Openly gay actor John Barrowman, best known for his role on the sci-fi series Torchwood has penned a stark essay discussing his own encounters with homophobia in the business. Most surprisingly, Barrowman reveals that he was told to stay in the closet by a gay producer.
Barrowman, 53, penned the essay for the UK publication The Guardian. In it, he recalls taking a job on the US soap Central Park West. Barrowman was already living with his future husband, Scott, at the time. Halfway through filming the season, the producers called Barrowman into a meeting.
“Midway through the first season, I was called in by the producers. They asked me if I would not talk about being gay,” Barrowman writes. “I was told that one of the best things that could happen would be if I was pictured collapsed in a gutter with a prostitute. One of the strangest things is that I was being asked to do this by a man, a producer, who I knew was gay.”
Related: John Barrowman flashes butt in Palm Springs: “Can you see the moon?”
Barrowman ultimately refused. He continued to live with Scott and work on the show…that is, until the scripts arrived for the last two episodes of the season.
“I got the script for the last two episodes,” he recalls. “My character had been in a fire or a car crash, and the role was going to be recast. I’d been fired. That made me more determined to work even harder for roles I wanted.”
For what it’s worth, Central Park West, which also starred Lauren Hutton and Mariel Hemingway, met with mixed reviews when it debuted in 1995. A desperate retooling saw Hemingway fired from the show and replaced with Racquel Welch mid-season. The changes ultimately did little to boost ratings, and the show was cancelled after one season.
Barrowman, for his part, has since gone on to great success with roles on Torchwood, Arrow and the musical film The Producers. Maybe the producers of Central Park West should have retooled the show to focus on Barrowman and a group of gay men instead?
There’s definitely a shit ton of “old school queers” in Hollywood. And probably up until a decade ago they were the dominant “queer presence” in the industry. They felt guys maintaining hetero appeal, keeping their same-sex commitments on the DL and never attaching to “gay” was of utmost importance and the only way to be a legit leading man. Some likely felt as if they were looking out for somebody’s career. But jealously and bitterness probably came into play as well. None of them probably truly wanted to see a good looking, successful actor who is publicly unabashedly into his sex. Paraphiliacs and fetishes and megalomania have likely played roles too: agents/producers/directors/closeted actors getting off on hooking up with “straight” or closeted dudes and some likely getting off on knowing that they had the power to out them. The industry was and still is in many ways a mess.
I do love how more and more of these actors are indirectly revealing just how phony and staged a lot of these Hollywood scandals and affairs are.
An Ironic coda to all of this is Barrowman would try for the role of Will Truman of Will and Grace, but He was not offered the role because he was not “gay enough.” So the role went to very hetero Eric McCormick. Sometimes we just can’t win.
There can’t be much doubt that he’s talking about Darren Star here. And to those in the industry who have heard any of the stories about Star, this will come as no surprise.
I’m one of those very few people who watched Central Park West and I only watched it because I have a huge crush on John Barrowman.
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