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.”
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?