The indefatigable Torchwood and Doctor Who star joins the US superhero saga this week playing the mysteriously named Well Dressed Man. John tells us about why he wanted to join the show, and what the future holds for Captain Jack Harkness…
Hi John. Now you’re working in the US, what brings you to the UK today?
Well, I was just at Buckingham Palace this morning, doing a thing with Princess Anne for a new charity they want me to get involved in. So I was there being, shall you say, canopy-ed and champagne-d.
What a day! And now you’re talking to TV Choice!
There you go!
So are you based in the States at the moment?
No. This is where the thing gets weird. I’m always based in the UK, but when they hired me for this I was at my home in Palm Springs. That means they’ve hired me as a US artiste, so when I’m in Britain, I have to pay to get myself back to Vancouver where we shoot the show.
We can’t think of many people who have parallel careers on either side of the Pond. You couldn’t have planned that, could you?
Erm, no I couldn’t have planned it, but if you go back to the interviews I did, early in my career in 1989 when I started, I always said I would love to be working six months in the US and six months in the UK, because, obviously, my mum and dad and my brother and sister are in the US and I don’t get to see them. For instance, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve spent a Christmas with my family. But, listen, I am not complaining. I absolutely love my career, I love my life, and, yeah, it’s a nice thing to be able to say I’m working on both sides of the Pond.
So what can you tell me? All we know is he’s called The Well Dressed Man.
And that’s all you’re gonna know!
Oh, come on!
No, I can’t. Honestly. Because, two things — number one, I don’t want to spoil it because I’m a huge fan of this genre and I know I wouldn’t want any spoilers out there. But also, I’m not allowed to tell you!
Was it an easy show to say yes to?
Listen, I knew as soon as I talked with the creators and they asked me to be part of the show and they told me what his storyline was gonna be. And literally, after they told me, with the passion they talked about it, they said, ‘Are you interested?’ I’m like, ‘Shut up! Of course I’m interested!’ I’ve played a hero in Torchwood and Doctor Who and I’ve played the ingénue in my theatre roles. I’ve played a lot of different characters. But this is completely different to anything I’ve ever played before.
Are you in the show for a long stint? This isn’t just for an episode or two?
Oh my God, no. I’m what they call a ‘recurring character’. And, you know — I’m saying this, the network hasn’t and also the producers haven’t — but I’m hoping he will prove to be popular and become a regular. That’s my dream, right? But, who knows?
We spoke to Stephen Amell [who plays the lead character, Oliver Queen] for the first episode.
Isn’t he great?
He is. He said a few things about you!
He said he really respected the way you’d ‘connected with a genre fan base’.
Oh! You know what? That really thrills me.
He also he said, ‘I’d almost like John to be a little bit of a mentor for me, because he’s done it in the right way’.
[Gasps] Ah! That is… I mean… To be honest with you, that’s made the hairs on the back of my arms stand up. Oh, that’s really, really nice. That’s made my day. And it’s actually made me well-up a little.
And the other thing he said was that he was a little bit jealous because the producer, Andrew Kreisberg, was more excited about the fact he’d got Barrowman for the show than Stephen himself…
Well, my answer back to Stephen would be, ‘Stephen, once you’ve done eight years of Arrow, then you can feel that way and that’s when other producers will start talking about you, and creators will start talking about you!’
So, we know the BBC haven’t been in touch with you about making anymore Torchwood, but have they asked you to come back for Doctor Who’s 50th next year?
I haven’t heard anything. There was a rumour online that said I’m not able to do it because of my schedule. But, actually, I haven’t been asked. So it’s nothing to do with my schedule. And to be honest with you — I have time. I’ve always said, if they come to me and ask me to do Doctor Who or Torchwood ever again, I would do it at the drop of a hat.
Lastly, now you’re in this show, are people making lots of ‘John Arrow Man’ jokes?
No. You’re the first one — and can I just tell you, you’re lame!