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FAN EXPO: John Barrowman Takes Center Stage in Loud & Lurid Panel

John Barrowman kisses Space Channel host Ajay Fry, to the delight of co-moderator Cynthia Loyst (photos by Arman Aghbali)

John Barrowman walked on stage at Fan Expo Canada to a screaming audience, grabbed the head of moderator Ajay Fry and kissed him on the lips. The Torchwood star then yelled for fans to cheer louder, a request they happily obliged.

“That was fucking awesome,” he said as he sat down. “I apologize now for swearing, but I am what I am. You should just get over it.”

Barrowman, best known for playing Captain Jack Harkness Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood, is a force of id. He does what he wants, when he wants, and laughs frequently. His question-and-answer session was loud and lurid, as he discussed his upcoming role on The CW superhero drama Arrow, the creation of Captain Jack and his experiences as a gay actor in television.

He had to be cagey about Arrow, based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow, as the pilot was being screened at the same time as his panel. However, he could discuss the basic elements of his characters.

“More is going to be revealed about him, but he’ll be pivotal to the program,” he said. His character is called “The Well-Dressed Man,” although his role in the story is unknown. “I’m glad I’m going into another kind of realm of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s time to create another cool character.”

Based on the applause, the crowd already adored him for playing Captain Jack, and moderator Cynthia Loyst wondered, “How much of John is in Jack?”

Cynthia Loyst, John Barrowman and Ajay Fry

Barrowman raised an eyebrow and asked, “Do you want to rephrase that?” He took the question anyway.

“I’m really proud that Russell [T. Davies], Steven Moffat, Jane Espenson and anyone involved in the writing for Captain Jack got to know me first, and then they put my personality into Jack. So there’s a lot of John in Jack, and a lot of Jack in John,” he said, grinning. “The only thing I don’t do is go around the street shooting people in the head.”

Barrowman delighted in double entendre, even as the questions move from ones his roles to his sexual orientation. He disagreed with a comment that science fiction is the sole bastion of gay characters, believing that mainstream roles have become more diverse in the past few years. Once again, he thanked the Torchwood and Doctor Who writers for making him “a hero and not a flouncing queen.”

Yet, being a gay actor is more complicated than playing a gay character. Barrowman recounted the time upper management sent a producer, who was also gay, to advise him to be less public about his sexual orientation. He consulted his long-term partner, who stepped aside and told Barrowman that the choice was his to make.

“Well, I’m not going to ask [him] to hide, and go to a function and pretend to have a girl in my arms just because some people aren’t comfortable with it. That’s not my problem,” Barrowman said, adding that the management team didn’t like his choice. “You know what? That’s their bad. If they want to write me out of a show because of that, then I don’t care. I don’t want to be in a show with people like that.”

Even when he discussed his sexuality, talk never stayed serious for too long. Barrowman laughed as he tried to explain an adventure he had the night before. He and his partner had decided to call for a taxi, and midway through the ride, the driver figured out his passenger was somehow famous. Barrowman clarified that he was on Torchwood.

The driver nodded, then said, “I’ve heard of that one. Didn’t they take that off the air because that guy was gay?”

“No, no, we don’t know if it’s coming back yet or not, so it’s still up in the air,” Barrowman recalled saying. “But you know, they didn’t off the air because that guy was gay, because I am that guy.”

The driver quickly tried to take back the remark, just as the car leaped down the street.

“His foot slipped off the brake, onto the accelerator. We nearly hit the car in front of us,” he said. His face was a bright red. “Anyway, I love Canada. … Did I tip him? No. I took some gum off my pants and put it on the seat.”


  • Jack O’Dea

    :O What about his partner!? I hope he was okay with that lol.

  • Demoncat4

    nice that john kept his sense of humor about the taxi driver and told that one exec to shove it he was not going to hide who he is though wonder how john husband felt about the taxi ride hope he brings back captain jack for whos 50th ann next year

  • The Truth

    So, what exactly was “lurid” here? A few double entendres?Those routinely happy at comic book panels, but usually it’s about Power Girl’s breasts. So when it’s a gay guy, it becomes “lurid”? That’s pretty offensive.

  • Aghbali

    It made more sense when the story included a part where he went to a strip club and described what it was like to get a lap dance, followed by a demonstration, in which he simulated the experience on the moderator. I cut that stuff out and then couldn’t think of a better word. Sorry, need a better thesaurus.

  • TheBalzan

     Honestly he started the panel by making out with the moderator, that’s pretty lurid (be they man or woman). Sounds like a pretty funny panel. Bravo for standing by his standards when pushed. He was the best new thing to come to Doctor Who besides Tennant.

  • Lenne

    eh. From what I’ve witnessed in people, good marriages understand these types of things as nothing more than fun, becuae both people involved in that partnership understand each other so well they know their other half would never hurt them in that way, because they’d never suddenly be blindsided by a need to. They look quite fetching together, Mister John andhis lovely husband. I wish I could meet them; they seem nice.

  • Jason

    I was in the Q&A and it was hilarious.  I am a huge Captain Jack fan and John Barrowman stole the convention.  Even in his Photo Op lines he had people laughing and buzzing.  His Photo Op’s were hilarious for the most part.