John Barrowman, joined by his sister and co-author Carole E. Barrowman and his husband Scott Gill, chatted with a lively audience at Comic-Con International about his roles on Doctor Who, Torchwood and Arrow, and much more in a raucous panel aptly titled “Anything Goes.”
Barrowman bounded onto the stage to overwhelming applause, whooping and whistling. “Oh! So glad to be here,” the actor told the crowd. “I’ve just eaten the biggest piece of meat that I’ve ever seen.” He paused for a beat. “His name was Frank.”
That was only the beginning of the bawdy lines, interspersed with tales of romance, family stories, and discussions of his past, present and future projects.
Barrowman cracked up the audience when he caught his own image on the giant screens flanking the stage: “Oh, look,” he said, “it’s a big me!” Lowering his head to create a prominent double chin, the actor proclaimed in a comical voice, “Hello. I’m fat Malcolm Merlyn.”
How got personal with the audience right away: When the first fan introduced himself, Barrowman exclaimed “Hello [name redacted]! You sound really gay!” to which the young man proudly replied, “I came out after being inspired by Captain Jack!” which elicited a genuinely excited “Yay!” from Barrowman and cheers from the audience.
Then the questioner turned to what kind of music Barrowman is listening to and singing. Barrowman has released seven albums (plus compilations) since 1994, as well as several cast recordings of stage productions and film soundtracks. “I’ve got a couple of favorite pop songs,” he said. “I love Macklemore’s, um …” he paused, trying to remember the title. More than a handful of fans enthusiastically called out “Same Love.” “Yeah! That’s what it’s called!” he replied, and asked the hyper audience “Have you guys had sugar yet?”
“The first song that came to my head, though, and you’re going to laugh,” Barrowman said, “You’re going to laugh, but it’s Katy Perry’s ‘Firework.’” The audience, as predicted, laughed.
“One of the stupidest lines in song history ever is …” Barrowman sang the opening line to the pop favorite: “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” while the audience cheered. “Who the hell wants to feel like a fucking plastic bag?” Barrowman asked, and then sang, in spoof, “Do you want to feel like a used condom?”
He asked the audience, “That would be better, wouldn’t it?” Before moving on, Barrowman prompted more cheers when he said, “Congratulations for coming out of the closet.”
A young woman stepped up to the microphone and quietly introduced herself. Barrowman smiled at her and said, “Honey, just pull it closer to your mouth and pretend that it’s me. … Go on, you’ll be fine.” He then apologized to the parents with children in the audience. “Good luck explaining all of this,” he said, adding, “like he hasn’t heard all this on the playground, right?”
The fan at the mic asked how Barrowman felt about not continuing in the role of Captain Jack. “You all know that I absolutely adore Captain Jack,” the actor said. “Captain Jack changed my life. If there ever is a time we go back to the world of Jack. … I’m happy if they ask me to do it, but it’s not my decision.”
He continued, “All right, I’ll be honest with you: There was about a year grieving period. It’s like you lose a family member, really. And I’ve never … spoken about this publicly … because he was such an iconic, such a wonderful character to play that really … it was very hard to let go of him. There’s a little bit of me that hasn’t let go, and I know you haven’t … and I think that’s brilliant.”
“If you want things to progress on this, you have to do it in the right way. I can’t be the one to go out …” Barrowman said, shifting to a whiny voice, “’I want my Jack. I’m missing him.’” Returning to his normal voice, he continued, “It wouldn’t look right. it would look like an air of desperation, and what I don’t want them to think is that we’re desperate. But truly, when it’s time, Jack will return, and I would love that.”
A baritone-voiced man said “Hi …” and Barrowman interrupted him, saying, “Your balls must be huge!” The fan introduced himself, and again, Barrowman interjected, “You can come to my house any time!” Asked whether he’ll be returning to “Arrow” for Season 2, Barrowman exaggeratedly nodded and said “I have no idea.”
One woman, cosplaying as Jack Harkness, asked, “How do you bring out the ‘Jackness’ in Jack?” Barrowman replied “Make sure you have a big gun in your holster … and also kiss everybody that you see and meet.”
Barrowman explained that Jack’s character evolved over time as showrunners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, “Took elements of my personality and started interjecting it into the character; so I was able to put some of myself into Jack.”
The audience grabbed the innuendo (one fan shouted out a George Takei-style “Oh, my!”) and Barrowman ran with it, joking, “And I must say that I take Jack into me sometimes.”
He added a note of appreciation for the fans who embraced Jack’s quirky sexuality. “For me, that is the best gift of all … because all of you guys are able to stand up and say, ‘Hi, I’m bisexual,’ [or] da da da da; you don’t care anymore [about hiding], and that’s how it should be.”
Answering a question about his July 9 marriage to Scott Gill, Barrowman revealed that, at one point, the couple didn’t want to officially wed. “Whether or not you want to get married is one thing, but I don’t want to be told that I can’t.”
He explained that the legal right to marry gave them the freedom to travel together more easily (Barrowman is an American citizen, Gill is not). “When DOMA [the federal Defense of Marriage Act] was denounced, we were ecstatic,” he said, and one week later, “We woke up and we had an argument [about who was going to propose to whom]. Then it was ‘Fuck, let’s go get married.’”
Barrowman was joined on stage by his older sistee Carole E. Barrowman. “Menopause looks good on you,” he said. Not missing a beat, she replied, “Fuck off.”
The Barrowman siblings co-wrote “Captain Jack and the Selkie,” one of two stories published by Titan Magazines in the first issue of the Torchwood comic book series, and collaborated on a Torchwood novel, Torchwood: Exodus Code. They also co-author the children’s book series Hollow Earth.
Asked whether the siblings have any ideas for a new Torchwood series or miniseries, John replied “Oh, yeah! We’ve written a book.” Carole added, “We decided that [Torchwood: Exodus Code] would make a perfect next movie or season … and I decided that I was going to play the dark Captain Jack.” The audience applauded in approval. “Ewwwwww,” he said. “That’s fan fiction.”
Carole Barrowman told a story about hearing loud moans and groans from the bedroom shared by her brother and his then-partner Scott. The next morning, “He says to me, ‘I had the worst heartburn last night … I thought I was going to die.’ And I said ‘Oh, thank God, you were only dying! I thought you and Scott were having rough sex!”
A member of the audience asked Carole Barrowman about writing a sex scene in Torchwood: Exodus Code. She replied “That was really tough,” but before she could continue, her brother leaned in, as if to whisper, and then said, “I just burped.” Carole then started tickling his neck. “I don’t know why we decided to do a children’s book series,” she said, “because God knows there’s no child in either one of us.”
Carole Barrowman tried to return to the question, when John again interrupted her, appearing to read something written on the panelists’ table: “Please be aware that many members of your audience may be 18 years of age or under.” Both Barrowmans put their hands over their mouths, and then John asked, “Why stop now?”
Carole Barrowman continued, “Writing that was very difficult … I kept texting Scott …” Her brother cut in with, “You’ve been discussing our sex life with Scott?” “Only in a fictional sense,” she replied.
Returning to John Barrowman’s singing career, someone asked, “What singer, past or present, would you want to do a duet with?” Barrowman replied “I’d love to sing with Adam Levine of Maroon 5.” He went on to list Barbra Streisand, Céline Dion and Kristin Chenoweth.
Maroon 5’s hit, “Moves Like Jagger” started playing Barrowman introduced his husband Scott Gill. The actor revealed he began following Scott after discovering he’d been misleading him about going to the gym. “He was taking ballroom-dancing lessons!” Barrowman exclaimed. With enthusiastic help from the audience, he convinced Gill to show off his California Swing steps.
A woman costumed as a steampunk Jack Harkness asked for a “juicy, embarrassing story” about Barrowman. Carole began a story that wound up with John wandering around his new Delorean, trying to figure out where to put the gas hose. “People were walking by taking pictures, saying ‘Captain Jack doesn’t know where to put the gas!”
Asked what actor he would cast for the next Doctor, Barrowman asked, “You really want to go there?” The audience indicated that it did, indeed, want to “go there,” and Barrowman said, “I’m not going to choose an actor, but I would choose a woman.” This answer received a warm response, and he added, “Just to see if it would take and it would work, because if it doesn’t … she could regenerate right back into a man.”
In the closing minutes of the panel, Barrowman revealed that he and Scott have dogs named Jack and Harris; Scott sleeps in the nude, while Barrowman “wears pajamas … usually Captain America or Superman pajamas,” and that, other than Time Lords, Barrowman’s favorite alien species in the Whoniverse are the Cybermen. “As Captain Jack I got to fight a Cybergirl,” he said, and then added, “God bless Ianto, he didn’t know what he wanted until he got Jack.”
Squeezing in one final comment, Barrowman revealed that he and Gill have “the Dalek that … we think killed Captain Jack and gave him eternal life … but we find out later, other things … look, I’m going all fanboy on you: Well, we’ve got that Dalek … in the front hallway … and he’s a special Dalek, because he has the Torchwood symbol.”
In closing Barrowman said, “Thank you for all your support because you’ve given us the life we’ve always dreamt about, and I want you to know that we absolutely appreciate everything you do for us. Thank you very much.”