John Barrowman burst onto the stage for his Comic-Con International spotlight panel Saturday afternoon, and his infectious energy ignited a question-and-answer session with few limits and a lot of laughs.
The actor, currently playing Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow, teased the upcoming season of the CW drama, talked about the likelihood of Captain Jack Harkness resurfacing on Doctor Who, and shared some hilarious personal stories.
“I didn’t expect the table to be here,” Barrowman said, walking in front of the giant table on the ballroom stage intended for panelists. “Do you want me on the front or behind?” he asked, tongue in cheek, setting the tone for the “Anything Goes.” Admitting he was feeling hyperactive, he owned the entire stage, and occasionally walked into the audience to greet fans. Barrowman’s energy was matched by the audience’s as the questions began.
One of the first questions involved the future of Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff that ended in 2011 after four seasons. Barrowman said he and his sister Carole Barrowman proposed writing another Torchwood comic or novel, “and the words out of the mouth of the person high up [at BBC] was, ‘Torchwood is dead.’”
That revelation was met with boos from the audience. “I was gutted,” Barrowman continued, “because I know there’s a huge audience out there for it. But it’s not my call. But having said that, it’s all up to you guys in a way.” He encouraged fans to write BBC to share how they feel about the news.
Another fan question launched Barrowman into an animated anecdote about the time he had a supremely upset stomach while driving on a road trip with his husband. The audience cracked up as Barrowman jumped onto a chair and reenacted the uncomfortable experience, taking the story to its conclusion: with him taking a pantless photo next to a “No Dumping” sign somewhere in the bayou, getting lots of laughs – and groans — from the crowd.
Barrowman, who has a background in musical theater, also fielded several questions about taking on musicals. He said he’d like to, some day – preferably as the star and producer – but he’s tied up with Arrow. He did tease that he’s working on something fun and music-related with the Arrow cast that he hopes to put together around Christmas.
Speaking of Arrow, the actor revealed an early idea for Malcolm Merlyn to be Oliver Queen’s real father. However, it was considered too much like Star Wars. Instead, Barrowman’s husband Scott suggested that Thea be Merlyn’s daughter, which everybody loved. Of the wrinkles that revelation will add to the family dynamic in the third season, Barrowman teased: “You are in for the most dysfunctional yet awesome and seriously wicked father-daughter relationship on television.”
Saying he’d read the first script for Season 3 the night before, Barrowman wanted to be careful not to mention anything he would “get shot for.” He danced around the stage excitedly trying to figure out what he could tell the Comic-Con audience, before settling on that the third season picks up exactly where the previous one left off, with Thea and Malcom in the back of the limo.
He then fielded a question about the fantasy series he and his sister launched from the novel Hollow Earth. Although he explained he loves developing the outline and characters for the novels, Carole does the writing. He said he’s happy to be in a position where they could publish these books together. The next book will be released next year in the United States, and they’ve been commissioned by the publisher for four more novels that will focus on the young twin characters as they reach young adulthood.
Veering a little off-topic, Barrowman got personal when asked about his favorite superhero.
“I’m going to tell you a secret: We have superhero outfits [at home],” he said to applause from the room. “Sometimes I’m Captain America. Sometimes I’m Robin. I have been known on the occasion to be Wonder Woman.” However, the crowd cheered loudest when Barrowman revealed he and his husband own outfits for Captain Jack outfit and the Doctor.
Realizing he didn’t answer the question, he pointed to his shirt. “I am a Captain America fan, but I also love Flash,” he said as he removed the orange Cap shirt to show a Flash shirt beneath.
The applause for The Flash led Barrowman to talk about the new CW series. “The fact that we have two worlds, Sterling City and Central City, together now in this universe, I know I can say this, that there will be crossovers,” he said, adding, “Because, when I was a kid, how great was it that the [Six Million Dollar] Man and the Bionic Woman would crossover and the old Oscar Goldman would link them together?”
When asked whether he will return to Doctor Who, Barrowman said that’s a question for the producers. “If I had sat around and waited for them to ask me back, I’d be bankrupt,” he said, adding that the Arrow producers are big Who fans and would try to accommodate his schedule if he were asked back.
Earlier in the panel, Barrowman said he didn’t like answering “favorite questions,” but when asked about his favorite Doctor, he didn’t hold back. “That’s such an easy question. It really is. … I love the Doctors. I’ve known them for a very long time … but my favorite Doctor is David Tennant,” he said, to some of the loudest applause of the afternoon.
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