John Barrowman on homophobia, duvet days and marriage
It's difficult to know where to begin with John Barrowman. A born entertainer with a Cheshire cat smile, over the last three decades, he's mastered stage and screen on both sides of the Atlantic. From leading roles in West End musicals to guest presenting This
Morning, either side of his star-making turns in Doctor Who and Torchwood, Barrowman returned to our screens recently as an antagonist in Marvel's hit show Arrow.
One of the great show business chameleons, his appearance on 2018's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here... felt long-overdue. Here, he reveals all about stage presence, star quality, and stamping out stigma and stereotype...
You do have this very effervescent personality...
"I appreciate that you said effervescent - most people use the word flamboyant and I can't stand it. In the old days they would say homosexual. They don't do that so much anymore, now they say 'flamboyant'."
Have you come up against much homophobia in the course of your career?
"Yeah, I have. I'm a strong person and I was never going to let it define me or change who I was. If I know I didn't get a job for that reason, then that's a problem, but the more people are unapologetic about who they are, the better off we'll be.
"I was one of the first to come out and play a hero on a major TV show, so it was kind of groundbreaking. The homophobia still somewhat exists, but it's not as bad as it used to be, and there are more people represented on TV now who are trans, bi, gay and lesbian. The one thing I ask is that they don't stereotype people. We do have stereotypes in every part of society, but we don't always have to play that on television."
Were you conscious when you came out that you were doing something groundbreaking - did it weigh heavily on your mind?
"Yeah, because I came out almost by accident. I said it during an interview, and the guy just stopped and said, 'you do realise you've just come out'. I said, 'I'm in my late 20s, I live with another man, we have three dogs that are groomed better than people, we live in Chelsea, and I'm in musical theatre. What more clues do you need?'"
In the past, you've spoken about spotting that 'it' quality in others - is that something you can identify in yourself?
"I'm going to be blunt - I know I have something that means when I walk on stage, people look at me. I don't know what it is, but I have it, and I know how to make it work. There are some people that don't like it, but they've got a remote control. Change the channel - don't go online and moan about it when you watched the whole programme. If someone criticises the way I play a role, I might take a little notice, but if they're saying they just find me loud and obnoxious, I don't tend to bother about it."
Do you ever struggle to switch 'it' on? Or suffer from low energy?
"I know how to turn it off and on, but there are times when I'm quiet and I have duvet days like everybody else. I'm fortunate that I can have my duvet days, then get up and move forward - I know some people need other kinds of help with that. If you do need help, you need to get out there and speak with somebody. When I'm having a duvet day, sometimes I'll go online and say 'hey guys, I'm having a down day'. It's good to let people know how you feel."
How do you stay fit and keep your energy levels high - do you have a strict diet or exercise programme?
"I don't really worry about stuff like that anymore. I'll swim in the pool, take the dogs for a walk - I've got a bit of a midriff that you get when you're over 50. I think the most important thing is to stay active and keep doing stuff. When people watched me in the jungle, I
wasn't the six-pack person that I was ten years ago - I've got a one-pack now. I used to be in the gym every day for an hour and a half - if I needed to go back to that, I could, but at the moment, I don't feel I have to."
Do you get much time for holidays?
"Not regularly, so I turn my work trips into mini-holidays. I love city breaks, and I've been to Sydney four or five times over the last couple of years. I also love going back to Scotland, finding secret corners and wee nooks and crannies... I think people forget they have a lot of places to visit in their own town - I have a vacation every day!"
You've done so many different things in your career - has that been deliberate or just part of a natural progression?
"I'd say it's a combination of both. I've never wanted to be pigeonholed, and when I started out, it was very rare for musical theatre people to move into television. I was never going to allow anyone to define my career for me - I was going to give things a try and if it worked, it worked, and if it didn't, it didn't."
Did you always want to pursue this career path?
"Yeah, I've always wanted it, and I've never really wanted to be anything else. At one point I wanted to be an airline pilot, but then puberty hit and I realised it was the pilot in the uniform that I liked."
Did you have role models - performers you wanted to be like?
"I didn't really. I admired people for what they did - and if I had to pick one, it would be Gene Kelly - but I wouldn't say I wanted to be like him. I just wanted to perform. I've always been pretty driven about what I wanted to do. I think it's my Scottish upbringing - we're grafters."
Do you have a fundamental secret that helps you live a happy life?
"If I did, I would bottle it, sell it and I'd be a gazillionaire. Be your true self, and realise that not everyone is going to like you. That's a big lesson in life - I know that not everyone is going to like me and I don't give a s**t about it."
Finally, what's your secret to a happy marriage?
"Don't try to change each other - that's the big thing. Scott and I are two individuals living together - I don't try to change him, and he doesn't try to change me."
TUI enlisted John Barrowman to bring the 'Holiday Feeling' to life, showing holidaymakers exactly what the holiday feeling is during a stay at the TUI SENSATORI Resort Punta Cana. To find out more and watch the "fab-u-lous" film, visit tui.co.uk/theholidayfeeling