Out entertainer John Barrowman is known as a TV presenter, musical theatre star and science fiction author. But it is his role as the bisexual Captain Jack Harkness in the hit series Torchwood for which he is most renowned. As the show finally gets the Hollywood touch, he speaks to Nate Micó and reveals Captain Jack is back in all his glory - and he means all.
John Barrowman is a triple threat in the entertainment industry. A TV presenter, musical theatre star and co-author of young-adult sci-fi books, it seems there’s nothing the Scottish-born, Illinois-raised actor can’t do.
But it is his portrayal of the bisexual, immortal ex-conman Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood that has made the openly-gay 44-year-old an international star.
A spin-off from the long-running series Doctor Who, Torchwood follows the exploits of the ‘Torchwood Institute’, a secret organisation that looks into strange and inexplicable phenomena that threaten the human race.
Now, after a two-year wait, Torchwood is back thanks to a partnership between BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide and the US cable entertainment network, Starz.
Despite boasting a massive new budget and more episodes, Torchwood fans reacted warily to the collaboration. Online forums went into overdrive as fans debated the effect the partnership would have on their beloved series. Many feared the show would become too “Americanised”, or more to the point, the American stakeholders would tone down Captain Jack’s robust bisexual love life to appease the new US audience.
“If that was the case then I wouldn’t have done the show,” Barrowman tells SX.
“I don’t think Russel T Davies [the show’s creator and executive producer] would have agreed to do the series either. The wonderful thing about Starz is they didn’t say no to anything. They told us to go for it. If anything, they wanted us to push things further.”
And further they went, says Barrowman.
“Let’s be blunt, a bigger budget meant we get bigger action scenes. The audience is going to need a forklift truck to pick their jaws off the ground.”
Last season’s Children of Earth saw Jack Harkness, his lover Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), ex-police officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and her husband Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) battle an horrific alien menace called ‘The 456’. Our heroes won the battle but not without consequence, such as the death of many, including Ianto. With Torchwood disbanded, a guilt-ridden Jack leaves Earth, while a pregnant Gwen and Rhys go into hiding to start a new life.
The new series picks up eighteen months later. Gwen is a mother and living in seclusion from the world, while Jack is still missing in action. The series “touches on Ianto’s death and what effect that has had on Captain Jack but it's not relevant to this particular story”, Barrowman says. “But that’s not to downplay their relationship.”
With new cast members Mekhi Phifer as CIA agent Rex Matheson and Bill Pullman as Oswald Danes, a child-killer turned messiah, the drama begins on a day quickly dubbed ‘Miracle Day’: a 24-hour period when all across the world, no one dies – not from old age, disease nor injury.
While that might sound like a good thing, the side effects of the population boom soon become apparent: food shortages, lack of shelter and a crumbling economy reveal the dark side of humans and the terrible things we are capable of under the influence of fear and corruption.
And so begins the new Torchwood story.
Barrowman, who tied the knot with his long-term partner, architect Scott Gill, in a civil ceremony in 2006, also reveals the audience will see a whole lot more of Jack.
“I am full-on naked in one episode bumping and grinding and having man-sex. The true die-hard fans know Jack is omnisexual – he likes men and women – but in this series, the audience will think Jack is gay, because he just has full-on man-sex,” he laughs.