ARROW Star John Barrowman Reflects On The Arrowverse's Legacy And Playing Malcolm Merlyn (Exclusive)

ARROW Star John Barrowman Reflects On The Arrowverse's Legacy And Playing Malcolm Merlyn (Exclusive)

Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow star John Barrowman talks to us about playing the villainous Dark Archer in The CW's Arrowverse, revealing what the role and the support he's received from fans means to him!

Feature Opinion
By JoshWilding - Nov 20, 2023 09:11 AM EST
Filed Under: Arrow

FAN EXPO San Francisco is Northern California's largest pop culture convention, and this weekend, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Arrow star John Barrowman will be among those in attendance (other guests include Star Wars icons Mark Hamill and Ewan McGregor). 

Tickets are now on sale for the event which runs from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26 at the Moscone Center West, and John will be on hand to take photos with fans. He'll also be hosting an "Adventures with John Barrowman" panel on Saturday; you can learn more about how to meet him by clicking here.

Last week, we had the opportunity to speak with John about his plans for the show and some of his highlights from what's proven to be an extraordinary career. 

We'll be bringing you the full interview soon, but while we had the prolific actor and celebrity on hand, we made sure to get his thoughts on the Arrowverse coming to an end earlier this year (when The Flash was cancelled) and how he looks back at the time he spent playing Malcolm Merlyn across more than 75 episodes of DC TV on The CW. 

"When I was asked to play Merlyn, I was on the phone with Greg Berlanti and the rest of the production team. They basically came to me and said, ‘We love Doctor Who and Captain Jack and we’d like to bring you into the Arrowverse. Would you be interested in playing this villain?’ I said to them, ‘How long will I be with you?’ and they told me, ‘You’ll be there for a very long time.’ Malcolm was the first character in the Arrowverse to jump from show to show to show. I was able to play Malcolm in different ways across them which was a challenge but also really interesting."

"On Legends of Tomorrow, I took from my Captain Jack years where, in Torchwood he was a leader and, in Doctor Who, he was a follower. I was able to do that, but the difference was Malcolm was evil as shit and just didn’t hold back. The big thing when I was playing him was, if he smiles at you, you’re head. He would always keep it straight-laced and straightforward, but if he had a smile on his face, you were gonna die and that was it."

"Stephen [Amell] and I had a great relationship and he’s a neighbour of mine in Palm Springs. In fact, my husband Scott designed his house and I’m the reason he moved here probably because I’d say he needed get away from Vancouver winters and come here when he’s not filming. Anyway, long story short, I am so proud of the fanbase and fan-family Whovians who came over from Doctor Who and Torchwood and followed me to give me a try as a new character and also fell in love with him. I don’t know why they did and would love to have the formula of when I play a character to know why it happens. I mean, you’re talking about one of the most evil villains in the DC world and people are like, ‘I love him but I hate him.’ For me, that’s the best comment ever! Particularly when couples come up to talk to me and they’re Malcolm Merlyn fans. I’ll say to one of them, I’ll look at their partner and say, ‘They like the bad guy.’ That brings a smile to everybody’s face [Laughs]."

"I had no idea he’d take off like that and to be in so many episodes and be part of that creative process to create that world is just incredible. Stemming from it, as with Torchwood and Doctor Who, my sister and I co-wrote the Malcolm Merlyn backstory for DC in the Dark Archer. That was incredible and will always be in existence. We’ve written Torchwood comics too. That’s why I say they’re life-changing, and again, I’d never turn my back on them. To go back to the beginning, that’s why I love doing the conventions. It’s because of the fans and the fan-family and the love. It’s changed who I am."

It's incredible to hear from John about what playing the Dark Archer meant to him, and we're not surprised to hear that the ruthless and enigmatic villain has more than his fair share of fans.

We'd also strongly recommend jumping to the 23:45 point in the video above to take a tour of the Arrow alum's collection of geeky collectables, including some props from his time on Legends of Tomorrow (and if you're a Doctor Who fan, you'll love what you see). 

You can find John Barrowman on Instagram @johnscotbarrowman and on Twitter/X @JohnBarrowman. Head to Fan EXPO's website now to get your tickets for this weekend's show!

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DocSpock - 11/20/2023, 9:09 AM

ArrowVerse legacy?


Legacy of crap.

Urubrodi - 11/20/2023, 9:39 AM
@DocSpock - Let's not be unfair though, first 2 seasons of Arrow were great (3 was ok). After that yeah... let's not talk about that.
Blergh - 11/20/2023, 10:40 AM
@DocSpock - Let’s be fair here: it’s a television universe that ran for 5+ series, web series and animated movies. Sure it had mostly bad episodes and arcs BUT they nevertheless exposed countless kids and teens to DC characters that weren’t Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.

It’s like Smallville, opened up DC to young people and it’s also what kept the DC flag up and running while the movie division was busy running their reputation into the ground with bad movies after bad movies that just didn’t connect with the public.
These shows did however do what the movies couldn’t.

I’m not saying the shows were all good but I’d rather have a camp trashfest remembered fondly for what it tried to achieve over nothing at all
DocSpock - 11/20/2023, 10:43 AM
@Blergh -

You have some good points. There was just so much cringy stuff in it, that I gave up on it all.

ImBatman4realz - 11/20/2023, 10:47 AM
@Urubrodi - first 2 seasons were awesome. All the expanded CWverse was unfortunately forgettable
EskimoJ - 11/20/2023, 12:01 PM
@Urubrodi - Season 5 was as good as the first two.
Urubrodi - 11/20/2023, 2:00 PM
@EskimoJ - Season 4 was so horrible that I couldn't keep going, but fair enough.
PapaSpank54 - 11/20/2023, 9:10 AM
John Barrowman reflects on showing his balls to cast and crew for a giggle
Blergh - 11/20/2023, 10:41 AM
@PapaSpank54 - it’s good that folks came forward with this but it seems to me his downfall kind of overshadowed Noel Clarkes scandal (the guy accused of groping and rape)
Nomis929 - 11/20/2023, 9:13 AM
UniqNo - 11/20/2023, 9:15 AM
Slow news day?
Blergh - 11/20/2023, 10:42 AM
@UniqNo - it’s two weeks post strikes end, prepare for many more slow news days as we’re now getting into the content free slump that happened
LiteraryJoe - 11/20/2023, 11:11 AM
@UniqNo - I mean it’s an exclusive interview with an actor from one of the most popular cinematic universes on screen. This content is pretty evergreen for this site, slow news day or not.

Just trying to share fairness
soberchimera - 11/20/2023, 9:16 AM
Turning Merlyn into Norman Osborn was a bizarre creative choice, if anything Merlyn should be more like Bullseye who hates Green Arrow because he ruined his reputation.
bkmeijer1 - 11/20/2023, 11:41 AM
@soberchimera - I think it worked out pretty well. Merlyn is probably my favourite recurring villain over all shows
soberchimera - 11/20/2023, 11:51 AM
@bkmeijer1 - Yeah, because they ripped off a villain from a much mire popular superhero franchise. They just should’ve ripped off another Marvel villain that was more similar to the character in the comics.
bkmeijer1 - 11/20/2023, 12:59 PM
@soberchimera - felt it was distinct enough from Norman. I hadn't even made the connection until I read your comment even.
soberchimera - 11/20/2023, 1:05 PM
@bkmeijer1 - His best friend's dad is his archenemy, the connection was pretty seamless, especially considering Guggenheim wrote Amazing Spider-Man.
bkmeijer1 - 11/20/2023, 2:03 PM
@soberchimera - I guess that works. Thought it worked though, but it's not the main reason I like Merlyn
thedrudo - 11/20/2023, 9:41 AM
Wonder if he misses being able to flash his dong on every set.
Blergh - 11/20/2023, 10:36 AM
Loved him on DW and Torchwood; matter of fact him joining Arrow made me turn around on it. I was pretty miffed that they did a new Green Arrow show without Justin Hartley only two years after Smallville ended and I hated how it copied Nolan’s tone.

But ultimately the show grew on me until it turned into The Felicity Diaries.
Merlyn was easily my favorite villain given my Barrowman bias but even he wasn’t enough to keep me watching through the mess that was season 4 and 5. His character dying off screen was so hilariously on brand for the show in the season 5 finale.

Despite his controversy I hope he comes back to the limelight.
He’s a flasher, people have gotten back from worse. What’s the real problem is that he hasn’t apologised or saw anything wrong with his actions. Apologize and move on, I say.
Would love to work with him one day, seems like a blast of an actor to work with…if he doesn’t flash his cock around, that is.
ImBatman4realz - 11/20/2023, 10:52 AM
Trying to watch these interviews is always so cringy.

The CWverse/Arrowverse really wasn’t that good
LiteraryJoe - 11/20/2023, 11:08 AM
@joshwilding - Hella good job, keep it up brother!
JoshWilding - 11/20/2023, 11:38 AM
@LiteraryJoe - Thanks, Joe! 👊

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