In an innuendo-filled freewheeling panel befitting his Captain Jack Harkness character, John Barrowman teased a costumed and wildly enthusiastic crowd at Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo with news about a new Torchwood novel. However, plans for another Torchwood television series remain on hold, and it’s still unknown whether Jack will be part of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who fans filled the auditorium Saturday, many in costume and cheering wildly as Barrowman strode onto the stage. He greeted moderator Misha Davenport of the Chicago Sun-Times with, “Do you want my banana?” He then pulled a fan onto the stage, complimenting his “guns,” and referring to his girlfriend as “you lucky bitch” before suggesting a threesome. “I’ll show you things you’ve never seen before,” Barrowman said. “I could teach you a couple of things, too.”
When a fan asked whether the TARDIS is really bigger on the inside than the outside, Barrowman said, “Oh, yes.” He then slipped when talking about his first experience with the TARDIS on the Doctor Who set, mentioning “David” [Tennant] before correcting himself and identifying the actual Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. Responding to the shouts of the crowd, Barrowman said, “Don’t even go there. I know lots of things that you don’t. Anyway, I’ve had so many Doctors I get confused.”
The next questioner asked if Barrowman owned a Captain Jack action figure, and, “if so, how often do you play with yourself?” “I have both the six-inch and the 12-inch, depending on how often I play with them during the day,” he replied. “Sometimes frequently.”
Later, he told a fan who stood nervously before the microphone, “Just hold onto it and pretend that it’s me.” When Davenport asked Barrowman whether he preferred BBC or Starz, he said, “I’m going to have to get you to home in a little more, homey. Homo. Are we talking BBC America, or BBC One?” He settled on Starz, saying, “Without Starz, we wouldn’t have had Torchwood.”
When explaining his selection of haggis over Chicago red hot, the Scottish-born Barrowman, who was raised in the Chicago suburb Libertyville, chose haggis because “haggis is a lot thicker than a hot dog.” When selecting crisps over chips, he said that if it were his partner Scott, “he’d say chips because growing up his fantasy was Erik Estrada.”
The discussion turned to Barrowman’s other work, beginning with the young-adult novel Hollow Earth that he co-wrote with his sister Carole Barrowman. It’s scheduled for release in the United States in the fall.
“It’s a book that we wrote because it’s a book that we would like to have read,” he said. “It’s about twins who have powers, and they are super powers … they are able to draw whatever they see or copy drawings that they see and bring the drawings to life or put themselves or other people into the drawings. They communicate through telepathy.”
The book is selling well in the United Kingdom, and he and his sister are already in the process of selling the television rights, and they have been approached about the film rights. “We’re hoping to bring [Hollow Earth] to the screen at some point.” he said.
Barrowman turned next to the ABC television pilot he recently filmed in Boston Guilded Lilies, written by Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy. “It’s very different from the sci-fi that I’ve been doing and that I love to do, but I wanted to try something different,” he said. “Fingers crossed. I think it’s something that people will really like, hopefully.” He expects to hear soon whether ABC picks up the pilot.
If not, there’s always Captain Jack, who stars in a Torchwood novel written by Barrowman and his sister that picks up after the events of Miracle Day. “I’m not stupid,” he said, acknowledging the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction.
The novel, currently called Exodus Code— although Barrowman said the title has already changed several times and could again — is due for release in the fall.
The other news regarding Torchwood was, in fact, no news at all: “Torchwood is on hold,” he said. Creator Russell T. Davies is dealing with personal issues in that his partner is “not very well,” Barrowman said, and as a result he isn’t writing. It isn’t clear when or if the series will continue.
News regarding Captain Jack Harkness’ return to Doctor Who was equally limited. With the 50th anniversary of the series coming in 2013, Barrowman said “I’d be really disappointed if Jack is not involved. But that’s up to [showrunner] Steven Moffat.”
Barrowman also talked about charities he supports, including Stonewall. “I’m an openly gay man. A proud gay man, proud of who I am and what I stand for,” he said. All people should be treated equally, he said, regardless of sexuality.
Later, a questioner asked how Barrowman felt as a representative of gays in sci-fi. “There’s more gays and lesbians represented on American television than anywhere else in the world, and I think that’s a fantastic thing,” he said. “I just don’t think that they’re always represented in the right way. I think that there’s a diversity amongst [members of the community]. Everybody is different. We’re got butch, we’ve got macho, we’ve got effeminate — you name it, we’ve got it. But it always seems that they’re portrayed in the effeminate. So I was quite proud to be an action hero. I was quite proud to be an action man, a hero to young men and women, and also gay and lesbian women who could actually look myself and Scott. We are men. We just happen to like men …
“If I had someone like Captain Jack when I was younger to look up to, I wouldn’t have had to have hidden who I was for a long time, because I would have been proud to be who I was at the age of 8 and 9 when I knew that I was gay. I am exceptionally proud of it. Not every gay man or gay woman agrees with me on how I feel, but that’s my opinion and you asked for it and I appreciate that you did ask, so there you go.”
The program ended with Barrowman taking pictures of the waving crowd, and then belting out a show tune. “Thank you very much for having me,” he said, “and thank you for wanting me.”
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