“Arrow’s” John Barrowman is ditching the hood this summer to host ABC’s new celebrity competition series, “Sing Your Face Off.”
Kicking off this Saturday at 9/8c on the network, John plays ringmaster as five celebrities – Lisa Rinna, Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, “SNL” alum Jon Lovitz, basketball pro Landry Fields, and teen star China Anne McClain — take to the stage to perform a musical hit, after being “transformed” into musical icons.
It’s already been revealed that this Saturday’s episode features blond-haired rocker Sebastian becoming Adam Levine of Maroon 5, while China transitions into Rihanna. The celebs are judged each week by “SNL” alum Darrell Hammond and Debbie Gibson, and a guest judge.
On Wednesday, John spoke with AccessHollywood.com about which stars are set to surprise viewers on the show, and what it was like trying to rein in the judges.
AccessHollywood.com: Tell me about when they approached you to host this. You are a singer. Was it weird you were approached to host this as opposed to being a participant?
John Barrowman: No, it wasn’t, because I’ve been doing hosting — what you guys call hosting shows, we call them presenting in the UK — for the last 20 years and I like to think that I’m pretty much all right doing it. Georgie [Hurford-Jones], who is one of the producers, and ABC — when I went in to meet with them and they gave me the script to look at and I read it, after I was done with it, they said, ‘You did it like it was just second nature.’ I’m like, ‘But it’s what I do.’
Access: Which celebrities are going to shock the most on the show?
John: Jon Lovitz is gonna be a shocker. Also, Lisa Rinna is going to be a shocker. Landry is gonna be a shocker. Without giving it away, when he comes out as a female artist – woo! And he takes it on board and he does it. It just blew us away.
Access: Tell me about hosting a show like this when you have a judge like Darrell Hammond and guest judges like David Allen Grier or RuPaul?
John: I was told by ABC and also the producers, ‘John, the reason you’re here is because we’ve seen the stuff that you’ve done in the UK and we know you can take control if you have to.’ And obviously, I’ve got the producers talking to me in my ear while I’m doing the stuff and so at times, they would be saying to me, ‘Rein it in! Rein it in! Bring it back! Bring it back! Take it away from them.’ And I’m the type, I would just look at Darrell and just say, ‘Shut up. I’ve gotta move on,’ which no other host really have said that to the judges (laughs).
Access: But you’re so charming you can get away with it. What was it like with David Allen Grier? He also can sometimes go off the rails so to speak.
John: Yeah, but you know what it is? The knack is allowing them to go off the rails when they want to and what’s appropriate, but also being able to like give them an eye signal and go, ‘All right. We’ve gotta move on.’ And there were times they did continue to rattle on about stuff, and I would joke with them. I’d let them rattle on and then I’d look at them and go, ‘That’ll all be cut in the edit.’
Access: What was it like having RuPaul on as a guest judge?
John: Oh gosh, that was great. I mean, RuPaul… he was really game for doing stuff. … I was asked to be a guest judge on the RuPaul show [‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’] at one point and I couldn’t do it, just because of time restraints. But I’d love to do it. I’d love to go on to ‘Drag Race’ and do it. But he was amazing. And he was very constructive with the comments but also, he knew how to have fun.
Access: With your background, did any of the celebrities or judges ask you about’ Doctor Who,’ or ‘Torchwood’ or ‘Arrow’?
John: Oh yeah, Sebastian was a ‘Doctor Who’ fan and a ‘Torchwood’ fan. And also, Darrell knew about the stuff that I’d done. Debbie Gibson, I’ve known for years. She was doing West End musicals in London when I was doing my West End stuff.
Access: By the way, congrats on becoming a series regular on ‘Arrow,’ although that seemed appropriate because arrow is in your name.
John: That’s exactly – sometimes I say, B-Arrow-man. Thank you. I’m chuffed to be on ‘Arrow’ full time. It’s great.
Access: You and William Shatner were Tweeting over the weekend with each other. Are you aware that he loves to live Tweet television shows?
John: Yes, I did. Absolutely. I do that sometimes myself. He does ‘Once Upon a Time,’ but he also does it with another show that I’m on, on another network, so yeah I do know that he does it.
Access: Have you told him about ‘Sing Your Face Off,’ seeing as you guys already have the Twitter connection captain to captain?
John: I haven’t, but now that you have said that, I’m going to Tweet him later this afternoon and tell him that he should be Tweeting — live Tweeting — during ‘Sing Your Face Off’ and I’d be very disappointed — ‘cause I call him Captain — I’ll say, ‘I’ll be very disappointed, Captain, if you don’t.’
Access: What does he call you?
John: He actually calls me Captain because the character of Captain Jack [Harkness] that I played, and we know each other through the sci-fi world. So yeah, we call each other Captain.
Access: He also has had a career in recording too.
John: Yes, but I like to think that I have a better voice. Let’s just put it bluntly.
“Sing Your Face Off” premieres Saturday at 9/8c on ABC.
-- Jolie Lash