Alien Sex Fiend

9.4.2007

By Shana Naomi Krochmal

If there's a villain in this story, it's the low expectations TV executives have for their audiences, especially in the United States. Gill describes Barrowman's struggle to break through on American TV as a series of 'false starts,' but it's the polite phrasing of a sympathetic spouse.

His most notable American film role is beautifully played'a young actor who sings for and then seduces Kevin Kline's Cole Porter in De-Lovely'but hardly a major part, or a major stretch.
When Barrowman auditioned for Will & Grace, producers said he was 'too straight' to be believable. But given the way Eric McCormack's heterosexuality provided an easy comfort zone'especially in the wake of Ellen's cancellation'it's not unimaginable that NBC was happy to dodge a double whammy of gay press.

When cast on CBS's short-lived Central Park West, Barrowman was told by the studio not to discuss his sexuality, even though show creator Darren Star is openly gay. Did he follow orders? 'No,' Barrowman says, shortly. 'And you know, maybe it was detrimental to me, but I didn't care. Once you've been put in a position of either the limelight or authority, and you are an honest and truthful human being, you are political.'

Even in the United Kingdom, 'John had an agent before who was very unhappy about my ever appearing with him,' Gill says. Since he signed with Gavin Barker, an openly gay manager'with whom Barrowman agreed he should casually mention Gill during the aforementioned Gay Times interview'his career has soared.

Maybe the combination of Barrowman's naughty wit and Captain Jack's shoot-'em-up sex appeal will be too much for America to resist. Already committed as a host or ice dancer or special guest star to a wildly varied array of British television shows, in addition to Torchwood and a multi-episode arc on the new season of Doctor Who, Barrowman had to turn down a U.S. feature film and the role of Rob Lowe's gay brother on ABC's Brothers & Sisters.

After all, a hero's journey isn't supposed to be easy'and for Barrowman, it was growing up gay that taught him exactly the kind of brave behavior Captain Jack embodies. 'It makes us more compassionate,' he says. 'It's made us grow into stronger people. We are, yeah'' He pauses and then nods emphatically. 'We are heroes. And I love that.'

For exclusive outtakes from Krochmal's original interview with John Barrowman, check out Popnography, Out's pop culture blog.

Torchwood airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America.

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