This year’s Heroes and Villains Fanfest (HVFF) swept into the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey this past weekend. Guests included stars of DC and Marvel superhero TV series like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While Stephen Amell, the star of CW’s Arrow, was the featured attraction, a guest that drew some of the biggest crowds was John Barrowman. The man has literally done it all: Broadway, recorded albums, published books, and oh yeah, he’s a geek icon. Barrowman is a double threat to the super-geek crowd, playing the villain/anti-hero Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow since 2012 while also known to many as Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and starring in its spinoff series Torchwood from 2006-2011. On Saturday afternoon, the actor packed the Exposition Center’s panel stage and kept the audience enthralled and laughing non-stop for an hour.
Let me tell you, no one handles that crowd better than John Barrowman. His panel, John Barrowman: Unleashed, was a mix of stand-up comedy, music, and PG-13/R-rated stories from his time on the sets. One particular story was about a special birthday surprise from Amell for his 50th birthday which included a gold speedo. Barrowman introduced everyone to his assistant Kelsey and told hilarious anecdotes of the two getting digs on one another, particularly at airports. Routinely, Barrowman had to check himself when dealing with the kids, which just had the crowd rolling. He completely lost it when the sign language interpreter signed “hung like a donkey.”
He then opened up the floor to Q&A from the fans. The first question asked his opinion about the new Doctor on Doctor Who, to which Barrowman debated a young fan and had a pretty thought-provoking back and forth. Barrowman, as you can imagine, was completely supportive of the Doctor being a woman and appreciated the inclusiveness. While he came out in support of David Tennant as “Best Doctor Ever,” he said “no matter who the Doctor is, we go on board the TARDIS for the journey.” One woman asked him to be her date to the Nocking Point Wine Party that evening, to which he replied that she wasn’t his type. When asked what he likes about playing Malcolm Merlyn, he broke out into song and confessed to loving the character because he’s a great villain who still shows heart and gains the support of Arrow-loving fans.
In perhaps my favorite moment, a young fan asked about becoming an actor and Barrowman discussed his life working menial labor and trying to always be the best at whatever job he had, and encouraged the aspiring actors to do the same, while maintaining their grace. Barrowman follows his own advice. He was incredibly fun, energetic, and all-out life of the party. While many celebrities can appear standoffish at fan conventions during meet and greets, Barrowman truly seems to thrive in these environments. He was the consummate showman, and when my wife and I met him later on for a picture, he was kind enough to not dismiss me for asking about his infamous line in Shark Attack 3.
John Barrowman returns to the Arrow-verse this Fall. Arrow premieres its 6th season on Thursday, October 12, 2017.