John Barrowman ‘fired’ from soap opera for refusing to lie about being gay

Emma Powys Maurice
·3-min read

John Barrowman has revealed he once lost a role in 90s soap opera Central Park West after he refused to lie about being gay.

Barrowman, 53, is best known for his role as the omnisexual space pirate Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood – but he didn’t always have such freedom in his early career.

The actor recalled being told to hide who he really was when he got one of his first big TV jobs on the CBS series Central Park West in 1995. Barrowman had been cast as New York lawyer Peter Fairchild on the show, which also starred Lauren Hutton, Mariel Hemingway and Raquel Welch.

“Midway through the first season, I was called in by the producers. They asked me if I would not talk about being gay,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.

“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.”

Although John Barrowman wasn’t publicly out at the time, he was living happily with his now-husband, Scott Gill in New York. “I worked in musical theatre and we had a dog –I mean, how many more clues do you need?”

But showrunners made it clear they didn’t want this to become public knowledge. Barrowman confided in his partner after the shocking exchange.

“I said to Scott, ‘They want me not to talk about you anymore. They want me to lie about who I am.’ But I knew too many people who were living a lie,” he said, no doubt recalling the countless gay men dying in silence amid the AIDS crisis.

John Barrowman resolved not to hide his sexuality, and refused to stop going places with his partner and talking openly about him.

“And then I got the script for the last two episodes,” he said. “My character had been in a fire or a car crash, and the role was going to be recast. I’d been fired.”

Although his act of defiance may have cost him the major role, Central Park West wouldn’t last much longer without him: the show was unsuccessful and got cancelled a year later due to low ratings.

25 years on and with several LGBT+ acting roles under his belt, John Barrowman has no regrets about living openly. “[It] made me more determined to work even harder for roles I wanted,” he said.

“Years later, theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh said to me, over dinner one night — not in these exact words, but — ‘I admire what you’ve done. You’ve just been yourself the whole time, and you’ve hidden nothing.’ That makes me feel good.”

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