John Barrowman: Doctor Who creator Russell T Davies gave ’emotional depth’ to LGBT characters

John Barrowman

John Barrowman has hailed “groundbreaking” TV creator Russell T Davies, as he presented him with a lifetime achievement award at the PinkNews Awards.

The Doctor Who and Torchwood star paid tribute to his former showrunner, who was honoured for his contributions to LGBT+ representation on television, including Queer as Folk, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal and upcoming AIDS drama Boys.

Speaking at the PinkNews Awards in Westminster on Wednesday, Barrowman said: “Russell’s writing has spanned more than two decades. He’s brought homosexuals, bisexuals, omnisexuals, trans-sexual and trans-human characters into our living rooms on Saturday nights.

“In every show Russell’s written, he’s created out and proud gay characters. Queer As Folk was ground-breaking because it depicted gay men with significance. We had stories to tell. We had sex.

“Every show since then has been more progressive in its depiction of LGBTQ characters, more nuanced than the last in the emotional depth of those characters, the worlds they inhabit, and the issues that concern those characters matter not just to our community, they matter to all of us.”

John Barrowman thanks Russell T Davies for creating ‘omnisexual ass-kicking alien-busting action hero’.

Of his own role, he said: “Of all of his characters, though, one has transcended the Tardis, reached beyond Canary Wharf and become almost as iconic as the Doctor himself.

“With Captain Jack in both Doctor Who and Torchwood, Russell created an omnisexual ass-kicking alien-busting action hero for the ages and changed my life.”

Russell T Davies accepted the Lifetime Achievement award

Russell T Davies accepted the Lifetime Achievement award (Paul Grace)

He added: “To go from a set where I had to be wrapped up tighter than a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes… to the inclusive and accepting sets of Doctor Who and then Torchwood was life-changing and life-affirming.

“Russell hired me because of what I could bring to the part regardless of who I slept with. Captain Jack has brought me fame and a good living, but it has also given me the opportunity to represent and be a role model for others.”

People all over the world embraced Captain Jack Harkness

“At pop culture conventions all over the world boys and girls, men and women cosplay as Captain Jack, embracing the progressive humanist values Russell imbued in Jack.”

John Barrowman added: “Russell is a man of passion and compassion, a man with a big laugh and a generous heart, a bold thinker, a feminist, and a very tall man.

“He’s a writer who believes in the power of the imagination to create change in the world. And he has. Russell has said he only ever wanted to make ‘good telly,’ and he does… over and over again.”

Russell T Davies: Love needs defending.

Accepting the award, Davies reflected on how much has changed since he made Queer as Folk in 1999.

He said: “We had complaints from straight people, we had complaints from gay people, we had complaints from folk dancers! I was so lucky, it was an honour to make that show.”

Reflecting his own relationship with the LGBT+ community, he said: “I fell in love with us.  It’s been my life’s work to capture just some of that and put it on screen. Love stories need defending. Love needs defending [and] we’ve begun to slide, to slink, and to suffer.”

Addressing the video message at the event from Boris Johnson, he said: “To sit here tonight while he lectures us on that screen, with that dirty lapel… look, I’m never going to vote Conservative. But there are good Conservative ministers, and it’s supposed to be a good party.

“It’s supposed to be a force for good. What the f**k is happening to them? More than half the Cabinet opposed gay marriage. It stinks, and we must do everything to fight it.”

The speech received a standing ovation.

This is the seventh annual PinkNews Awards, sponsored by Amazon, and taking place at Church House, headquarters of the Church of England.