It was more than two decades ago that John Barrowman was cast as Peter Fairchild on the CBS prime-time soap, Central Park West, created by Darren Star. Barrowman had already been a huge hit on the London stage but was new to US TV viewers. He had begun his relationship with now-husband Scott Gill, but the public knew little about Barrowman’s personal life in this still largely pre-Internet time.
While accepting the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award last weekend during Palm Springs Pride, Barrowman recalled producers sitting him down in a room one day and saying: ‘We don’t want you to talk about your life.’
‘I’m not going to mention any names but you would all know who he is – gay himself – told me to keep quiet,’ Barrowman told the HRC crowd, clearly referring to Darren Star who also created Sex and the City and is openly gay.
At that point, Barrowman was out to his friends and family and people in the industry knew.
He recalled talking about it with Gill that night and saying:”I do not want to live a lie.’
‘That was the day everything changed. I did lose my job – they wrote the character out of the show.’
But he remained undaunted.
‘I was going to have a soapbox, I was going to have a career, I was going to live out, I was going to live proud,’ he said. ‘I was a gay man who worked in the television industry and I was never going to apologize to anyone for who I was and who I am.’
He went on to be cast on NBC’s short-lived Titans in 2000, two years after losing out on the role of Will in Will & Grace because producers reportedly felt he was ‘too straight.’
But Barrowman never gave up and mixed theater roles with jobs on TV hosting and recorded several albums.
Then his TV career had a huge boost in 2005 when he began playing Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and a year later was given his own spinoff, Torchwood.
Since 2012, Barrowman has played Malcolm Merlyn in The CW’s Arrow as well as on the spinoffs, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.