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Denver Comic Con Q&A: John Barrowman talks “Arrow,” what he enjoys about conventions, and much more

June 13, 2018 Updated: June 15, 2018 at 12:30 pm
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John Barrowman. Photo via IMDB

Denver Comic Con runs this Friday through Sunday and it will be loaded with celebrity guests. One of those is a DCC regular - John Barrowman. The British born, American raised actor, writer and performer is best known to U.S. audiences for his roles in “Arrow” and “Doctor Who” but there’s a lot more to Barrowman than Malcom Merlyn or time traveler Captain Jack Harkness. When I talked to Barrowman I found him to be smart, funny, and easy to relate to. Below is a transcript of our conversation. 

Gazette: You’re attend a lot of cons, and have appeared at Denver Comic Con many times. What do you like about attending pop culture conventions?
John Barrowman: Number one, I’m a nerd and a geek at heart so I not only like going because I have a lot of fans who want me to go, I also like going because I like to walk around the conventions myself. Most people know when I am there I do walk around, I like to be treated just like the fans when they’re walking around. But also, I just like meeting the people. I like meeting the people that have given me my success. I like doing my panels, I enjoy entertaining people, making them laugh, and I like hearing peoples’ stories. 

When people come up to me at the table, I stand in front of the table instead of behind it. I give them a hug and I can talk to them. To be honest with you, it’s just a feel good moment for everybody, so why not enjoy doing it? Why not continue to do it? Because there’s a lot of people who don’t give that extra effort, but I enjoy doing it so why not do a lot of them?

Gazette: Do you ever get to socialize with other celebrities at cons?
JB: We do sometimes. Sometimes we socialize when we’re on the plane, we socialize at the bar in the evening, but other times I just go and do my thing. For me, it’s not about socializing or partying, for me its to be there for the fans. If I can socialize with the celebrities, fine, but sometimes I’ll just go back to the hotel at night and go to bed. That’s what my focus is.  

However, when some of us get together, certain cast members, we do like to have a ruckus, we do like to go out and maybe go out to a karaoke bar. We have been known to cause a little bit of turmoil in the cities that we’re in, which is kind of fun. 

Gazette: What cast members would those be?
JB: I’m not going to tell you those secrets but everyone who reads this will know its either cast from “Torchwood” or cast from “Arrow.”

Gazette: Last time we saw Malcom Merlyn, he was stepping on a mine on Lian Yu to save Thea’s life. It seemed like that was the end of the Dark Archer. That said, this is “Arrow,” where people thought to be dead aren’t. Have we really seen the last of Malcom Merlyn? 
JB: I have no idea but if they ask me back I would happily go back as long as all the "t’s" were crossed and the "i’s" were dotted. But it’s not up to me, it's up to the writers. I understand the writing team has all changed, some of the production team has changed. So you never know. I do know that the fans have been saying, all over the country, that they want Malcom Merlyn back, they miss him. If they write me a good story, I’d be happy to do it. In fact, my sister and I have talked about it and we’d even like to write the episodes. 

Gazette: You’d be up for that?
JB: My sister and I have written nine novels together, we do the “Torchwood” comics for Titan Comics, we’ve done about five series of those. We also wrote the backstory for DC for the Malcom Merlyn comic book. (Quick note - John’s sister is Carole Barrowman, an English professor at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI. Carole also writes a crime fiction column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.) 

Gazette: Like most Americans I got to know you as an actor through “Arrow” and “Doctor Who,” so I was surprised to learn that you have got your start in musical theater. How did you go from “Hair” and “Miss Saigon” to shooting arrows and time traveling?
JB: It was a longer progression than you think as in the United Kingdom I hosted a lot of shows for maybe 15 years before “Doctor Who” even started. I also had my own entertainment/variety show that was one of the most popular shows on Saturday nights for the BBC. I did that for about five years. I hosted the most popular children’s live TV show from 9 in the morning to 12 in the afternoon every Saturday morning. So I’ve done quite a bit of other stuff. And then I was in a show in the West End and Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collins wanted to see me for “Doctor Who” for Captain Jack and that’s how it all started. It was a progression that took time but I was doing different types of television for a long time. 

Gazette: What projects are you currently working on?
JB: Right now I’m doing the graphic novels with my sister and we’ve been going to different networks and movie companies for the series of books that my sister and I have written, the “Hollow Earth” series, for that to be made and put on the screen.

I’ve been doing convention stuff. I’ve kind of taken a little bit of a break, in a sense. But when I say a break, I filmed a TV show with a couple of people in the UK, which is going to be released this summer, so there’s other stuff. It’s not just all America centric, I work all over. 

Gazette: For fans coming to Denver Comic Con, what can they look forward to when they see you this weekend?
JB: If they come to the panel they know its always going to be riotous and fun and outrageous. As we say, anything goes. My photo ops are renowned. You’re paying for the photo op, you ask for what you want, I’ll try to provide as long as its within reason. Basically you’ll have a great time if you’re coming to get the John Barrowman experience. And that’s something I guarantee and people know I don’t fail on that guarantee. 

Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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