’Torchwood’ comes stateside :: Saving the world & man-on-man sex

by Jim Halterman
Sunday Jul 10, 2011

For some of us who don’t breathe, eat and live science fiction, the word "Torchwood" has always been something just barely out of our grasp. Yes, it’s known to be the name of a popular TV show in the United Kingdom; and, yes, it stars John Barrowman, a sexy, out actor who has occasionally popped up in American television in "Desperate Housewives" and (going way back) the short-lived soap "Central Park West."

And, yes, its out creator, Russell T. Davies, also created a little show that most of us are very aware of called "Queer as Folk" (the original UK version) as well as help to re-launch the classic sci-fi series "Doctor Who," of which "Torchwood" is a spin-off.

Starting this summer - this weekend, actually - "Torchwood" is coming to America in a big way and with compelling storytelling and focusing more on character than the usual sci-fi series, it is sure to suddenly become a part of the pop culture zeitgeist in the US.

A world without death?

Previously produced solely in the UK, the show shot its 10-episode fourth series, entitled "Miracle Day", in a new partnership between BBC Wales, BBC Worldwide and the premium channel Starz. Besides Barrowman and his fellow returning "Torchwood" castmates, Eve Myles and Kai Owen, familiar faces like Bill Pullman ("Independence Day"), Mekhi Phifer ("ER") and Lauren Ambrose ("Six Feet Under") also play prominent roles in the series.

In the series, we catch up with the members of "Torchwood," which is the name of a small group of alien hunters led by Captain Jack Harkness (Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), as they come out of hiding to confront a unique problem the world is having which is that suddenly, without explanation, people stop dying.

Capt. Jack :: a big, old gay

As Barrowman told EDGE’s Jim Halterman on the Los Angeles set of "Torchwood" this Spring, the miracle is soon realized to be not necessarily a positive. "We run into problems of population," he explained. "We run into problems of food. What do we do with the sick? What do we do with the dead? If you were in a car accident when this happened and your head was chopped off you’re still alive, you’re still in pain." Surely Captain Jack and his team can find a way to make things right again!

While there has been a lot of secrecy about the new series, what about the always sexy and smoldering love life of Captain Jack, who in the entire "Torchwood" series has been seen having relationships with men and women? Will Jack find time to satisfy his manly urges in between trying to save the world?

"Captain Jack is full of love and he’s full of lust, as well," Davies told EDGE. "We’re a premium cable show on Starz and we’re on BBC One, which is very strong and independent like HBO and Showtime but there will be some Jack-loving."

Barrowman was more than a little excited to discuss which gender Captain Jack would indeed be bedding this season. "I’ve had a couple of wonderful days where I woke up and my partner (Scott Gill) would say ’Where are you going?’ and I’d say ’I’m off to work to have sex with a 22-year old.’"

But, ever the flirty tease, Barrowman finally got around to letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak. "In the past we know Jack is omnisexual, we know he’s had a daughter and a grandchild so we know he’s had relationships with women and our old core audience will know all that but our new audience is just going to think he’s a big gay because it’s all men this season and I’m so glad!"

Story continues on following page:

Watch this behind-the-scenes preview of "Torchwood: Miracle Day":

Watch this BBC interview with John Barrowman from "Torchwood: Miracle Day":

Don’t like it - Don’t watch it

Ironically, even though the Brits have a reputation for being more pent up and conservative, homosexual relationships on television became a regular part of their programming way before American television. What does Barrowman have to say about those who might be uncomfortable with some of the sex scenes that take place between Jack and his new lover, Brad (played by sexy Dillon Casey) in the early episodes of "Miracle Day?"

"Well, get over it! Really! Listen," he said, leaning closer, his blue eyes ablaze, "this show is not just about man-on-man sex. This show is about much more than that. Russell has always said when he writes sex scenes now he has to really think about it because they don’t just end up on television but they end up on the Internet. So the sex scenes between two men or a guy and a girl are written to help the story line. It’s not just to have gratuitous sex."

His advice to those who will be uncomfortable with seeing him completely nude in bed with another ripped up stud as you’ll see in "Miracle Day"?

"If people don’t want to watch it... turn off the channel and go somewhere else because, really, we don’t want you watching it and then moaning about it. But if you’re a part of the 21st century and a part of our world where men do love each other, women love each other and men and women love each other then come watch our show because we represent society. We actually represent people out there and for once you have a hero that actually likes men."

Gay oozing out of everything

With the gay content that has always been a part of "Torchwood" and also the fabric of much of his career, Davies is aware of the fact that questions about his role in gay representation on television will continue to crop up in interviews. However, he’s also keenly aware that the world has changed somewhat over the past decade or two.

"This conversation, even the way I talk about it, is becoming outdated because of the number of gay characters and the work being done with gay characters. You look at Kurt on "Glee" and [the now-cancelled CBS sitcom] "Shit My Dad Says" with the gay stories always proving William Shatner wrong but always giving him a healthy attitude towards gayness. Gay just oozes out of everything!"

In fact, when asked if he thinks if "Queer As Folk" had never existed would we be where we are today in terms of gays on television, Davies is not about to take the credit. "I honestly think that ’time would come for ’Queer as Folk’ anyway, and thank God I’m the one who wrote it but if I hadn’t then some other show would have. There are a million gay characters on television now that have nothing to do with ’Queer as Folk.’ They are simply gay and lesbian writers in their own right who are putting out there stuff... I’d love to take credit for every single person in the world being out but I cant."

However, Davies does agree that it’s still the utmost important to have gay content out there. "The problems aren’t over and there’s some kid getting the shit kicked out of him somewhere at this very moment so you can never relax but I do think visibility has gone up."

Stay out of the closet

For Barrowman, who came out publicly as a gay man years ago and has not seen it hurt his career whatsoever, what does he think of those gay actors and actresses who are gay but have yet to step out of the closet?

"That’s their prerogative and it’s their choice. Whereas I don’t have a choice of being gay or straight - I’m born this way - I have a choice what to say about my sexuality and I choose to talk about it, I choose to be open about it because I’m exceptionally proud of who I am, I’m exceptionally proud of my partner, I’m exceptionally proud of the gay community that I am a part of and the heterosexual community I am a part of and I think there are more of us who are out there and open and don’t give a shit and live our lives openly [and] that’s how it will all change. Those who are doing it for whatever reasons they need, that’s their choice and it’s not my job to out somebody. But, it’s one thing not to talk about it but it’s another thing to lie about who you are and try to mislead the public and if they’re doing that, then I think they should take a look in the mirror because they’re being detrimental to a lot of young gay men and women out there who are trying to live their lives openly and freely."

Getting back to "Torchwood," Barrowman said one final thing about the new injection of life in the series as it is primed to reach a much larger audience. "I love the show. I love Captain Jack. I love doing this and I love our audience. I thought it would’ve been silly not to [continue with the show] so thank goodness Russell and Julie [Gardner, Executive Producer] were pushing ahead with finding us a collaborative home on thisside of the Atlantic because as "Torchwood" has changed every season so again we have to change in this season and this is how we change and becomes better."

""Torchwood: Miracle Day" can be seen on Fridays at 10pm ET/PT on Starz.

Watch this video blog of Dillon Casey talking about his role on "Torchwood":

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


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