How We Met: John Barrowman & Jodie Prenger

'John constantly gave me good advice, but it was fur that really brought us together'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

John Barrowman, 42, is best known for his role as Captain Jack in the 'Doctor Who' spin-off 'Torchwood'. He is also a singer and stage actor, appearing in 'La Cage aux Folles' and as a judge on the BBC talent show 'I'd Do Anything' in 2008. He lives in London with his partner, Scott.

The thing I love most about Jodie is that she makes me laugh. It goes back to the first day I met her: she walked into the audition for I'd Do Anything, saying, "Ooh, my feet are killing me, can I take my shoes off, please?" I said, "Are they really hurting your feet?" And she said, "Yeah, they only cost me 10 quid." I just lost it and laughed through her whole audition. Very rarely do you meet someone in this business who's willing to show who they really are, but with Jodie what you see is what you get, which is the same with me.

The only time we could talk to the contestants was in the BBC bar after the Saturday-night TV performance. I would talk to each of them but it was Jodie who was always coming to me for advice. And, as the competition progressed, we weren't talking about advice, but about home, family and dogs.

When she won, I was ecstatic that a genuine person had come through it. We stayed in touch and started going out to dinners and I'd have her over to my house. I introduced her to my manager, Gavin, who agreed to sign her. We've done all sorts together since, including a recording for my album. I could have had performers who were more prominent in the pop scene, but I wanted Jodie; for me it's about being loyal.

She's very supportive to me, too, coming to see my shows, and when I had a tough time with the Radio 1 thing [Barrowman exposed himself during a broadcast 14 months ago], Jodie knew what I was going through and was the first to get in contact.

She's met all my friends, who love her – in fact one of them, Shirley, came to watch Jodie's every appearance during the show. And she's great fun on a night out. Our last extravaganza at my place lasted till 6am; the champagne flowed, we had a sing-along with my piano and we played truth or dare.

I've met Jodie's parents a few times, and whenever they come to visit her from Blackpool, her father always pulls me aside and says, "Thank you, you do a lot more for her than you think you do," so I know she's appreciative of everything. But despite how we first met, I'm no longer her teacher and she's not the student – that's not how we see each other now.

Jodie Prenger, 30, is an actor and singer who won the BBC talent show 'I'd Do Anything' in 2008, netting her the role of Nancy in the West End revival of the musical 'Oliver!'. She lives in London

I first encountered John during the second round of auditions for I'd Do Anything. He was one of the judges, and I was petrified, like a deer in front of headlights, but it was his laughter that put me at ease. I was nervously trying to kick off my shoes on stage, which still had their £5 sticker on the sole, and John spotted it, and he just started giggling; John's always laughing.

I was going through these massive life-changing reality experiences, and John constantly gave me great advice for being on stage such as, "Just act like you're the only one in the pub." But it was fur that really brought us together. During the filming of one of the episodes of the series, his partner Scott called him to say his dog had passed away; it was such a sad thing. I'm just dead soft with dogs, so suddenly it was all I could think about, so I just said to him, "Don't even bother about us, we'll be fine, just go," as if it was me running the show! After that we talked about dogs all the time: I've got two Yorkshire terriers; John now has a Jack Russell and a mixed.

Over the course of the rest of the show we started finding out just how similar we were. A lot of people say that I am a gay man trapped in a woman's body. I've done a few radio-show stand-ins for Paul O'Grady, and when I talk about favourite songs, I have a gay man's song choices; one of my favourites, "I Am What I Am", John sang when I went to go watch him recently in Le Cage aux Folles and I remember thinking, "Oh my God, that's the perfect role for me."

When I first moved to London from Blackpool, the thing that really scared me was being on my own. But after I won the show, John took me under his wing; he introduced me to his manager Gavin Barker and I became part of this circle we call the Barker Family. When you are a good person, you surround yourself with good people, as John has. As a group we've all been out drinking and survived; a few of us went to The Ivy last year for his birthday. He's a very handsome man, so if we're out people always look at him, and when they realise it's John, they go in for an autograph.

We've worked together a lot since the competition. I've performed at some of his concert tours, and when he rang me up in September last year to ask me to do a duet track with him ["So Close", from the film Enchanted], I jumped at the chance – it meant a lot that I was the first one he thought of. My parents and John's parents all met up recently to listen to the final version over a cup of tea and it was fabulous seeing both sets of parents beaming with pride. It's been great knowing someone who's in the same industry, and he's been a fantastic mentor, but most importantly his friendship has given me something else: a home away from home.

John Barrowman's self-titled album is out on Sony tomorrow;