Gareth David-Lloyd at Phoenix Fan Fest 2015
Fans of Torchwood will not doubt recognize Gareth as Ianto Jones, the ill-fated love interest of Captain Jack Harkness. In addition to Torchwood, Gareth was part of Blue Gillespie a progressive metal band in Wales, and has performed in Welsh theater. He has also been in Red Faction: Origins ( a sci-fi television movie in the U.K.) and Warehouse 13 to name just a few of his acting credits. Bringing his smooth, rolling South Wales accent to Fan Fest, Gareth answered a variety of fan questions.
Given the nature of Torchwood, and his own character’s story line, the inevitable questions about Ianto and Jack came up quickly. Gareth said he had no idea he was the lead character’s love interest, although he felt there was a flirtation from the beginning. He genuinely believed Ianto would die quickly, saying “he’s going to be the red suit guy from Star Trek”. He was “stoked” to get to season 3 (or series as they say in the U.K.).
When Ianto died at the end of ‘Children of Earth’ the BBC didn’t employ Gareth for a bit. Apparently Ianto was so well loved by fans that many of them sent letters of complaint (and a few death threats) to the BBC. Gareth jokingly said they must have felt he was a bit too hot to handle at the moment and wanted things to calm down. With Ianto gone from Torchwood, fans in the U.K., specifically Cardiff in Wales, set up a shrine on the boardwalk at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, where exterior shots of the Hub were filmed. Gareth himself believes he is the only actor who got a shrine that has stayed up for as long as this one has. His response to fans at Fan Fest was “thank you to anyone who’s put their knickers or anything on the shrine. It’s still going strong, it’s still maintained”.
Death in the Dr. Who/Torchwood universe isn’t always permanent. Gareth, when asked, said he would love to see Ianto come back, perhaps in a way similar to Peter Capaldi coming from Dr. Who episode “The Fires of Pompeii” where he played Lobus Caecilius, before eventually taking on the role of the Doctor.
I’m sure every actor from Dr. Who and Torchwood has been asked this question, so Gareth is naturally no exception. “Who is your favorite Doctor?” Gareth said his first Dr. was Sylvester McCoy. He grew up watching McCoy’s Doctor, but said all the Dr’s are great. He loves Capaldi’s Doctorr. and considers him a close second to McCoy as a favorite. Further, he thinks Ianto’s Dr. would be David Tennant; “He’s the prettiest”.
Since it was a Torchwood panel, in Gareth’s words, it was only a matter of time before John Barrowman and shenanigans came up. John was, according to Gareth, the leader of the shenanigans. There are lots of stories “mostly involving John Barrowman, uhm and his penis”. Gareth shared his two favorites. Even though most fans will have heard these stories dozens of times, it is always exciting to hear them again, especially in person rather than on YouTube. The first story Gareth shared involved John and the Dukan Eye. Early one morning the prop went missing, and John, in his way, said he would look for it. He then dropped his pants, bent over, and revealed the eye was wedged between his cheeks. Gareth then said he was “glad [he] didn’t have to handle that prop”. The next story we heard was a new one for me. Gareth began his tale with “We were all sat in the trailer one morning, and Eve…had these massive rollers in her hair,…and she felt something on her cheek…tapping her cheek; (in John Barrowman’s voice and accent) ‘Hey Evie. Someone’s come to say hello. Hey Evie look. Someone’s come to say hello’. She turned around, well her eyes…John had his penis through the roller. Tapping her on the side of the cheek. How he’s never been arrested…is beyond me”. As Gareth shook his head, the audience roared with laughter. Being fairly good with accents myself, I have to say I was impressed with not only Gareth’s impression of John, but also his American accent. Well done! Da iawn!
One fan asked who would be on Gareth’s team if he could take over the world. He needed to think about it, but said “no Barrowman though. He’s not the butch action hero that he very well portrays. He much prefers dancing and singing…constantly”. I can’t say any of us were surprised. Every panel video of John shows him camping it up for the fans, and we love every camp minute of it.
Torchwood’s romantic storyline between Ianto and Jack was a sci -fi first. The moderator addressed the subject with Gareth.
“It wasn’t that long ago over here, the idea of two male characters in a relationship was a really big deal. Have you ever thought about the impact you might have had on that cultural zeitgeist?”
“Absolutely. It wasn’t in the U.K., obviously in Queer as Folk, and lots of other shows with same sex relationships, but it was the first one that was in a sci-fi show. Especially one linked… (to a) spin off of a family show. Torchwood was the first show that had a same sex relationship at the forefront and we were very aware and very proud of them for making it. We knew it was going to make an impact, especially if it got to the States, which it did. So yeah we were proud…it opened doors for a lot of other shows…People say ‘Well what is it like’? ‘How do you feel about being in a same sex relationship in a show’? As soon as you start thinking about that then it becomes an issue and my stance on it is it should never be an issue. It’s just a relationship in a show. Whether it’s same sex or not it’s not something to be discussed in depth”. He received a round of applause for his comments.
Moving on to new projects, because in addition to hearing all about the role that made him a celebrity big in the geek world, fans always want to know what’s next. Gareth will be portraying Brick in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. This is his first lead role, professionally, in a play. He will be working with Welsh Theater company Theatr Clwyd between February and March. Performances will be held in Clwyd, Cardiff, and Swansea. Any Gareth fans in the U.K., or who can make the trip, are encouraged by Gareth himself to come see the play.
Almost every fan wants to know how an actor found out they got their roles. For Gareth, it was three weeks after he auditioned for Ianto. He was on his way to another audition for a play. In his own words as his phone rang, he “almost got on the train, instead [he] went into the pub, had a pint to celebrate”. That moment reminds me of the basic premise of the British film ‘Sliding Doors’ starring Gwyneth Paltrow. On a side note, Gareth said he prefers German Lagers and British Ales, something I have in common with him.
Torchwood, being not only filmed, but also set in Cardiff, frequently has lots of rain during scenes. It turns out the rain we see on the screen is not real. Real rain is not strong enough to show up on camera. To make it visible, high pressure rain machines are used. Gareth said “it’s like being in a really powerful shower with freezing cold water, at 3 o’clock in the morning, fully clothed, doing take after take, after take…that was real pain on my face”.
Sci-fi and fantasy often rely on CGI lately. While the final product is mind blowing for fans, it requires a great deal of imagination for the actors. In Gareth’s experience, a real set makes it easier for actors because there is more for them to work with.
Ianto was originally supposed to die in the second series episode “Dead Man Walking”. However Russell felt it was better for the story line that doctor Owen Harper die; “the dead tending to the dead”. The reasoning involved Owen being “impulsive, sexual, – so he couldn’t eat, drink, get drunk, have sex, etc”. Gareth felt it was a good decision, because Ianto was too stiff.
Every Dr. Who and Torchwood actor gets asked which screwdriver is their favorite. Humorously Gareth answered with “Phillips”. As the audience laughter died down, he continued, saying “I don’t know them all to be honest with you. I’m not that knowledgeable about screwdrivers. I like the gold one”.
In addition to acting, Gareth also sang with progressive metal band Blue Gillespie. While the band is still together, Gareth’s schedule has prevented him playing with the guys. There are plans to record a Christmas song, but it may not be until next year.
In a change from questions a fan had news for Gareth.
“At Gallifrey in Los Angeles this past February…”
“The one I wasn’t invited to? Yeah I know”. (audience laughter)
“You were there though, because my friend cosplayed the shrine”.
“She cosplayed the shrine? Yes. I think the shrine was cosplayed at Miracle Day as well”.
“I know she would want me to tell you that.”
“Thank her very much. Ask Gallifrey ‘Why didn’t you invite Gareth?… Everyone else got to go. Why didn’t I get to go”?
For those not familiar, Gallifrey, or more correctly Gallifrey One is the world’s largest and longest-running annual fan-run Doctor Who convention, held in Los Angeles. Miracle Day (named after the last series of Torchwood) is a London/Heathrow based Torchwood themed convention.
Dr. Who and Torchwood are full of amazing gadgets. When asked which piece of alien tech he would have if he could have one, Gareth said he would like to have the device Toshiko used to download information from books to her computer; because “knowledge is cool”.
More than half way through the panel, a fan asked “What’s it like to snog John Barrowman?” Gareth’s humorous response was “What is it like to ask irritating questions?” Once the audience stopped laughing he continued, “Awful. He’s rubbish. He’s terrible. I taught him everything he knows”. Once again we all burst out laughing.
The first kiss between Ianto and Jack. Unbeknownst to Gareth, John asked the director to keep rolling. The kiss was done in one take, “but that kiss actually goes on for about two and a half minutes longer. Not quite that long… We both broke down laughing…I realized as he started to smirk, that he told them to keep rolling. Kissing, kissing, kissing, in my mind I’m going kisses on set aren’t usually this long, kissing, kissing, kissing”.
It would seem most fans of Torchwood didn’t spot the developing romance between Ianto and Jack. I knew by episode four that something was there. However I have an insight into hidden relationships. One fan was curious about how, as an actor, Gareth adjusted to the change in story line. He said it was always sort of there, and not really a surprise for him. He was very flattered, and excited to have that responsibility. “I didn’t know I had a cyberwoman in the basement until I was shooting the third episode (‘Ghost Machine’, ‘Cyberwoman’ is episode 4); so sometimes you have to adjust. In the audition I thought Ianto had something to hide. You have to make it work”.
Practically every fan of Torchwood with whom I have spoken has a deep love for the first three series of the show. The fourth, as yet final series, ‘Miracle Day’ has been less well received. When asked why this is, Gareth gave a truly moving answer. “I think there was one very, very, important element missing to ‘Miracle Day’. Me! No. Wales. Wales. I think Wales is very much a character in the show, and that the backdrop of Wales really helped forge the show’s identity. Wales has got…very much a unique sort of character. The way we speak, the way we talk, our sense of humour. It’s quite actually different to English. The way we are, our history, and I think that backdrop.. .there was something fresh… the characters were very human and flawed that’s what gave Torchwood its quirk I think, gave it its spark. It helped forge its identity”. He believes moving the show to the U.S. resulted in it losing one character too many. ‘Miracle Day’ is a great series he stressed, but he felt it lost its identity and became just another Sci-fi series; and without its quirkiness Gareth feels that’s why the show is still on hiatus.
As not only a Whovian but also an Anglophile, I have to say I firmly agree with him. To me Dr. Who, and Torchwood will always be British, much like James Bond. Some things are just meant to be. Hopefully the BBC will bring back Torchwood, and return it to Cardiff. In the meantime, Thank you Gareth for visiting us at PhoenixFanFest. Break a leg in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! Diolch i chi Gareth am ymweld â ni yn PhoenixFanFest. Torri coes mewn Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!