Soldier, Sailor

"The Saturday Express"

April 21, 2001


Jamie Bamber is back on TV soon in Hornblower, and donning a uniform for a Spielberg war epic. Not bad for an actor who left drama school three years ago. Rising star Jamie Bamber has already proves his worth in the swashbuckling high seas drama, Hornblower, as Ioan Gruffudd's confidante, midshipman Archie Kennedy. Now in his latest role, he stars alongside Friends actor David Schwimmer in Steven Spielberg's new Second World War TV epic, Band of Brothers. But the 28-year-old rising star sitting opposite me with tousled blond hair and cloaked in an extra-large linen shirt and jeans, is far from affected by his success. "Actors always seem a bit Jessie, a bit mollycoddled don't they? I'd hate to be seen that way" he says. "I did every stunt that was offered to me in Hornblower. I dived off the ship's mast into the water and I did sword fights. I'm not afraid of hard work and I wanted the crew and cast to know that I've got bottle." He will admit though, to a burning will to succeed. "I am ambitious. I'm loath to say because it's not a very cool thing to be, but I love what I do and I know what I want. I'd like to have a stab at Hamlet and to make films. I'd have liked Matt Damon's part in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I want to do challenging work with good dialogue." He set the pace early, securing an agent and a role in Hornblower before leaving acclaimed drama school LAMDA three years ago, where he was completing a one-year -post-graduate acting course. "I was very fortunate to have such a terrific break" he acknowledges. Since then he has spent   less than three months out of work. His CV is an impressive one and includes roles in lavish BBC costume drama The Scarlet Pimpernel, with Richard E. Grant, Poirot and Michael Barrymore's black comedy Bob Martin. Bamber's interest in acting was first nurtured as St. Paul's and all-boys school in Barnes, west London, near his parent's Richmond home - but he had an ulterior motive. "It meant I could do plays with pupils from the nearby girls' school - definitely an incentive. The shows were quite lavish and I really enjoyed them. I knew acting was for me." Before studying drama, he was encouraged by his Detroit-born management consultant father Ralph Griffiths - Jamie's real surname is Griffiths - and Irish property dealer mother Liz, to go to university. He got a place at Cambridge where he won a First Class degree in French and Italian. He seems rather embarrassed about this: "I didn't deserve it - it was a fluke," he says with flushed cheeks. "I lived in Paris from the age of two, because that's where my father's job took him. I went to an international bilingual school. When I came back to London aged eight, I already had a head start in French." In fact the pass was all the more deserving because as he prepared for his exams, his parents got divorced. "I was twenty and living away from home, so I didn't really see it happening, whichmade it easier. I would ring up and speak to my brother and sister who told me how things were. But mostly my memories of my childhood are very good ones." The divorce was, he recalls, a civilised one. "It wasn't acrimonious at all. My parents are still very fond of each other. Mum, in particular is a hopeless romantic and not al all cynical about marriage." And he says, the experience hasn't get him off getting wed. "I'm a romantic and quite naive perhaps, but I do believe in married life. I hope by the time I'm thirty, I'm with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, I'd definitely like a family of my own". Jamie has been unattached for the last year, but jokes, "it's not by choice. There's no one at the moment, but I'm definitely open to offers. I'm looking for someone to have a laugh with." He says it is a mixture of his mother's determination and his father's caution which has helped him making wise career choices. "Mum gets things done and has tireless optimism, and Dad can be analytic, more of a pragmatist. I like to think I'm a mixture of the two." Bamber returns as outspoken Archie Kennedy in the first of two feature-lenght episodes of Hornblower, also starring Paul McGann and Robert Lindsay, this spring. This time he is promoted from midshipman to lieutenant and faces the wrath of a court martial for continual insubordination within the naval hierarchy, leading to a mutiny. "The latest films are all about trust and suspicion - very emotional. Archie isn't an intentional trouble-maker, but he is sensitive and assertive, and questions what happens around him,. I suppose I'm similar in that I'm not afraid of speaking up or showing emotion, " he says. "Paul, Ioan and I have all become good friends. Paul's a great talker and Ioan's got a very wicked sense of humour, but he's very loyal and grounded." Jamie filmed the 10-part drama Band Of Brothers earlier this year, as soon as he finished Hornblower. He plays a lieutenant who is forced to lead his men into a deadly battle. Based on the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, the series was made in Hertfordshire, co-stars Donnie Wahlberg (The Sixth Sense) and David Schwimmer, and is part directed by Tom Hanks. "It's a huge cast. David and Donnie were ok but they took it very seriously. The approach of all Americans was: "We're soldiers, we're not actors." All the others had to take part in a boot camp as research. Luckily I didn't have time because of Hornblower," he says, sniggering a little. "I was impressed with Tom Hanks, though. He was very friendly and made a point of coming over to shake my hand. He's very professional." Given the opportunity, he says he'd like to succeed on both sides of the pond. "I'd love to make some films in the States . I want to be stimulated. I hate to be bored - I'm terrible at it, I get irritable. I've done a lot of costume drama and now I'm keen to do some gritty contemporary stuff. Would I like to work in Los Angeles? Now that really would be great."











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