John Barrowman became a cult icon thanks to Captain Jack Harkness, the heroic role he played on Dr. Who and Torchwood. So when word broke Barrowman would be embracing his evil side as the nefarious Malcolm Merlyn (a.k.a. The Dark Archer) on The CW's Arrow, fans were torn.
Turns out, the goodwill Barrowman had spent the last eight years earning was put to perfect use as he imbued Malcolm with so much soul, the character became more than your average villain. Tonight kicks off a string of three all-new episodes, leading to the finale, and culminating in The Dark Archer's plan to eradicate The Glades.
ETonline caught up with Barrowman to talk about his time on the dark side, uncover the key to creating a heroic villain and find out what fans can expect from the end of season one!
ETonline: What appealed to you about playing Malcolm on Arrow?
John Barrowman: It's a very different character for me because, number one, he is seen to be a bad guy. But I see him as exactly the same as Oliver in the way he's trying to rid the city of evil, he's just going about it in a much more ruthless way than Oliver. I see him as a vigilante and a hero, just a very, very troubled hero.
ETonline: And it's not like we know that Oliver's method will work in the long run better than Malcolm's yet.
Barrowman: Correct. People do bad things because they want to do them. Someone gets blamed because they need a scapegoat. Malcolm has this attitude of, "You're in my way? F*ck you, I'm going to kill you." The rest of the characters get behind Malcolm because he'll do the bad thing and they don't have to take responsibility.
ETonline: Will the final three episodes see him held accountable for those actions?
Barrowman: Put it this way, he's the Lex Luthor of this world, so he's going to be held accountable for freakin' everything [laughs]. But the audience will see he's not entirely to blame. This is what's going to be interesting. And I hate to use a phrase from that redonkulous stupid president, but his attitude is very much "You're either with us or you're against us."
ETonline: Obviously in Oliver's eyes, Malcolm has failed Starling City. But The CW released a photo of Malcolm having captured Oliver -- and neither wearing masks. What can you tease about that moment?
Barrowman: They reveal a lot of information to each other. That's all I'll say [laughs].
ETonline: This is a moment Arrow has been leading up to all season long. Do you think it lives up to the audience's expectations?
Barrowman: From seeing what Twitter has been like the last few days after that photograph came out and all the squeeing going on, I think fans are going to love it because the episode is full of things like that. It's an epic episode. It's on steroids times 100. Fans of their show are going to have, in the season finale, a huge payoff that will thrill them ... but also leave them hanging.
ETonline: There's an amazing photo from the penultimate episode of you, in The Dark Archer, completely in shadow. What's it like to actually wear that costume?
Barrowman: I have to tell you a secret about that costume, it's very claustrophobic. I'm not saying this to boost my own ego, but I have a prominent jaw, so they had to cover it up with this mask that goes over my mouth and nose. I call it the gimp mask. Now, when I have that on and we're shooting, everything I say is muffled. It makes me feel claustrophic because I can't breathe, and, of course, I always have a sh*tload of dialogue to say when I have it on, so that's why I think the writers decided to do that big scene without the mask. But it's an absolutely sexy, horny outfit [laughs].
ETonline: It's interesting because I know Malcolm is the villain, but the show has done a great job of making me empathize with him. Especially thanks to that conversation he had with Laurel and Tommy over dinner about his late wife.
Barrowman: Just wait because that scene and getting the empathy for Malcolm was hugely important for these last few episodes. The thing you'll see with Malcolm is there's more to come in his revelation. Malcolm has done something, and kept something in his possession, that will surprise the audience when it's revealed to Tommy. It's a big "Oh my God" moment.
ETonline: Tonight's episode is called The Undertaking. A name that is seemingly very important in the finale.
Barrowman: The Undertaking is a massively pivotal thing. When you find out what it is, you'll be glad you don't live in Starling City [laughs]. But Malcolm and Robert and Moira are pivotal in The Undertaking. No one is void of any responsibility, yet they all want to blame Malcolm for it. I mean, he is the brains...
ETonline: Looking beyond tonight's episode, what are you excited for Arrow fans to see in the last two episodes?
Barrowman: Can I be selfish?
ETonline: Of course!
Barrowman: It's going to be a major fan-gasm because I know they've wanted to see Oliver and I come together and face each other. We do that. And we do it in an epic way. Also, they're going to see there's more to Malcolm and more to Oliver than what they have seen before. If I had to pick one word for the finale, it would be fangasm.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.