John Barrowman is a man of many talents. He’s battled against Daleks in ‘Doctor Who,’ tried his hand at archery in ‘Arrow,’ and even dabbled in the art of “fixing” on ‘Scandal.’ But now the actor is about to embark on his most ambitious project yet: hosting America’s latest singing competition, ‘Sing Your Face Off.’
Premiering on ABC this Saturday, May 31 at 9/8c, this six-episode series looks to take the art of impersonation to a whole new level by allowing five celebrities (Sebastian Bach, Jon Lovitz, Landry Fields, China Ann McClain and Lisa Rinna) to morph into some of the world’s most popular musical icons in style, look and performance.
Pop singer Debbie Gibson and comedian Darrell Hammond will make up the judging panel with Barrowman at the helm, serving as the show’s host — a job he is more than happy to take on. TVRage had the chance to exclusively chat with Barrowman about his latest gig, with a few ‘Arrow’ and ‘Doctor Who’ tidbits along the way.
RELATED NEWS: John Barrowman and Debbie Gibson Join ABC's 'Sing Your Face Off'
TVRage: ‘Sing Your Face Off’ is such a unique, wacky idea for a show. What was it that drew you to it and made you think this could be pretty awesome?
John Barrowman: Well let’s go back to my childhood when I was younger and my nieces and nephews were growing up and now they have their own kids. We, as a family, used to do shows on Saturdays and also when we get together and have parties. I would dress up, I’d dress my nieces and nephews up and we would put on shows for the family at Christmas. So to see a show that was going to be kind of based on that kind of stuff about dress up, becoming different characters, different people, and also a pure entertainment show, but also putting the competition element into it, I thought that’s right up my alley, I’m getting involved in this one if they ask me.
TVRage: Did the idea of hosting a show make you nervous at all?
Barrowman: No, not at all because what American audiences don’t know is that I’ve hosted shows for the last 20 years in the U.K. I’ve had my own entertainment shows on Saturday night television on the BBC. I have one called ‘Tonight’s the Night’ that I host and also produce for the BBC, and quite a few other shows where I do hosting stuff, so I enjoy doing the hosting element of it because it allows me to be me. I’m not playing a character like Malcolm Merlyn or Captain Jack Harkness. I’m John Barrowman. So I get to laugh with the audience, either with the contestant or at the contestant, and at times I’m laughing so hard I can’t even talk. So I love these kind of shows.
TVRage: You have such an impressive musical background yourself. Any chance we’ll get to see some of that on the show?
Barrowman: You won’t on this one, no, because it wasn’t about my performing, it was about the celebrities becoming other people. But what I would hope for is, in the future, if ABC ever does a musical that they would look at me to get involved because people like yourself, if you keep talking about it maybe it’ll happen!
TVRage: That would be awesome! So hypothetically, if you were able to participate in the show, would there have been any particular musician you would’ve loved to impersonate?
Barrowman: I would probably go back and be, if I was doing cross-gender, be like a Madonna. Maybe doing "Vogue." If I was going to be somebody totally different from my kind of singing voice and character, I’d say I might try someone like George Michael or Elton John. If I was going to be someone who’s more current, I might try doing some kind of rap because I’m not a rapper, but that would be funny and a challenge.
TVRage: Definitely. If the show does well and more celebrities get brought on for a transformation, how awesome would it be if David Tennant or Catherine Tate or anyone from the ‘Doctor Who’ clan came on. What a reunion that would be!
Barrowman: Oh, that would be great. The thing is Catherine Tate would be amazing at doing transformations because she had ‘The Catherine Tate Show’ in Britain, which was a character show, so she’s great at the impersonations. David…I don’t think you really want to hear David sing (laughs)…and I say that with all love!
TVRage: How has it been working with Darrell Hammond and Debbie Gibson?
Barrowman: Well, Debbie Gibson I used to listen to. She was my guilty pleasure when I was in college. I’ve known Debbie from even doing West End musicals in the U.K., so I’ve known her for quite a long time. It was little bit of a reunion for us to get back together. Darrell, never met before, but funny enough he knew of my work and I do know him from ‘Saturday Night Live’ and he’s one of the best impressionists. He’s very, very funny and is very critical of people when they’re becoming other people, which is great.
TVRage: In other news, congratulations on becoming a series regular on ‘Arrow.’ That’s so exciting!
Barrowman: Thank you!
RELATED NEWS: 'Arrow' Promotes John Barrowman to Series Regular
TVRage: One of the things that I love about Malcolm is that he’s not exactly a hero and he’s not exactly a villain. He’s somewhere in-between and I always think the complex characters must be the most fun to play. Would you say that’s right?
Barrowman: Oh yeah, he’s really a lot of fun to play, and I’m glad you described him as that because that’s exactly what I want the audience to think. He’s in-between a hero and a villain because he’s a little misunderstood at what he does and I think he sees himself as the hero, which is a little bit different. But yeah, it’s great to play a character like that because they’re so rich with what you can do with them.
TVRage: Absolutely. And I know it’s still pretty early to be talking about Season 3, but do you have any idea of what’s in store for Malcolm and Thea?
Barrowman: Oh yeah.
TVRage: Oh, you do? You just can’t tell me?
Barrowman: Oh yeah, I’m not saying anything. I’d have to shoot an arrow through the phone to get ya. (laughs)
TVRage: Oh no, we can’t have that! And lastly, I’m sure you’ve been asked this a hundred times already, but I wanted to get your initial thoughts on hearing about Peter Capaldi being cast as the Twelfth Doctor.
Barrowman: I’ve worked with Peter on ‘Children of Earth’ on ‘Torchwood.’ He was in it. He’s also been in some ‘Who’ episodes and he’s also another fellow Scotsman and I know he’ll be good. He’ll be one of those people who is great as the Doctor because he’s a fan of the show and it’s nice to see that they’re mixing up the age thing. And for all those fans who go online and they’re like ‘Oh, he’s going to be awful, etc.’ Shut up, watch the show, because you know you will, and you’ll love it even when he’s on.
TVRage: Exactly, and it’s kind of like going back a bit because Matt Smith was so young, like the youngest Doctor, so it’ll be really interesting.
Barrowman: Correct. What American audiences need to remember is we had, and those who just know Matt Smith as The Doctor, we’ve had a plethora of doctors prior to that of all different ages.
TVRage: Yes, definitely.
Barrowman: And that’s the beauty of ‘Doctor Who’ because you’re not watching it because of who’s playing the Doctor, you’re watching it because of his journey and the stories that he tells. And that’s why those who are critics of it at the moment will be onboard watching it and they’ll be eating their words, I guarantee you.
TVRage: Absolutely. I agree with that. Well, thank you so much, John, for taking the time to talk.
Barrowman: Thank you!
‘Sing Your Face Off’ premieres Saturday, May 31 at 9/8c on ABC.