That is what John Barrowman is.
He is a blessing. A gorgeous, talented, down-to-earth, considerate blessing.
And here's Part One of the interview with him!
When I walk onto the Los Angeles set of Torchwood: Miracle Day, John Barrowman is in full performance mode, but the cameras aren’t rolling. Everyone’s waiting for the next scene to be ready, so in the meantime, Barrowman is entertaining the crew and his fellow cast members with an elaborate anecdote that involved two perfectly-executed pratfalls and a dead-on impersonation of Carol Channing.
With that kind of showman’s instinct, it’s no surprise that Barrowman, 44, has become an international sensation for his starring role as Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness, a bisexual, immortal con man who spends his days chasing down aliens and other bizarre phenomena. But even when he’s not topping the bill on the hit BBC series, which has traveled Stateside for its new season, co-produced by the Starz network, the Scottish-born, Illinois-raised Barrowman keeps his fanbase busy with multiple projects in his adopted United Kingdom – he’s a TV presenter, musical theater star, and even the co-author of a series of young adult sci-fi novels.
When we spoke on set (in a conversation that was interrupted two or three times so he could shoot scenes for Miracle Day, which premiered July 8 on Starz), he shared his thoughts about the show, his career, his longtime relationship with Scott Gill, and even his mock rivalry with Neil Patrick Harris, with whom he battled over a Gay/Bisexual Man of the Decade poll.
(Note: British TV uses the word “series” in the way that Americans use “season.”)
Bringing Torchwood to the U.S., does it feel like you’re starting over again?
John Barrowman: Ironically enough, it doesn’t, because it’s what I’ve known, it’s what we’ve known as a team for the past four series. What was interesting was that when we came here, a lot of people working on the crew thought we were a new show, and someone said, “Oh yeah, working on this show is tough because of blahblahblah,” and I said, “Dude, I’ve been working on this show – this is my fourth series.” And he went, “Really?”
But Torchwood is continually evolving; every series, we’ve done something different, so why not bring it to this side of the Atlantic, which I’m chuffed about and raring to go.
You mention people thinking it’s a new show – with the move to Starz and the expansion to, presumably, a larger audience Stateside, is this series designed to accommodate first-time viewers?
JB: I’ll tell you the standard answer: This series, if you’ve been a loyal follower – which we appreciate you being – you’ll be able to pick up and know where we’ve left off, because there are some references to the back stuff in it and other things that have happened; we’ve got references to Ianto [Captain Jack’s gorgeous lover, who died horribly at the end of the third series, Torchwood: Children of Earth], we’ve got references to Doctor Who, we’ve got references to The Hub.
You guys are coming off of a really dark story…
JB: And we’re going into another really dark story. In Miracle Day, a massive event happens – everybody wakes up one morning and everyone’s immortal. And immediately you think that’s a fantastic thing, nobody can die, but actually it could also be a terrible thing: Think about the population problems, or if you’re ill – because if you’re decapitated in a car accident, you’re still alive, right? You’ll still feel pain. There’s medical issues, there’s drug issues, and what’s really interesting about this series and that event that happens is that it’s kind of mimicking what’s going on in the world today, but at a heightened scale.
The questions that are asked in Episode One will be answered in Episode Ten, so you’re not gonna be four series down the line and still not having an answer. But within that storyline, there’s all these other issues and questions that are raised that get answered also, and lead you in a different direction throughout the series. So yeah, it’s dark. One thing that I love about Torchwood, and that I love about Jack and Gwen and what we do with this – we go to the areas that other shows won’t go to, and we raise those issues and questions, and it shocks people a little bit. And that’s what we’re gonna do again.
So speaking of Comic-Con, how would you differentiate your musical theater fanbase from your sci-fi fanbase?
JB: I don’t differentiate them – I think they’re one and the same because musical theater to me is a heightened reality, where we take subject matter and deal with it in a different way, which would be through song – when you no longer can speak, you have to burst into song and express yourself that way, or through dance. Sci-fi is very much the same; you deal with subject matter with aliens and things that are unreal and situations that are slightly unreal and heightened. So I think the crossover – a lot of my sci-fi fans have gone to see some musicals because they like some of the shows and they like that aspect of it, and vice versa, the musical fans who I’ve introduced to sci-fi. A lot of people may disagree with me, but I don’t see them as very different, because I think the heightened reality of it all makes them the same.
Do they both have the same level of fervor?
JB: Passion, are you talking? Yes. And I absolutely love that. It’s very interesting when I talk to people about the passion of sci-fi fans and the passion of musical theater fans; some can use the word “obsessive,” but I have no problem with that, because I myself am a sci-fi fan and I myself am a musical theater fan, so when I go to Comic-Con, I give myself my time beforehand to walk around and buy all my T-shirts. Last time, I had them build me an Iron Man statue and all that kind of stuff. So I understand it, and I appreciate it, and I don’t want anyone to change.
Changing gears for a second here….You wore a kilt to your civil union ceremony, right?
JB: I did, yes.
That’s one of those indelibly-burned images.
JB: Is it, really? I was a true Scotsman, there was nothing underneath. Or rather, there is something underneath, but…well, you remember!
No article of clothing, gotcha. How’s married life going?
JB: It’s going really well! Scott and I have been together now for 17 years. The difference is, and I say this because I know everyone out there is an advocate for civil partnerships or marriage or whatever you want to call it in this country, all of a sudden Scott comes over here and we don’t have the same legal rights as we do in the UK. And while I’m fortunate enough to have an American passport and my dual nationality, he’s not recognized as my partner, and so he doesn’t have the same benefits that I do over here, which I think is absolutely ridiculous.
When we go through customs, purposely we go though together, I take him with me in my line. They say he should be in the other line, and I say, “No, he’s my partner.” And when they say, “What do you mean, partner?” I never call him this, but I say, “He’s my husband,” just to stir them up a little bit, because I just like to see their reaction. And they actually say to us, “We don’t recognize that in this country.” And it angers me.
The whole bi-national couple issue is getting a lot more attention lately.
JB: Sure! Loads of my friends who are Americans have partners who are from Europe somewhere. Not even just that – it’s a problem for people here, two Americans who are wanting to settle down and to have a marriage and to solidify what they have. We should be able to, so I hope it changes quite soon. The really nice thing is that there’s a whole generation out there that’s coming up, and it’s my nephew and niece’s age, and they really don’t give a shit. And they’re the ones – we’re pushing for the change, and I don’t want to sound like an old fogey, but they’re the ones who are probably gonna make that change. I think there was a poll the other day that said 57% of people don’t mind if two men or two women have a marriage or have that status, so things are changing. I say we take the marriage word out of it.
JB: That’s my opinion. Because that’s what upsets the religious people the most. Plus, I know there’s a lot of faith-based gay men and women out there, and that’s a great thing, but I just feel if that word “marriage” means so much to the fundamentalists and all those radicals out there that they don’t want to lose it, let them have it. Let’s create another name for it.
I think if the government got out of the marriage business and made “marriage” an exclusively religious thing, then yeah, everybody would get their partnership, their union, whatever, and the issue of “marriage” be decided from religion to religion. But as long as government sanctions marriage, not getting that under that same name puts us in the separate-but-equal zone.
But also, I’ll just remind all those groups that claim ownership of that word, that word was not a religious word when it began. It was because marriage was happening that the church grabbed onto it, to have something to do with it. So it wasn’t yours to begin with.So give it back!
Are you guys thinking about parenting?
JB: Ah! [inhales sharply] You know, I would love to. I don’t think Scott is as gung-ho with it at the moment as I am, because I think…well, I’d have to let him say for himself. But [if] I really wanted to, I think he would. I think we would have one and I would adopt one. But with what I’m doing, traveling back and forth, it would be quite difficult and it would be unfair to put a child into different schools all the time, although Eve is doing it with her baby. But I think they’re gonna stay here a lot longer – Scott and I have to go back and forth, because I’ve got shows in the UK that I gotta do, plus I produce one over there.
So it would be a little more difficult, and I think that if we adopted, we wouldn’t be adopting a baby. We’d be adopting a child that was a little older, not just because we don’t want to deal with diapers but because there are a lot of children out there who are of an older age who don’t get adopted. And also teenagers. Scott and I have talked about this, and we could offer a great deal, and give a lot of love; we have a great home, a great solid grounding for them, and also great opportunities. So that’s how we look at it.
Because you know, *giggle* your arch-nemesis Neil Patrick Harris has kids now.
JB: Well, you know, that’s … they’ve got the babies, and they’re a bit younger than Scott and I are, and that’s great. My nieces and nephews, I changed their diapers and stuff, but I think I wouldn’t mind having one of my own. But upfront, I’d have to have a nanny. Or a manny. A manny who doubles as a pool-boy. [laughs] You gotta have one, and I’m sure Neil Patrick Harris has one, let me tell you. [laughs]
I remember the Advocate - when you did your coming-out interview in the magazine, around the time that De-Lovely was released. Did that change things?
JB: The funny thing is, that no one really took notice of it. And when I did it, it was almost by accident, and it just happened. I was asked about it, and I mentioned my partner Scott, and actually the interviewer said to me, “Do you realize that you just came out?” And I went, “I didn’t ever really think I was in.” You know, everybody knew I was gay.
I don’t think it’s changed anything. Again, all the guys who are my age or older, we can start sounding bit old-fashioned if we keep harping about how things haven’t changed or we’re still struggling. Yes, there’s a good deal of things out there that need to change, but the generation that’s coming up – and in the gay world, five years is a generation, you know what I mean? – men who are five years, ten years younger than us, they’re making changes themselves, and actually they’re doing things by not doing things, if that makes sense. Because it’s not that big an issue to them. And I’m not denying what we’ve gone though, what we’ve done…
No, but I think the goal for people our age was to make being gay less of a big deal.
JB: And it’s worked! That’s what happened. And it’s worked for this other generation, but we still have a whole lot of people out there who are not openly gay because they think it’s going to affect their jobs and stuff. Now I’m not out there to out people, and if that’s what you choose to do, that’s your choice, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. But I must say, if you’re doing it because you think it’s detrimental to your career, the more of us who come out and do things openly – I guarantee you, there’s a lot of us in Hollywood.
And if we all just come out and don’t worry about it – in fact, not even come out, just live. If we could just be ourselves and live and not pretend and not lie and not have beards, things would be a lot different. And the public, in a way, has to accept that stuff. If a big Hollywood A-lister came out, do you really think it’s going to affect the films?
They obviously do. But no, I’m with you on that one.
JB: People are not that stupid. And I think we need to give the people more power in that sense. There might be an area of society that will never believe it, will never want to believe it, but that’s their choice. I don’t have a choice, they do. You know what I mean?
MORE TO FOLLOW!!! PART TWO TOMORROW!!