn’t have a voice will always have a voice through me.