Jamie Bartlett: The Activist, Wishful Rugby Player & Secret 'American Ninja'

Jamie Bartlett: The Activist, Wishful Rugby Player & Secret 'American Ninja'

Actor Jamie Bartlett's sudden passing has sent shockwaves through Mzansi. The seemingly healthy Rythmn City star was just 55-years-old when he died this week after an unexpected heart attack. While the beloved actor's death came without warning, it's clear this charismatic performer never wasted an opportunity to live his life to the fullest.

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Jamie Bartlett: The Activist, Wishful Rugby Player & Secret 'American Ninja'
Jamie Bartlett's life is under the spotlight. Images: @realjamiebartlett/Instagram
Source: Instagram

Jamie was the first actor to speak on the very first episode of Isidingo

Fans of Jamie may be surprised to learn of his iconic role in the popular TV soapie, Isidingo. The classic SABC 3 drama captivated local audiences for 22 years and a lot of the show's success may actually be thanks to Jamie.

In July 1998, the soap opera premiered with Jamie as the programme's opening actor. His immediate magnetism as character Mike O'Riley in the opening scenes and his first breath of dialogue would catapult local TV audiences into an almost instant cult-like fandom for the show.

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Taking the incredible responsibility of Isidingos opening words, the hypnotizing actor definitely ensured the soap opera's success.

He got his big break guest-starring in American blockbusters

While 'David Genaro' will forever be one of South Africa's most loved TV villains, it took playing many odd and run-of-the-mill roles for Jamie to fully craft his acting abilities.

Speaking with SowetanLive, Jamie remembered his iconic character with fondness:

"David Genaro was such a breeze to play. With Genaro, there was nowhere I couldn’t go. He was funny, he could sometimes get emotional and teary… What I couldn’t understand was how 22 countries could be in love with a sociopath? But he was quite a memorable character that will stand the test of time," he told the publication.

As Briefly News previously reported, the talented performer was lucky enough to have received a world-class education. Jamie's mother was a South African, but it's likely his British father exposed him to all the finer things in life.

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After completing his high-school education in Cape Town, the aspiring young man was whisked away to London where he'd go on to graduate with a Master's degree in speech and drama.

It's not clear how but a young Jamie found his way to the hustle and bustle of the USA in 1987. Even then, the talented actor's gifts were undeniable as he managed to land important roles in the action blockbusters American Ninja 2 and American Ninja 5.

It's an amazing achievement for a South African actor in the all too often cut-throat world of Hollywood movies.

He once dreamt of being a rugby player

This bulky charmers physique was actually not just the result of his good genes. Back in the day, a young Jamie had been encouraged to play rugby by his super sporty and close-knit family.

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Once again speaking with SowetanLive, the actor opened up about his childhood dream of becoming a rugby star:

"I wanted to become a professional rugby player but I was miserably bad at it. I lived in a house where you’d see pictures of me in the rugby teams from as young as eight years old," he told the publication.

Recollecting those earlier years, the actor says he found the stage by chance while studying at The University of Cape Town:

"A friend of mine swindled me into doing stage management every evening, making it impossible for me to be on the pitch… That was an interesting journey to realise that those dreams would never bear fruit."

And while this one amazing dream never came true, Jamie's sure he made no mistake choosing the stage. In fact, the actor has encouraged his fans to fail and seek out lessons in these unsuccessful moments.

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"I was allowed to fail, and fail I did... It's about providing the platform for people to reach beyond their grasp and to fail, and I was afforded that luxury of reaching beyond my grasp and failing many times," he told EWN.

He's always used his roles as a form of activism, especially during Apartheid

Jamie will be immortalised as an artist who was never afraid to just go there with his performances, no matter the political landscape.

All through his career, he's remained true to his roots in the theatre, more specifically the acclaimed Market Theatre in Johannesburg. At the time, the highly unorthodox playhouse was recognized internationally as the "Theatre of The Struggle" as the plays put on there intentionally sought to disrupt the Apartheid regime.

The socially-conscious actor made his views known from an early age, participating in these plays as early as 1986 when racist regimes were still very prevalent in South Africa.

A play called Cock and Bull was actually Bartlett's first role at the Market Theatre and he won an award for playing the part of a gay boxer. Even back then, the actor knew the importance of opening the eyes of close-minded people and that's how Jamie should forever be remembered.

Source: Briefly News

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