He looks like a hero – handsome and witty with a killer smile – but Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) hides a secret. He is immortal. That is, until Miracle Day happens and, while everyone else in the world is not dying, Jack becomes mortal. Although he thought he had left the Torchwood Institute behind, when this new, epic danger affects the whole planet, Jack finds himself reunited with Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and at the center of events, fighting not just for his own life, but for everyone on Earth.
During a recent interview to promote the debut of Torchwood: Miracle Day on Starz, actor John Barrowman talked about Jack’s mental state after the events of last season, how easy it is for him to get back into the character, doing as many of his own stunts as he’s allowed, and what he would do himself, if he knew he couldn’t die. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
JOHN BARROWMAN: Jack is coming back from his travels. We don’t know what he has done. That is something that maybe will be explored one day, but probably that’s just a piece in time where we figure he has dealt with some of his issues and he has come back to planet Earth to keep the Torchwood name below the radar. He knows that this Torchwood thing hurts people and destroys relationships. So, he knows that Gwen Cooper is still alive, and he’s protecting her from a distance , unbeknownst to her. He’s really the guardian, keeping it all under wraps and not letting it come out. There is a mental state with him, where he is determined not to let anybody else get hurt, and not allow bad things to happen through this organization. Although he loves the organization, it’s had its course and he’s trying to keep it quiet.
How easy was it to slip Jack Harkness back on, as a character?
BARROWMAN: Jack Harkness is so easy to slip back on because it’s like his coat – it’s very easy to put your arms in and wear it. And, it’s such a part of me that it comes very naturally.
With four seasons now, how do you manage to keep this character not only fresh and exciting, but also challenging?
BARROWMAN: The thing that I enjoy most about being Captain Jack, and working with Russell and everybody else, is that every time I get a new script, I’m learning something new about the character. I’m not one of those actors who likes to analyze things too much, so I trust what the writers and what Russell are doing with the characters, in order to give them their journey. My job is to come in and try to make those words on the page come alive on camera. What we all have that we do is bring a little bit of our personalities to those characters, and that’s what connects with the audience and lifts the words that are brilliantly written, off of the page. So, it’s a collaboration, but it’s also a trust. We get the words and the words are beautifully written, and then we can build from there. That’s why it works.
With Miracle Day, Jack becomes mortal and can die. Do you think that prompts him to see his relationship with Gwen Cooper in a new light? Is she suddenly more important to have in his life because his days are now numbered?
BARROWMAN: I think Jack has always thought of Gwen as being important because, initially, Gwen was the heart that he brought in, in order to teach him how to be more connected to the human race again. And now, we’ve moved on to a fact where Jack is at risk of dying. Over time, he hasn’t really come to terms with his immortality, and now, all of a sudden, he’s now mortal and he realizes that he liked being immortal and loved the life that he had. So, he needs protection, and Gwen is the right one to protect him. He needs her and she also needs him because it’s 50/50. They have their team and their partnership, and he very much needs her to step up to the plate to save him from any harm, but he finds it very difficult not to get involved because he has to stop himself and think, “I could hurt myself here.” So, it’s a really nice, new dynamic that develops, and you learn an awful lot about Gwen and Jack and their relationship, in this series.
There is that moment where Jack realizes that he is mortal and, intellectually, he should be relieved, but there was a distinct look of fear. What do you think was going on in Jack’s head, in that moment?
BARROWMAN: In regards to him discovering his mortality, yes there was an element of fear in his face because it’s something he’s never experienced before. Until the point where he became mortal, he never really had that moment of fear. To have to realize that his body wasn’t healing and that he could die, it was also a moment of confusion because how does he deal with that? How does he handle this situation? What can he do? He’s always been the one who has been the man who put himself in front of harm’s way to help people, and has really gone boldly into those situations, not fearing any of it. And, all of a sudden, he can’t do that. So, it’s also a little bit of excitement there too because he can experience a lot of things that he’s never experienced before. That’s what’s really wonderful about the journey with Jack, when this discovery happens. He starts not only having a little bit of fear, but he also starts to live a little. That’s what was really nice about the whole aspect of that idea.
BARROWMAN: Absolutely! I love playing those kinds of stories. It allows me to alter Jack a little bit and look into how he has become the man who he is now. I like to go back into the history because I am also a fan of the genre myself and I enjoy that kind of in-depth look into the characters, whether it be just with Jack, or whether it’s looking into more about Gwen Cooper or Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer). So, things like that are exciting. As the actor to play those, I’m always up for what I call time travel through past history. I love it.
Are there any concerns about uptight people in the States not embracing a bisexual male as a lead character?
BARROWMAN: I don’t have any concerns. Because I play the character, my answer would be that if you watch it and you don’t like it, you have a choice to change to another channel. But, I guarantee you that for the people who do watch it, it’s not even a big issue within the show itself. It’s just part of the character and who he is, and it’s part of who people are in their everyday, real lives. Men sleep with men, and men sleep with women, and women sleep with women. It’s part of what our society is. That’s one thing that’s wonderful about Torchwood. We reflect that in the scripts that are written by Russell and the writers, and we reflect it in the characters. We have Gwen Cooper, who is a mother and has a tough job, and she’s a hero herself. We have a doctor. We have a publicist. We’ve got all sorts of stuff, and we’re a representative of people out there, so I think people will recognize themselves in the character. Am I worried? No. The people who usually complain are the people who will never watch the program and they just like to open their mouths and spew out blurb.
BARROWMAN: If it involves jumping off a high building, they said no. Anything else, they were game for us to try it.
Does your family watch Torchwood? Are there any moments you’re looking forward to them getting to see this season?
BARROWMAN: My partner doesn’t watch it. I tie him down to the sofa to make him watch it. I say, “You’re going to watch this and I don’t care what you say.” No. There are a lot of moments in there that are references to things that have happened in the past. There are references to the Doctor. There is a lovely moment where Jack and Gwen have this conversation over the telephone, and Jack is spilling his heart out to her a little bit, and he doesn’t know that she is then talking to her baby on screen. That is a moment for me. Also, there is the big moment when Jack and Gwen lock eyes, for the first time in a long time, when she comes running out of the house in Wales and he is standing there with a gun in a Land Rover, ready for her to jump on board. That there is the beginning of it all again. The other little exciting bit is just a quirky little thing for me, being a fan geek myself, when Jack is covering as a CIA agent and he calls himself Owen Harper.
If you, personally, knew that you couldn’t die, what one crazy thing would you do?
BARROWMAN: That’s hard. You know, I have an answer to that. I guess it just popped into my head. I live my life openly and freely every day anyway, and do what I want to do, but I don’t take any great risks. So, if I knew that we weren’t going to die, I would take the greater risk, but I wouldn’t injure myself. I’d still have an element of control. So, maybe I would jump out of an airplane, but into the ocean, to see how far I could go down into the sea. And then, I would swim because I wouldn’t die and I would be able to swim under water.