Captain Jack is back! John Barrowman has returned as the dashing Time Agent, Captain Jack Harkness in Fugitive of the Judoon!
He only managed to meet the Doctor’s friends before vanishing off into the cosmos… but he has an important message for the Doctor…
What was it like to return to the world of Doctor Who? John Barrowman tells all!
How did this all come about?
John Barrowman (JB): It all came about when I was actually going to see Bill Pullman who was ironically in Torchwood when we did it in the States, and I was seeing him at a theatre in London where he was performing. I got a phone call from my manager saying “Chris Chibnall wants to talk to you”. I said okay, took the phone call and Chris said “how would you feel about Captain Jack returning?” and I just started jumping around on the street and said “this is the most brilliant news I have heard.” I told him I had just seen Bill so everything feels like it’s aligning right now.
When I finished the call with Chris, I immediately called Russell T Davies because Russell was partial to Captain Jack’s creation so I called him and he said “that’s awesome”, we had a big scream and he said “hurrah! Captain Jack is back”.
How long did you know about it for?
JB: I did have to keep it a secret for quite a while! This is what’s funny, when I came back to Cardiff to do the filming I had to find an excuse in order to throw people off. So I started doing videos online about renovating my flat in Cardiff, and funnily enough, I actually did do the renovations but it was all to throw off why I was really there. I was being driven into Bristol, where we were filming at a Cathedral, I was covered in black cloth in the car, when I got to set I was taken out of the car with umbrellas around me so nobody could see. Apparently there were paps trying to find out what was going on.
I feel bad that I had to lie to my fan family and all the Whovians out there, however I’ve always said to the Doctor Who fan base worldwide, because I’ve seen them and I know they love Captain Jack, I’ve said “Sometimes I can’t tell you what’s happening”. Like in the reveal when Captain Jack said about being the ‘Face of Boe’, I didn’t tell anyone about that, and I didn’t tell anybody about this because I want to feel the excitement myself when it airs and everybody is watching it – their jaws are going to drop when Jack returns to the screen.
Was there ever a moment when you were spotted by someone and thought, oh no, this is it, they know?
JB: It was in the hotel in Bristol, people just kept asking me “what are you doing in Bristol?” and luckily enough I have family in Bristol so I said I was visiting family. So I was able to throw people off the scent. Nobody actually cottoned on to it as I was very committed to the decoys that I was putting out there. So yeah, to be honest with you, nobody has guessed to this day that I was back doing it. Even the people on set, everybody is obviously sworn to secrecy, but everybody was excited to see Jack back.
What was it like to be back on set?
JB: I’ve always said when I put the coat back on - a point of phrase, it sounds tripe - but it’s like wearing an old coat. I have no problem getting back into Jack and it was brilliant being back on set. It was great to bring the enthusiasm I have for Jack and Doctor Who back to the set. It brought back a lot of memories and I just had a blast. I had a great time doing it. In this episode Jack had his own ship again, so he took over a ship and he’s flying around the Universe trying to find the Doctor, so it’s great.
It’s a whole new cast now, what was that like?
JB: Working with everybody was incredible. We had a good laugh! I think it was a bit of a shock to their system when I came in because I’m a big character on set and it was interesting to try and give them the history of Captain Jack. It may be a new production team but Jack is a staple of the Doctor Who Universe and I get to see that worldwide when I travel. People continually say to me, and we’re what, about eight years since his last appearance, they keep saying bring him back, we love him, and it’s happened. So working with the cast was amazing.
What’s your favourite thing about being part of Doctor Who?
JB: My favourite thing about being part of Doctor Who is playing a character that changed the face of television. Also, because I was the first openly gay man to play an omnisexual hero on television and nobody cared – in a good way, no one made an issue out of it. Some of the young people who watched Doctor Who and are now in their twenties said “because of Captain Jack, I was able to be honest with myself and truthful to my family about who I was” and that to me is the biggest gift that we can give as people who are in the industry.
And just for me, selfishly, it was a lifelong dream to be part of the TARDIS team and I never thought as a little boy, what I watched Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker as the Doctor that I would ever be a part of that. To be part of that and to be in the TARDIS and one of the companions was just amazing.
Will we see him again?
JB: I don’t know. If they ask me to come back, I always say this; I will be back at the drop of a hat.
Catch Captain Jack back in action in Fugitive of the Judoon, available on BBC iPlayer, BBC America and other catch up services.