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Captain Courageous

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John Barrowman conquers his childhood fears to win a role on Dr Who

As a Doctor Who fan from way back, John Barrowman is well aware of just how passionate "Whovians" are about everything Who.

But even he was somewhat taken aback when he started receiving fan mail five months before he had even filmed his first scenes in the sci-fi series.

"I started being sent pictures of the tardis to sign," he laughs. "They were all things from the old series of course so I sent stuff back to some people because I didn't have any involvement with that.

"I told them they were just going to have to wait."

Barrowman, who is well known in the UK for his performances in West End musicals such as Anything Goes, Miss Saigon and Hair, plays rogue time agent Captain Jack Harkness in the new series of the cult show, with his first episode - the ninth in the series - set to screen on the ABC this Saturday.

The casting was a major coup for the 38-year-old.

"I was ecstatic," he says. "When I went in for the screen test, I met with [writer and executive producer] Russell T. Davies, [producer] Phil Collinson and [executive producer] Julie Gardner and I said to them, 'I'm not being sycophantic or silly but if you were to give me this job, it would be making one of my dreams come true'."

Barrowman grew up watching the original series as a child in Glasgow and after moving to the US at age nine, would stay up late to see Doctor Who marathons every Sunday.

"My first memory of Doctor Who is the autons [monsters which took the form of animated plastic] and they scared the crap out of me," he says.

"My mother had to put me inside her coat on a street called Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow when we walked past the shop windows with dummies in them. I was so scared they were going to come to life and start shooting us."

But despite Barrowman's initial love/hate relationship with Who, he went on to develop a penchant for collecting memorabilia from the show.

And amazingly, a passing mention of this hobby during an interview in the early '90s resulted in a meeting with one of the show's most legendary Doctors, the late Jon Pertwee, who came to see Barrowman at the stage door after a performance of Sunset Boulevard.

"I got this call from the stage doorman saying, 'ah, Mr Barrowman? Doctor Who is here to see you?'.

"I went, 'what? Who?' and he said 'yeah - Doctor Who'. I didn't get the joke at first so I said, 'what do you mean, Doctor Who?' and he said, 'Jon Pertwee is downstairs'. That was when I went, 'well for Christ's sake, send him up'.

Pertwee brought with him a huge selection of memorabilia from the show.

"He pulled out all this stuff like books, cut-out dolls of him in different costumes and a tardis and asked if I wanted it signed," Barrowman says.

"It was fantastic. Unfortunately he died a couple of years later but the fact that he took the time to come in and sign all this stuff is so weird now because I'm a part of it."

And while Barrowman says there are no plans as yet for him to belt out a few tunes on the show (although he and co-star Billie Piper, a former pop princess, have joked about doing a musical episode), that hasn't stopped him singing on set.

"I snuck off camera while Christopher [Eccleston, who plays Doctor Who] and Billie were filming and got hold of a dalek voice box," he laughs.

"I sang There's No Business Like Showbusiness."

  • Doctor Who, Saturday, ABC, 7.30pm

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  • APA 6th ed.: Cross, Penelope (2005-07-13). Captain Courageous. The Daily Telegraph (Australia) p. 7 Days, p. 5.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Cross, Penelope. "Captain Courageous." The Daily Telegraph (Australia) [add city] 2005-07-13, 7 Days, p. 5. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Cross, Penelope. "Captain Courageous." The Daily Telegraph (Australia), edition, sec., 2005-07-13
  • Turabian: Cross, Penelope. "Captain Courageous." The Daily Telegraph (Australia), 2005-07-13, section, 7 Days, p. 5 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Captain Courageous | url= | work=The Daily Telegraph (Australia) | pages=7 Days, p. 5 | date=2005-07-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Captain Courageous | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 July 2024}}</ref>