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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 505 > JACK and JOHN

JACK and JOHN

On Torchwood’s 10th anniversary, Captain Jack actor John Barrowman reveals why he’s on a quest to return...

I’m on Skype to John Barrowman. Hello, Harkness, my old friend. “You’ve got a fan,” he says, from his home in Palm Springs, in southern California. “I love Doctor Who Magazine, and that’s why I want to do this.” And the Captain Jack actor, 49, knows a thing or two about being a fan. I can see his full-size, black Dalek from here, skulking in the corner of the room behind him. “There he is,” beams John. “That’s the one from the show. If I’m correct, that’s the one that shot me.” If it is, it’s had some work done. The Dalek that exterminated Jack in 2005 Doctor Who episode The Parting of the Ways – before ‘Bad Wolf’ Rose Tyler brought him back to life, rendering him immortal – was a bronze model. “When I wanted one, I had to buy it, obviously,” persists John, “and they said, ‘Which one do you want?’ I said, ‘I want the one that shot Jack. I want the one that made history.’ But also – I don’t know if you can see –” He moves his webcam closer to the Dalek. “On the front, I had them put –”

Is that… the Torchwood logo?

“Yeah! I said, ‘Can you put it on the front? – because no other Dalek will have that.’ It’s very special. How cool is that?”

Reckon you’re Captain Jack’s biggest fan? Well, you’re not. John is. His Doctor Who collection is bigger than yours. The Dalek is its crowning glory. He owns more Captain Jack merchandise than you do. And he’s written more Captain Jack fan-fiction than you have. Some of it has been published. He’s even named one of his beloved dogs after La Harkness – Captain Jack, an eight-year-old rescued Jack Russell from Cardiff Dogs Home. You haven’t done that. What’s more, John can cosplay as the fifty-first-century Time Agent at the drop of a hat – or, on occasion, the drop of a World War Two RAF cap.

“I did it the other day,” he confesses, “in a photo op. Somebody brought along a Captain Jack coat. Although it wasn’t my coat, it was the same length, it was the same feel, it was a really good replica, and, literally, when I put it on… I looked at the photograph afterwards, and I’d just somehow hit the right pose. I was Jack. You couldn’t see my clothes underneath, so it looked as though this guy was with Captain Jack. Putting on Jack’s coat is like –” A spiritual experience?

“Yeahhh. Well, kind of,” he chuckles. “Jack’s personality is like wearing an old coat – it just comes flooding back.”

John loves dressing up. You’ll have seen the photos of him at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, cosplaying as – among others – Marvel superhero Squirrel Girl [right], DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, and Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan [below]. “I’m a big fan of all things geek and nerd,” he attests. “When I do the conventions, I’m there for the fans, but also the fans are coming to see me enjoy the convention, so I like to dress up. It’s fun. It’s me letting the fans see that I’m just like them; I’m just a big idiot. I guess that’s why the fans appreciate it. Not many people – and I’m just saying this, no pun intended – would have the nuts to dress up as Squirrel Girl. But I was hosting the Eisner Awards [the comicbook industry’s equivalent of the Oscars], and I said, ‘I want to dress up in a different genre costume for each presentation.’ Everyone said, ‘Oh, he won’t do it,’ and I’m like, ‘Screw it, of course I’ll do it.’ Well, the fans loved it. Oh my God, it went viral.”

How does John choose his outfits?

“I pick things that are niche, that I know certain people will get and others may not. In my drawer in the office I’ve got Squirrel Girl comicbooks. I know Squirrel Girl. That costume took a lot. I had straps and things on to hold the tail. The whole outfit, at the moment, is sitting in the back of my car – I’ve got a Mercedes with a rather big trunk – and the tail is the same size as the trunk! It’s huge. And I did Zapp Brannigan. I wore my Zapp costume to introduce Matt Groening, who created The Simpsons and Futurama. As he walked on, Matt Groening looked at me and went, ‘Only you! Barrowman, I love you.’ I’ve been Zapp three times now. When I cosplay, I like to do what’s called ‘the Barrowman Twist’ – I try to mix it up – so I came on the other day as Zapp, but with white, tacky, high-heel shoes on. It looked great. People are like, ‘You’re wearing high heels?!’ I say, ‘So what? Eddie Izzard has been doing it for years. Prince wore high heels.’ Someone said to me, ‘Yeah, but that’s because Prince was short.’” This summer alone, John’s other cosplays have included Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, at Orlando’s MegaCon; a cross-dressing Darth Vader, at Washington DC’s Awesome Con; both the TARDIS and the Tenth Doctor, at Melbourne’s Oz Comic Con; and a horned, begoggled Pokémon poacher at Chicago’s Wizard World Comic Con. “I’ve been playing Pokémon GO a lot recently,” he explains – he’s Team Valor – “so in Chicago I wore a Pokémon dress, and I had outrageous high-heel shoes on, and horns. And I came on playing Pokémon. Sometimes I put a wig on, too – it’s kind of anime and a bit saucy – and a rainbow tutu. I have people coming up to me going, ‘Aren’t you worried what people will think?’ I say, ‘Who gives a damn what people think?’ That’s what the whole point of cosplay is, isn’t it? To do different things, and be different people, and not be judged for it.

“I’m a big fan of all things geek. I like to dress up. It’s me letting the fans see that I’m just like them.”

“Look, I love the job that I do. I’m doing the job that I absolutely have always dreamed of. The fact is, a lot of people in this industry are doing it solely for the money. We all know them. We’ve met them. And that’s their prerogative. That’s fine. I’m not judging them on that. Of course I know it’s a job, don’t get me wrong… but there’s so much more to it for me than just picking up a paycheck, and you can make it so much more fun if you just kind of, like, let your hair down a little bit.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: An exclusive interview with Captain Jack actor John Barrowman; a preview of the first episodes of the new Doctor Who spin-off Class, featuring an interview with Patrick Ness; a preview of the new animated version of The Power of the Daleks; exclusive chats with Douglas Mackinnon, Daniel O'Hara, Ed Bazalgette and Daniel Nettheim on the art of being a director; The Fact of Fiction looks at 1966's The Savages; brand-new comic strip action for the Twelfth Doctor and Jess in Bloodsport by Mark Wright, illustrated by Staz Johnson; the Time Team watch 2010's The Lodger; the Watcher considers monster voices in Wotcha!; the latest merchandise previewed and reviewed; prize-winning competitions and more.
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