HE'D DO ANYTHING! Barrowman as Captain Jack with David Tennant and Freema Agyeman

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Byline: MICHAEL HELLICAR

JOHN BARROWMAN pops up everywhere. You can't switch on the TV withoutbeing dazzled by his full-on teeth-flashing charm. Tomorrow we get a doubledose.

He's fronting a new quiz show, The Kids Are All Right, which goes out justbefore his appearance as one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's judges on the talentsearch I'd Do Anything, following on from How Do You Solve A Problem LikeMaria? and Any Dream Will Do.

And then there's his leading role as the 51st-century Captain Jack Harkness inthe Dr Who spin-off Torchwood. Not to mention his willingness to appear on anyother programme that asks himas the butt of Al Murray's jokes on his Happy Hour, choosing our Eurovisionentry with Terry Wogan, a guest role in Hotel Babylon and a slot on the sofawith Paul O'Grady.

And he recently co-presented the Breakfast Show on London's Capital Radio. Youcan't even get away from him in the High Street, where he's currently signingcopies of his autobiography Anything Goes, or determinedly promoting his albumAnother Side, posing for cameraphone pictures until the very last fan has gonehome happy.

This week he began a nationwide concert tour, which started in his current hometown of Cardiff and finishes in Portsmouth.

He has plenty more lined up beyond that, too: another series of Dr Who, severalmore major TV projects in the planning stage, a BBC documentary about beinggay, starring as Robin Hood in a pantomime in Birmingham for six weeks overChristmas and a West End musical next year. Phew! What drives Barrowman? Ormore to the point: who is he? For although he crops up everywhere, not thatmuch is known about him.

'I like to keep busy,' he says, which is a bit of an understatement. 'So longas people want to see me, I'm there. I don't believe in hiding away.

'You can be in the public eye all the time and still have a private life, butthe important thing is to keep in touch with the people who put you there.'MANY would say that Barrowman, outwardly confident to the point of sometimesseeming arrogant, is being ingenuous here. Someone who has known him for mostof his professional career claims the force behind his rise to fame is deepuncertainty.

'He is very success-orientated. Not because he's greedy, but because, like mostshowbusiness stars, he knows that one day the applause will die and the fanswill turn their adulation to someone else.

'He's always been fantastically ambitious. When he's had disappointments he hastaken them very hard.

There was the time, as a young man, that he starred in a musical in LosAngeles. He hoped that it would be his big break but the show flopped.

'That was a severe blow to his ego.

Ever since he has held the view that he should grab everything while he canbecause it may not last. He is genuinely grateful to the people who put himthere.'

Others close to him, however, believe his backgroundgrowing up as a closet homosexual in America's less-than-enlightened Mid-Westetched a permanent chip on his shoulder which he now tries to overcome bydefiantly thrusting himself into the limelight as if to say: 'I am what I amtake me or leave me!' Barrowman was born in Mount Vernon in Glasgow, Scotland,the youngest of three children, but moved to Aurora, Illinois, in the U.S.

in 1976 when his father, also John, was put in charge of the Caterpillartractor manufacturing plant there.

'I knew I was gay when I was 13,' he tells me. 'Actually, I'd probably begun torealise when I was nine. I remember looking at a photograph of a man and awoman, and my eyes went instinctively to the man.

'But you don't broadcast that sort of preference in America's Mid-West.

In those daysparticularly in the Bible beltyou were taught there must be something wrong with you if you were that wayinclined.

'I was bullied at school because of my Scottish accent. So I adopted anAmerican accent to be like everyone else, and that's how I speak todayexcept when I'm with my parents or my brother and sister. …