John Barrowman: ‘my boss asked me to pretend I wasn’t gay’ 

The one lesson I’ve learned from life: John Barrowman says ‘my boss asked me to pretend I wasn’t gay’

  • John Barrowman who lives in Palm Springs, is famous for starring in Doctor Who
  • Actor, 53, was told not to mention being gay whole working on a U.S. series
  • He says experience made him determined to work harder for roles he wanted

Glasgow-born actor and performer John Barrowman, 53, is most famous for playing Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. He took part in I’m a Celebrity 2018 and is currently a judge on ITV’s Dancing On Ice. He lives in Palm Springs, California, with his husband, Scott Gill.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you have to be yourself. I grew up as a people pleaser and it can be draining.

In college, I had this friend who used to try so hard to get people to like her that she was not able to make decisions based on what she wanted.

I thought, ‘Is that me, too?’ One day I was talking to my dad about her and he said, ‘You know what? Not everybody’s going to like you. Do your best to get people to enjoy who you are, but don’t change for them.’ It resonated with me.

John Barrowman (pictured) who lives in Palm Springs, revealed how a producer telling him not to speak about being gay, made him determined to work even harder for the roles he wanted

In 1995, I got one of my first big telly jobs, on a U.S. series called Central Park West. Up until then I hadn’t publicly talked about coming out. I was living with my boyfriend, Scott, now my husband, in Chelsea, New York, I worked in musical theatre and we had a dog — I mean, how many more clues do you need?

Midway through the first season, I was called in by the producers. They asked me if I would not talk about being gay.

I was told that one of the best things that could happen would be if I was pictured collapsed in a gutter with a prostitute. One of the strangest things is that I was being asked to do this by a man, a producer, who I knew was gay.

So I said to Scott, ‘They want me not to talk about you anymore. They want me to lie about who I am.’

But I knew too many people who were living a lie. I continued to go places with Scott and to talk about him.

And then I got the script for the last two episodes. My character had been in a fire or a car crash, and the role was going to be recast. I’d been fired.

That made me more determined to work even harder for roles I wanted.

Years later, theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh said to me, over dinner one night — not in these exact words, but — ‘I admire what you’ve done. You’ve just been yourself the whole time, and you’ve hidden nothing.’ That makes me feel good. 

Dancing On Ice continues on Sundays on ITV. 


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