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It was time to let David Genaro rest, says Bartlett

Producers of Rhythm City praised Jamie Bartlett for his dedication to the craft and giving his character his all. / JAMES OATWAY
Producers of Rhythm City praised Jamie Bartlett for his dedication to the craft and giving his character his all. / JAMES OATWAY

David Genaro was regarded as the Stefano DiMera of South African television.

Like DiMera, a character from Days of Our Lives, an American soap opera, you would see him being killed in cold blood but he would later reappear - stronger than ever before.

He was the Jack Mabaso of Generations: The Legacy.

For the past 13 years, Genaro, played by veteran actor Jamie Bartlett, graced our screens and kept viewers glued to Rhythm City that airs on e.tv.

The character brought magic to television and was the backbone of the local soapie.

Over the years, viewers have watched Genaro go through different phases, difficulties and yes, as hard it was to believe, emotions.

The bald-headed, handsome, firm, selfish, controlling and conniving character wanted to control everything and everyone.

What was more intriguing about Genaro was not his falling streak, but how he was going to rise again.

Genaro started out running a 9-9FM and a magazine attached to it, called 9-9Mag.

From the start, he established himself as a shady person who was at the centre of major drug deals and arms negotiations.

His connections to the underground world of the Johannesburg club scene made him more dangerous and a threat to others.

"I have seen everything about Genaro. We all witnessed him in every position - we saw him languishing in jail, smoking cracks with prostitutes in Yeoville. We have seen him in every possible situation and I just felt that the time has come," Bartlett says.

Bartlett explains that he left the show because he felt that writers have explored Genaro's character to its fullest.

Over the years, he says, the character pushed him to grow as an actor.

Bartlett says the Genaro character did not only make him popular in SA but people from Lesotho, Ghana and other countries also admired him. He explains that when he was on holiday in Kampala (Uganda), he could not move around in their marketplace as he was flanked by fans.

The Thespian is grateful for being given an incredible opportunity with the character to have little girls and senior citizens as fans.

This week, millions of viewers witnessed the end of a powerful and shady man. He was taken out by the biggest thugs - Suffocate and Khulekani.

Suffocate killed Genaro because he wants to control the territory, while for Khulekani, it was sweet revenge after Genaro killed his son.

Speaking to Sowetan just before viewing one of the exit episodes in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, the spontaneous and outspoken actor says it is time to "call it a day" because he has given the character his all.

Bartlett, who was trained in stage and turned professional in theatre in 1986, explains that when playing an iconic character like Genaro, it was important to hook the audience umbilically.

Bartlett, who praised e.tv for allowing him to breathe oxygen to the character, had fun playing Genaro.

"You can't play such character like that unless you love it. When you are Genaro, you need to make sure the audience is connected from all genres to all ages. You always know you are doing something right when people shout and weep when they see you."

He added: "I had absolute fun, Genaro colonised every single corner of my body. It is the most unbelievable character to play. There were times that I had to see the doctors after shooting due to the level of intensity of the scenes."

Bartlett says as much as he wanted to shine, the character would have not worked out without the support from other great characters.

He says some of the things he enjoyed about being Genaro was how he used words.

"I love what it does with words, he collides words together, smashing, working with vowels sounds, the rhythm and the tick-tock of the dickory."

While his spell ends on Rhythm City, Bartlett opens another chapter of his life as a business person.

He has established Finishing College which will do master classes, up-skilling of actors and corporate coaching.

Actors will be taught about cliff-hangers, characterisation and script writing among others.

Bartlett explains that his secret of longevity is the constantly wanting to improve himself and a total focus on his craft.

The seasoned actor admits that discipline and preparation were crucial in the industry.

He says he mastered the character because he gave himself enough time to read the script and practise.

Bartlett has appeared in a number of local and international productions including American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, Sweet 'n Short Spookie, A Private Life Support, Ernest Goes to Africa, Bravo Two Zero, Beyond Borders, Red Dust, 12 Days of Terror, White Lion, Nothing for Mahala and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

His wish is to get more stage and film roles.

Show producer Harriet Gavshon said they enjoyed working with Bartlett, who most of the time had them on their feet because of his professionalism. "He would completely rewrite the whole script. For 13 years, he would arrive at work before everyone else. He came first even before security came in. He went about building this character of Genaro.

Love or hate him, David Genaro made his mark which will be written in the books of history.

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