Celebrities have been an undeniable draw for conventions for years, but none compare to John Barrowman. The Arrow star has a penchant for hosting his own panels (usually the convention will provide a moderator of some kind), his autograph lines overflow with eager fans, and the man actually participates in the convention (instead of sitting behind his table the entire time.) He’s a man that knows his fans hold more of his career in their hands than he does. And he loves every damn minute of it.
He didn’t just walk out onto the stage, the man entered with a fire under him. He jumped and danced and twirled and ran, careful to show that every single fan in the audience could see what he was wearing: a TARDIS skater dress and TARDIS tights. He assured us his TARDIS was bigger on the inside…then showed one lucky lady. While most celebrities just ignore the sign language interpreter, John Barrowman celebrates him, intentionally making fart noises and repeating the phrase “hung like a donkey” just so he can watch the man sign it. That’s something the cameras should have panned to, because I wanted to see it too.
His anecdotes didn’t fall under the celebrity panel norms, he had some brutal truths to lay down on the fans. He explained that in between shooting he lets his natural hair grow back in and the dye fade out, daring asshole fans to tell him he looks old. He never tells fans his favorite anything because he has learned the hard way that his fans never let him forget it. So does he prefer his Captain Jack Harkness or his Malcolm Merlyn? We’ll never know.
While the entire panel was entertaining, the absolute best parts was hearing him discuss his acting methods. There was an obvious difference between Captain Jack on Doctor Who and Captain Jack on Torchwood to the fans, so what was the motivation behind that choice? Barrowman knew that Captain Jack was the team leader in Torchwood, so while he was appearing on Doctor Who, he could forget about the world being on his shoulders and play up the character’s cheekiness instead. He also expressed just how ridiculous he thought actors sound when they discuss their own acting methods, letting us know that he reacts as naturally as possible, which is why all of his characters have just a little bit of himself in them.
Fans were also surprisingly with it, asking him questions about his Scottish background, Strictly Come Dancing, and his recent work in British pantos. He got to reveal a few juicy tidbits like his sister, Carole, and his own shared book series releasing a continuation soon of the Hollow Earth series and his confirmed death in the musical episode of The Flash meaning he’s no longer involved with The CW shows beginning next season, much to the audience’s dislike. Those questions did exist though; you know the ones I’m talking about. The “do you think you’ll ever do this again?” kind of question. And Barrowman laid it out there as brutally honest as he could: If fans want to see a character again, THEY HAVE TO TELL THE SHOWRUNNERS. He encouraged fans to tweet that they want Captain Jack and 12 to interact and that killing off Merlyn in an episode of The Flash when he wasn’t even playing Merlyn was a load of crap. He loves doing the work, but he can’t also do the campaigning.
About halfway through the panel, and right in the middle of a fascinating story about a fan giving John Barrowman a dildo, the pipes and draping came tumbling down like dominoes in slow motion. What could have been a disaster for many other panels was nothing for John. He’s a seasoned actor who has come across so many disasters in his career, he knew exactly how to handle this. First he insisted that every Planet Comicon volunteer get out of the way and stay out of the way, assuring them it was above all their pay grades. The truth is, it had nothing to do with the convention itself, but the contractors that the location, Kansas City’s Bartle Hall, had used. One man, the original sign language interpreter, was confirmed to had injured his hand (of all things he could injure) and while Barrowman seemed to have narrowly escaping injury himself, rumor among con attendees on Sunday was that he was in some pain (no confirmation whether or not it was from the accident or another cause is unknown at this time). Without hesitation, Barrowman hopped off stage and continued the panel, and the dildo story. This did, however, cause the postponing of Summer Glau’s panel.
John Barrowman was an absolute joy to have at the convention and I, personally, encourage his return to Kansas City in the future. We’ll lure him here with devoted fans and barbecue.