That’s become more difficult these days, the “Battlestar Galactica” standout says.
Bamber gets to explore that media angst via “John Doe: Vigilante,” a new thriller examining the legal system, punishment and how the media shapes all of the above.
“Everything has shifted toward a more opinion battle or even just a soap box on some networks … and it’s pushed into this sphere of entertainment,” says Bamber, whose film hits home video April 14.
It’s one reason he jumped at the chance to play the title character in “John Doe: Vigilante,” the Aussie tale of a serial killer who takes out the villains who slip past the legal system.
The story, and the movie’s marketing, may deal with John Doe’s crime spree, but it focuses on how the media interprets his attacks, Bamber says. News outlets create heroes and villains, often ignoring the shades of gray in the process.
“That’s really what the film is about,” he says.
The John Doe character confesses his motivations to a hardened journalist (Lachy Hulme) in the film, all the while various reporters spin the story and its fallout.
Bamber says the arc of the screenplay initially drew him into the project.
“It seemed to coerce the reader into this kind of frustrated rage and indignation over the failure of our legal system,” he says. The film’s second half, by comparison, makes viewers confront John Doe and the legacy of his actions.
“Nothing is simple and clear … he’s not Batman or Charles Bronson [in ‘Death Wish’],” he says. “He’s a broken, shriveled husk of a grief-stricken man who lost his way.”
The British actor convincingly portrays an Australian Everyman pushed too far in “John Doe,” the latest example of his penchant for accents. Bamber, who speaks three languages, played the heroic, and all-American, Apollo in the successful “Battlestar Galactica” reboot. He takes pride in getting accents right, but no two are the same during the preparation process.
Living in North America has helped him reinforce the way his American characters speak. It took more work to become John Doe, his first attempt at an Australian character. He called upon his childhood days watching Aussie TV shows and imitating the main characters with his friends.
“My ear is maybe more receptive than the average person [to accents] … I enjoy the challenge of perfecting the sounds,” says Bamber, who felt comfortable with his vocal work after the first two days of the “John Doe” shoot.
Bamber won’t be returning to his 2014 British drama “The Smoke,” which wasn’t greenlit for a second season. He’s still busy with shows like “NCIS.” And he has a theory why there’s so much quality television for actors to consider these days.
“I think it has a lot to do with the DVR and watching it on your own terms,” he says, a practice that paved the way for complex, long-form storytelling.
Bamber’s classically handsome looks help him land roles like Apollo, but he relishes the chance to defy his brand whenever possible.
“My staple tends to be the honest, upstanding … Everyman,” he says. “It’s really fun when you get the chance to push the boundaries and do some crazy thing.”
Yet the horror of “John Doe: Vigilante” is that the main character isn’t a monster. At least not at first.
“Even John Doe starts off for me as a normal bloke,” he says.