On Wednesday night last week, South Africans bid a tearful goodbye to one of their favourite villains – David Genaro – on e.tv’s “Rhythm City”.
A few days later, Jamie Bartlett popped by our offices to chat about inhabiting this iconic character for close on 13 years.
“He is like a Greco-Roman classical character. And, in order to play him (he’s actually colonised every single cell in my body), and, at times, in the plea of him and in the defence of the character, wedging my toe into the corner of the shower to get some purchase on him in play, I’ve had to go see a doctor at times because it is just too overwhelming to shoot…,” he shared.
Bartlett added: “He’s not a casual guy. He doesn’t come in and say, ‘Did you put the toothpaste somewhere because I can’t find it? Is it in the toiletry bag?’ He’s not that guy. He’s always incredibly and insanely intense and that is the way he is writ and those are the stories with which he breathes and sort of ambles and walks.”
I’ve interviewed Bartlett numerous times over the years. Every time I do, I am left in complete awe by the poetic summation of his craft.
Of course, in playing David, he managed to eradicate traces of Mike ‘O Reilly, his character in SABC3’s “Isidingo”. And that was no easy feat.
He recalled: “Some of the things he said, as a character, would never be allowed on any time-slot in this country, ever again.”
Reflecting on his journey with “Rhythm City” ending, he said: “It feels like it is a sentence, it has had many commas, many opportunities. It has meandered to its absolute end. I’ve been afforded the luxury of breathing this guy, I’ve been given an exit story by e.tv and Quizzical Pictures, the likes of which, I’ve never been given. They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at this story. And they used what I was really trained at in the old days.
“When I started working as a professional, I did a lot of heavy action movies with a lot of weaponry. A lot of jumping out of helicopters and crippling my knees and working with massive firepower doing all those “American Ninja 2” and “American Ninja 5” movies. I was learning from the best in the world.
“And they allowed me to bring some of those skills of working with squibs, bullets and condoms full of detonators and blood underneath your clothing. They allowed him to be in my moment, in my ecstasy as an actor. And the script was fantastic. e.tv gave me the width, Eric Mogale the artistic director gave me the width to let me dance in the sun in the end, and I really appreciate it,” he noted.
It’s been an incredible journey for Bartlett. Now he steps onto real-life’s stage, where the possibilities remain infinite for him as an actor as well as a tutor. He has opened The Finishing College, where he wants to impart his 36 years of knowledge to whoever wants to learn.
In parting, he added, “At this stage, I can only speak from whence I sit now, I hope, particularly with me saying goodbye to David Genaro, that I’ve left a searing and indelible impression on you. And I touched you and I have taught you, I’ve engaged you, I’ve made you angry, I’ve made you sad, I’ve made you want to turn off the television and I’ve made you want to turn it on, thank you so much!”