There’s nobody like John Barrowman.
Whether he’s performing at the opening of the Commonwealth games (where he emerged from under a giant kilt!) or making a splash at Comic Con (where, for TVFanatic, I was interviewing him and he decided to flirt with my cameraman) or talking about his role as villainous Malcolm Merlyn on the CW hit series “Arrow,” he’s always full of joy, entertainment and clearly loves what he does.
And while he’s been known for years for his work on popular series like “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood,” and “Desperate Housewives,” as well as his singing career and hosting duties (he recently hosted the ABC series “Sing Your Face Off”), the fact that he’s now a series regular on “Arrow” may be changing things.
Before a busy day of press for “Arrow” and his own booth signing at this past weekend’s Comic Con, I sat down with Barrowman to talk his now-infamous smooch at the Commonwealth games, straight actors playing gay roles and vice versa and what we’ll see this season in “Arrow.”
Let’s talk fun stuff first. I was looking at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. You must have been out of your mind having the best time of your life.
John Barrowman: Oh, my God. I was. First of all, to be asked to do it. And I’ve known for a while, like six months, that I was going to be doing it, but to do that to represent the country of my birth and to celebrate Scotland in the United Kingdom, it was just amazing. But who knew that it would be such a blow up. I’ll explain to you how it all happened. I read the script and everything, and it said that we were doing Gretna Green, which, for those of you who don’t know, it’s where people in the older days went to get married because they were too young to get married in England, so they came to Scotland, right?
So we were representing, and the group of people, lesbian couples, we had straight couples, and then the male gay couple was meant to be the guy running up while I was in the truck and kissing me, and I said, “That’s going to get lost.” I said, “And you know what? I think it’s 42 of the 53 Commonwealth states, countries, are homophobic, and homosexuality is illegal.” I said, “So rather than doing it that way. It would be sensational, let’s put it right down in front. This is my idea. Put it right in the front, and then let’s say right after it, so it’s not like we’re just doing it for the sake of doing it, but say ‘here’s to equality in Scotland’ because the laws have been passed here and we can then make a momentous move for the rest of the Commonwealth to do that.” Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It was amazing.
It was fantastic. And you’re outfit was amazing. Your jacket.
JB: Mixed opinions about the outfit. It’s Scottish. And it’s OTT and it’s fun and it’s big.
Tell me about this year’s Comic Con experience for you. Does it feel different?
JB: It’s going to another level.
Is that because of “Arrow?”
JB: I don’t know. I think it’s because of “Arrow” and also because “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood” are now also being played again and again and again. So it’s even younger audiences getting to know things. I’ve been recognized before but in the hotel when I arrived yesterday, I was just mobbed. They had to get security out to get me up [to my room].
Talk to me about what’s coming for Malcolm in the new season of “Arrow.”
JB: Having done the “Arrow” panel last night, it was said by Andrew [Kreisberg, executive producer], and I was listening very intently to hear what I could say and what I can’t say, but we pick up right after that initial moment of her getting in the car and seeing my face. We start right there. We go back and we start there and then move forward.
Malcolm in the past, has always used his power, his money, his prowess to manipulate and to destroy people. And what happened was he wasn’t able to capture people’s emotions. So this time, he’s going to go for the emotional level because he lost his son, because Tommy got emotional, fell in love and that was it.
I’m guessing Malcolm will have a big effect on Thea. What’s Thea’s effect going to be on Malcolm?
JB: Thea, in Malcolm’s eyes, is the last thing that he loves that he knows about and that he’s been keeping an eye on. So I do know some what’s going to happen, and what I can tell you is it’s going to be shocking, really, really shocking. What a father would do to a daughter and vice versa.
There was a nice little gay element of “Arrow” last season with Sara and Nyssa.
JB: I know. I liked it.
It was very organic. It didn’t feel like a statement. It was just a nice moment.
JB: It’s life.
I’m hoping they find other ways to do that, because I know Caity’s back. Hopefully, Katrina will be back soon.
JB: This is John talking and the characters, they have to do what they have to do to get what they want so they’ll do it. Anything goes in a way. But I seriously think Malcolm is a ladies man. And I think that’s nice for me to be able to play.
There’s always a lot of talk about straight actors playing gay characters, gay actors playing straight characters, and I feel like it’s becoming such a nonissue now, because there’s no reason to make this an example of anything.
JB: Well, no. There’s not. And also, some straight guys play gay guys really badly. And some gay guys play straight guys really badly. And there’s few and far in between that can do it quite well. And it’s just being a guy. That’s what it is. It’s just being a guy. And you know, I did work with somebody, I won’t mention who it is, but a very big producer who said he would never hire gay men to play straight men. And I’m like “you’re a gay man yourself. How can you sit there and say that?”
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
Got a comment for the LGBT site? Tweet @JimHalterman with your question.