John Barrowman earned his geek stripes playing fan fave Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and its hit spin- off series Torchwood. Now there’s another genre credit on his showreel. A lifelong comic book afficionado, he jumped at the chance to appear in Arrow as Oliver Queen’s arch- enemy, the notorious Malcolm Merlyn ( known as “Merlyn the Magician” in DC comics, the dark bowman first appeared in 1971’ s Justice League Of America # 94). Barrowman’s portrayal of the vengeance- minded businessman and assassin proved popular enough to win him a regular spot in the show’s current third season. SFX recently caught up with the charismatic performer, and he shared his thoughts on Merlyn’s determination to play an active role in his daughter Thea’s life this series, no matter how much suffering it causes her brother Oliver and Team Arrow… Occupation: Actor Born: 11 March 1967 From: Glasgow, Scotland
G reatest H its: Miss Saigon, Beauty And The Beast, Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives, Torchwood, Zero Dark Thirty, Arrow
Random Fact: Though he now portrays Arrow’s “Dark Archer”, Barrowman was a decidedly lighter bowman as the lead in Robin Hood – The Pantomime Adventure. Malcolm Merlyn’s a great manipulator. Lately he’s been toying with the emotions of Oliver Queen’s sister, Thea. Does he hold any real love for her?
I think Malcolm has a very difficult time in showing love. Malcolm can control people with money, power, and also with his destructive techniques. [ His son] Tommy got emotionally involved with a girl, and love destroyed him. He also lost Moira that way. She sacrificed herself for love. He only has Thea left. He’s got to control her by controlling her emotions. He loves her, but in a very different way. To control someone emotionally you have to break them down. Malcolm is also the only father figure left in Oliver’s life.
If you go back, when it was Tommy’s birthday and I walked in with a birthday present for Tommy and he didn’t want it, who did I throw it to and wink? Ollie. Because, as Malcolm Merlyn, I see Oliver as just as much a son as I did Tommy. But Oliver is the son that I always wanted Tommy to be — the playboy, the guy out there doing things and making it happen. When I found out that he was Arrow, I didn’t kill him. I couldn’t. Although I fought viciously with him. Maybe that’s why I faked my death, so I didn’t have to kill him. Is Malcolm truly evil?
Malcolm’s not evil [ laughs]. I think Malcolm’s misunderstood. I’m talking as Malcolm Merlyn here — if you think I’m bad, let’s go back and look at everything that Oliver has done. We’re both just doing the same thing but going about it in very different ways. One is deemed a hero, and the other one is not. What’s it like playing a father?
It’s interesting for me because I’m at a point in my life now where I have been the hero and the younger character, and I’m now the dad. Which is really great because I get to kind of relax a little bit. I get to go home at night and have two glasses of wine… I was gonna say one, but that would be a lie [ laughs]. Because I’m not gonna be the one taking my shirt off, you know? I still could, but I don’t have to worry about that any more. Everyone on Arrow appears to be finding romance. Will Malcolm?
I hope so. Who knows who’s going to come in? I have fished through my DC Encyclopedia that I keep by my bed, just to see who I might want to fall in love with [ laughs]. I’m a big geek and a big fan myself. I love the fact that I’m a villain in a friggin’ comic book that I grew up reading. In fact… My sister and I write together. We have a book series and we’ve done a couple of comic books, and I’ve actually mentioned to [ executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg that I would love if my sister and I could do a spin- off comic for Merlyn, a look into his past or an offshoot of what’s happening now. That would be great. What do you think about the explosion of DC TV shows making it to the screen?
In the ’ 70s and ’ 80s, when I was younger, I used to play with all of the DC Mego figures. I still have all of them, and over the years I’ve bought all the rest. So for me DC was always prominent. Then I’ve had the fortune to meet Stan Lee and know him, and I like Marvel also. I know a lot of people are gonna disagree with me, but you can like both, okay? In my world it’s both anyway [ laughs]. There has been that Marvel resurgence. Now it’s DC’s turn. It’s great that Warner Brothers and CW are taking a lead in that. I mean, The Flash… Could Malcolm one day appear on The Flash? I would love Malcolm Merlyn to cross over into The Flash. I don’t know if it will happen, but it would be great; because Starling City and Central City are not that far apart. Growing up, when we were watching things like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, you had Oscar Goldman who would be the one that would go back and forth. It made those worlds more real to us, because we believed that they actually existed. And Starling City does exist. I hate to tell ya. I live in it.