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JUSTICE SERVED: Jamie Bamber is John Doe: Vigilante

by Mark Burger

Having played dashing Lee “Apollo” Adama on Syfy’s “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-’09) and dogged detective Matt Devlin on “Law & Order: UK” (2009- ’11), Jamie Bamber now plays the deadly title role in John Doe: Vigilante, available on DVD from Arc Entertainment (see review, Page 68).

For the handsome British actor, born Jamie St. John Bamber Griffith, the role of John Doe was a distinct change of pace and of accent, as the film is set in Melbourne, Australia.

“That was fun,” he chuckles, “and no one said I was doing it wrong, so I guess I got away with it.”

As the title spells out, John Doe is a man who has gone beyond the law, targeting those who have managed to elude detection or justice. He methodically plans his actions, broadcasts them on the Internet, and instantly becomes a media sensation.

To some, John Doe is a hero. To others, a cold-blooded killer no better than those he targets. That divide also exists within the ranks of the police, many frustrated by a system they serve but no longer trust.

“It seems to be a call to arms for people to take the law into their own hands,” says Bamber of the film, “but it turns the tables on you, and makes you examine yourself. I was challenged by that. It dresses itself a bit as exploitation, then shoves a great big mirror into your face.”

Bamber was immediately intrigued when he read director Kelly Dolen and Stephen M. Coates’s script. John Doe: Vigilante wasn’t just a knee-jerk shoot-’em-up, but an examination of the cause and effect of vigilante justice in the media and on society within an action framework.

“There’s a real person behind the facade created by the media,” he says of John Doe. “There’s a disconnect between who he is and who he is portrayed as.”

As John Doe’s exploits escalate, he even inspires others to don the anonymous mask he favors to commit their own acts of vengeance, leading to social anarchy.

“Justice is always an ideal, and the ideal is a just society,” Bamber observes. “Courts and police forces don’t always live up to the ideal. The system has been tested. People become angry. That can cause social unrest.”

Nevertheless, whatever its flaws, he’s a firm believer in the judicial system. That his character isn’t has multiple consequences. In the scenes where the imprisoned Doe is interrogated by Lachy Hulme’s journalist, his steely resolve is tempered by self-realization and self-loathing. He’s psychologically damaged, he’s become what he hates, and he’s beyond the point of no return.

“It’s always important as an actor that you are playing a human being, and I felt there was a real human being there,” Bamber says. “He’s lost. He’s a tragic character.

Emotionally, he’s not at a good place at any point in the film. He goes too far and loses his own identity.”

For the action scenes, Bamber donned the mask for several scenes. A stunt double took over in some instances, as did director Dolen in scenes added after Bamber’s departure. That John Doe inspires copycats adds another layer of ambiguity to the story. Are we watching the real John Doe or an imitator?

Bamber’s extensive television credits encompasses both sides of the Atlantic, including “Band of Brothers,” “Cold Case,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “CSI Miami,” “Body of Proof” and “House” in the US, and “Hornblower,” “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” “The Last Detective” and “Outcasts” in the UK – with the five-year run of “Battlestar Galactica” his longest stint. Might there be more “Battlestar Galactica” in the future?

“I’ve definitely resigned myself to that,” he laughs. “Not for me, I think,” but given the series’ pedigree and enduring popularity, “I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.”

Bamber earned a Saturn Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor in 2004, and watched the initial ABC series of the late ’70s as a boy.

“I was a fan of the original, so to sit in a Viper and battle the Cylons was kind of a childhood dream come true,” he says. “But the two series’ were two different things. Ours had an extra depth, more political and social layers.”

Bamber isn’t looking to do another fulltime series presently. David Kelley’s medical drama “Monday Mornings” lasted only the 2013 season on TNT, and the British firefighting series “The Smoke” only the 2014 season, but he plays recurring characters on “Rizzoli & Isles” and “NCIS,” and recently wrapped a pair of features: Numb, a thriller filmed in British Columbia that he describes as “Treasure of the Sierra Madre in the snow,” about a financially-strapped couple seeking a stash of gold, and the romantic comedy The Better Half co-starring Kathleen Rose Perkins and Chris Parnell.

Alas, his busy schedule precludes a return to the stage, where he appeared in such classics as Henry IV and Dr. Faustus early in his career “I haven’t been back in a long time, but it is something I would love to do again.”

Married to actress Kerry Norton, whom he met while making the 2003 chiller The Devil’s Tattoo (released as Ghost Rig in the US), the couple and their three daughters live in London. Thus, as befits a star, he returns home to a house full of beautiful women. He laughs: “You’ve got me there — that is absolutely true! I’m really very lucky.” !

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