The Doctor's most popular companion is back! In a shock to fans everywhere, John Barrowman returned to the universe of Doctor Who in the latest episode as the heroically pansexual Captain Jack Harkness. In "Fugitive of the Judoon" the dashing former Time Agent and Torchwood operative gave Team TARDIS a solemn warning for the 12th Doctor about a mysterious "lone Cyberman," before being quickly zapped away. Twitter went wild and Whovians partied like it was 2007 all over again. But will Captain Jack return later this season? And did John Barrowman meet Jodie Whittaker on the set?
SYFY WIRE caught up with John Barrowman to discuss Captain Jack's triumphant return, rumors of previous moments when the character was thought to come back, plus which older sci-fi hero thinks Captain Jack would like to "do the nasty with."
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Doctor Who Season 12, Episode 5: "Fugitive of the Judoon."**
Huge congrats on this big comeback. How does it feel? I'm freaking out. Everyone is freaking out.
HEEEYYY!!!! I mean, it was really thrilling for me. I was doing a live TV show at the time [the episode] aired and wasn't allowed to talk about it because I was on another network. But I was following Twitter and Instagram and all the different things. I was truly overwhelmed and got emotional by the responses. My manager said, "I can't believe it." And I said, "I can't believe it either!" I was tearing up and crying reading some of this stuff. People were soooo excited to have him back!
You don't have any scenes with Jodie Whittaker in this episode, but did you get to hang out with her on set?
I did. Our paths did cross. And I went in and bombarded her in her trailer; she'd heard that I was a joker, so I had to bother her. We did hang out but did not film any scenes between us. She was told, "You're gonna love John," and I was told, "You're gonna love Jodie," and when people usually say that in the Whovian world I know it's true.
Okay. Will Jack appear in this season again?
Well, I'll just say, if I'm asked [by the BBC] I'll be back at the drop of a hat, because I love Captain Jack.
It's been nine years since we've seen Captain Jack. There have been some rumors over the years that this has almost before.
I'll be honest with you. It was all rumors. At one point something was said and someone else put out a statement that we asked him and he wasn't available, but I'm telling you right now — that's not true. No matter who says it. I'll tell you the truth. Nobody asked me. Because if they did I would have said yes, and changed the schedule and done a different job. Because Captain Jack is that important to me.
That kind of angered me, because at one point people were answering on my behalf and it wasn't true. So, when this came about, this was factual. This was true. I jumped at it. I said, "Absolutely." I was in the street screaming when it happened. Ironically, I had just visited Bill Pullman in the theater — and of course, Bill played Oswald in Torchwood: Miracle Day — I came out of the Old Vic theater and got the phone call from Chris [Chibnall] and started jumping around in the streets. I then called Russell [Davies] and said "Can you believe it?" and he said: "Bloody marvelous."
Did you do any kind of backstory in your head for what Captain Jack has been doing since we last saw him?
For me, Jack has always said he's watching over all the people that he loves. And that would be Gwen Cooper, the Doctor, and it would Rose Tyler – but he can't because she's in another dimension. But he still maybe could? I think he's still looking after all these people in a sense and being the person that the Doctor turned him into. In this episode, when he comes back, the one thing he's trying to do is deliver this message because he knows something is happening. He knows something is coming for the Doctor and he wants to help.
But what I wanted to come across in that scene was the joy Jack felt when he thought Graham was the Doctor. I wanted to convey that in Jack's face that he's missed the Doctor so much. I wanted to get that excitement — not just that I had as the actor playing Jack and coming back — but the excitement Jack has to be back. To be there and helping out. I hope that came across.
Was there ever a point where you were worried that wouldn't find Jack's voice again? Or is he you?
There's a bit of John and Jack and bit of John in Jack and I don't mean a pun there. Jack is so in my psyche. I put that coat back on, I read the script, and I knew exactly what to do. Funnily enough, some of the new writers didn't know the repertoire I have as Jack and they allowed me to slightly augment things. I was able to insert a few "Jack-isms." It was a complete collaboration. And yet, the character — Jack Harkness — was like putting on an old coat. I put it on and know who I am and what to say and how to react. It just comes second nature.
Okay, who would Captain Jack marry, sleep with, and kill of these three guys: Jean-Luc Picard (from Star Trek), the 12th Doctor (from Doctor Who), and Graham (from Doctor Who)?
Jack wouldn't kill any of them! He would marry Peter Capaldi's Doctor, because he would get to travel all the time with the Doctor and that's what he absolutely wants. Captain Jack would definitely do the nasty to Jean-Luc Picard. But he would also marry Graham because he'd want to be warm and cuddly with him.
As Dark Archer, you got a lot of Arrowverse fans. But of course, you have a lot of Doctor Who fans who think of you as the omnisexual hero Captain Jack. How does it feel to be spanning so many different fandoms at once?
One thing that's really interesting is that Captain Jack has never gone out of style. The people who were younger when I was Captain Jack way back, they're now married or have kids. And they introduce their kids to Captain Jack for what he stands for because of who he is. He'll love anyone. He's very diverse in that way. But then, you've got someone who was a teenager growing up with the Arrowverse and they want to experience what other characters that they love are like in other settings. I mean, they think I'm such a bad a**hole on Arrow.
I'm in love with the diversity my career has had. I have put personal things into these characters, and I think that's why people continue to follow me and grow with me. I love it. There are 10-year-olds, 16-year-olds, of all sorts of genders coming up to me saying, "I'm able to be myself because of Captain Jack Harkness." That is the biggest gift that has ever been given to me.
Doctor Who Season 12 drops new episodes on Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America.