It's rare to find an LGBT protagonist at the heart of a successful science-fiction story. Rarer still to find one played by an openly gay actor. That's not the only thing special about John Barrowman and his portrayal of Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness, but it's certainly worth celebrating.
At a time when comic book-inspired movies and television shows are dominating popular culture, one shouldn't underestimate the importance of LGBT visibility within the historically straight male genre. Spun out of the wildly popular relaunch of Doctor Who (which returns tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on BBC America), Barrowman's character went on to headline his own spin-off. Torchwood ran four seasons (or "series" as they like to call them across the pond), including one co-produced by the BBC and U.S. cable network Starz.
Harkness, written by the same guy who created the United Kingdom's Queer As Folk, is an intergalactic lothario. While many gay characters on television are still criticized for being sexless, Barrowman's work as Captain Jack didn't shy away from his sexuality (even though it did sometimes fluster the network).
“He is unique as a gay man on television in that he's overtly sexual,” Doctor Who and Torchwood scribe Russell T. Davies told the Telegraph in 2008. "But he's also an expert at modulating his own personality for different audiences while remaining essentially himself. That's a hard thing to do. He has a gift for it."
As a regular participant at comic conventions, Barrowman dazzles the crowd with his wit and candor. Whether it's discussing the power of marriage or dropping trou to reveal his Captain America underwear, he's a much-needed role model for gay geeks the world over.
Though he's best known for Doctor Who and Torchwood, that's only the tip of Barrowman's very talented iceberg. Watch some of our favorite clips of Barrowman singing, dancing and smooching, AFTER THE JUMP ...