For days, the snow has been falling, blanketing Vancouver in a winter wonderland. But a torrential rain has turned the snow to slush. Even so, some fans brave the weather outside The Columbia, a theater 30 minutes southeast of downtown Vancouver that’s been dressed to look like a ’40s nightclub for the highly anticipated Flash–Supergirl musical crossover.
Currently inside in a pristine white dinner jacket is a mobster, and the owner of the club, a.k.a. Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow star John Barrowman, who will lend his exceptional vocal skills to the hour. Between takes of an epic ensemble number, Barrowman practices his moves, but he had a spare moment to share his experience with EW (check out photos here, and get more scoop here).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you feel when you first found out there would be a musical?
JOHN BARROWMAN: Well, when I found out about the musical, I thought immediately, “I really hope I can be a part of it,” and then I put forward the feelers out to Warner Brothers, to CW, everybody. I hadn’t heard anything, and I just basically then said, “I think you would be daft or stupid not to have me in this. Really.” But they planned on it all along and so they then came and said, “You’re going to do this, you’ll sing this song, and you’ll be in the big dance number.” And I was like, “This is awesome!” But then, all of a sudden, they show me the dance steps and I’m not a hip-hopper, no way. I panicked, but it’s fun. It’s all good. I’m loving it.
What’s that prep been like for you?
You want honesty? I was meant to have a three-hour rehearsal of this. I, however, finished filming a scene here, and Legends said, “You have to come right back to us.” I went to Legends, missed my rehearsal over here, and I only got a 15-minute rehearsal five days ago and 15 minutes this morning before we started. I’m a very good bluffer.
Were you nervous coming in to do a dance scene like this?
Absolutely. I’m exceptionally confident vocally, I’m exceptionally confident when I’m on camera doing all the other stuff, but when it comes to a style of dancing that I’m not so confident about, I am very nervous, and I was very nervous this morning. So that’s why I came in early. I worked a little bit before everybody came in. I did my thing and then I felt a little more comfortable. Normally, when I do a musical like on stage in the West End or if I’ve done on Broadway, if I’m playing the lead, I set up with the choreographer that I have a few days before everybody comes in just so I know what I’m doing a little bit. I can make it look like I’m rehearsing, but I kind of know the stuff. But this? I was…no. For goodness sake, Darren [Criss] has been doing this on Glee for ages, and I watched him, I love him. He’s fantastic and I was a little nervous. That’s all I can say.
But in the recording studio?
Piece of cake. Piece of cake. Recording’s no problem.
Tell us about the movie musical.
What’s interesting is you have in this different world — whether you want to call it an alternate universe, or in the musical world, or the Musical Meister’s world — we are all within the minds of the two truths that go through the story, which are Grant and Melissa, Flash and Supergirl, and they’re going through it as the truth and the rest of us are what’s in their head. That’s why Barry knows me as Malcolm Merlyn, but Supergirl doesn’t know me as Malcolm Merlyn. Everybody makes an appearance. It’s just ironic that everyone who does make the appearance in this world is from the musical world. We’ve got a couple people from the other shows who are a little bit, “Why wasn’t I asked to do it?” which is really awesome. But this world it’s a creation of a couple of musicals put together and also very much like Romeo & Juliet. This is all existing in their heads, not in reality. It’s very bizarre.
What are your thoughts on the ’40s ambiance?
I love the ’40s. I absolutely love the ’40s style and I was privileged at times to meet people like Howard Keel and June Allyson and Gene Kelly and all the greats, to sit down and talk to them, Esther Williams. I grew up watching the ’40s musicals, so to do this and be in the ’40s, it’s just a treat. In the script, when Grant’s character is watching the movies, that’s what I used to do, just put on a movie musical — I still do it to this day with my best friend Brett and my husband. Me and Xavier, my other best friend, we sit and we watch movies, do it on a Saturday night, so this is my world. This is my world.
How do you think Music Meister compares to other villains we’ve seen on the show?
See I don’t see myself as a villain. I see myself as a misunderstood hero. The Music Meister, and this is the same way I feel with Merlyn, he’s a bad guy, but he’s actually doing something to help somebody, so there is method to his madness. The characters, Supergirl and Flash, don’t have to understand why they’re doing it to begin with, nor does anybody else in the world that we’ve created, but as long as the audience at home gets it, that’s what makes a good villain. And I think Darren does a really great job of that because he’s a little sly, he’s a little sneaky, but he tells them exactly to follow the script. “Just follow the script and you’ll be fine because you’re here to learn something.”
What’s it been like getting to work with all these people?
I’m a bit fanboying out to be honest. Well, I watched Smash and I also saw Newsies on Broadway — I’m a big fan of genre television and also musicals myself, and I watched Glee. Melissa I know obviously from Supergirl. So to be involved in this and be asked to be involved with a really happy bunch of good people, who are really wanting to do good work, it’s awesome and that’s what our DC universe is like. I’m kind of privileged to be part of it. And you know what? I celebrate my 50th birthday in March. I sat last night up in the Green Room, the dressing room with everybody, and they’re all talking and talking and we’re doing stuff, and they’re going through things, and I just sat there and I thought, “You know what? I’ve been there, where you guys are,” and I called my husband on the phone and I said, “I finally feel my age sitting with all of them.” But it’s great to be a part of it and great to work with everybody. Because I posted [on social media] who I’m with today but haven’t said anything, just said we’re doing a big number, there’s people outside apparently and they’re going, “Take a picture! Take a picture of Darren’s ass!” So I’m going to send a baboon’s bum instead. [Laughs.]
The musical crossover will kick off at the end of Supergirl’s March 20 hour, with the majority of the action taking place during The Flash‘s March 21 episode; Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m., and The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Check out our full gallery of The Flash–Supergirl musical crossover photos here, get the scoop on the crossover here, check out our interviews with Darren Criss here, and Melissa Benoist here.