KB Motsilanyane who plays Lucilla Vilikazi with Jamie Bartlett who plays David Genaro on the set of South African soap Rhythm City during the wedding scene. Photo: Jennifer Bruce

Pushed into a |corner by the BK gang – and on the brink of financial ruin – Rhythm City’s masterful villain, David Genaro (Jamie Bartlett), has found an unlikely ally in Suffocate (Mduduzi Mabaso). Debashine Thangevelo got an audience with both actors on the soap set at Sasani Studios in Joburg and discovered that there is a very fine thread holding their alliance together…

TO feed the voracious appetites of soap addicts, the writing teams have to continuously plot ingenious storylines that trigger the sought-after drama.

But dark and dangerous characters such as David Genaro are more, to put it bluntly, a writer’s nightmare. And it’s only because Jamie Bartlett, a perfectionist and truly on-point acting stalwart, has raised the bar to sometimes improbable levels.

We have seen him triumphantly take on business rival Miles Vilakazi many times. And he even came back from the “dead”.

But just as the megalomaniac was starting to rekindle those delusions of invincibility, he crossed paths with the BK gang and their hold on him has been rather crippling.

An immaculately dressed Bartlett, who has been dividing his time between Jozi and Cape Town to shoot the Nelson Mandela biopic The Long Walk to Freedom, indulges my curiosity on what is happening with his character.

“That’s interesting,” he notes. “You know, Franco (his pretend gay brother) was a device. Like any puppet, it has a lifespan and that starts to lose its fizz. I think the writers were looking for another gear to put him (David) under the kind of pressure that being behind bars puts you under – releasing a stunning side of him. He is not under control. He is a begging man. He is a conniving man. He is doing absolutely everything in his power to get out, have the charges withdrawn and be free. Parallel to that is a man with dreams of revenge. So it opens a whole other landscape of revenge with different people.”

Expanding on David’s ties with BK, he says: “In prison he was threatened by a man from the 66 gang and he had to join this white supremacist gang called BK that have far-reaching tentacles into the fiscal world outside. They have taken away his business and usurped him from 9-9FM. More recently, they’ve begun sniffing he is involved in another venture – that being club (011). It is a venture he has undertaken with Suffocate. They are improbable partners in many ways and because of that difference between these two worlds, the collision of their marriage in business makes for quite exciting drama in the different way they run a business. David is a systems man. He is a dishonest man. Suffocate is more upfront, honest.”

Sadly, Suffocate could very likely end up as collateral damage because of his naiveté about David’s dealings with the BK.

“Right now, David is loath to let the BK group, who have eyes and ears everywhere, know that he is a part-owner of (011). He has lost 9-9FM, he has lost his beautiful flat and, here he is, fronting with Suffocate. Behind the scenes, he is taking care of the logistics,” shares Bartlett.

Aside from Suffocate, David also has plans to use Nikki, Miles’s recently arrived daughter, in perhaps helping set up a sex trade operation.

“Nikki is savvy and deceptive. He knows that is not Miles’s real child. I think he realises she has the mettle, the kind of darkness he wants to have an association with. He also realises, were he to play his cards right, that he could not only bed her, but get her to control other girls to bed men. He wants to open up the sex trade using 9-9FM as a meeting spot,” he explains.

Although he isn’t sure where the writers are taking the character, Bartlett says he has every confidence in their writing.

“I do think when you look at the kind of weight on that writing team, you are talking about something exceptional. I’m married to this job and the character. Every day is a test match for me. And Rhythm City have been amazing in my five years with them, affording me the opportunity to work on Death of a Colonialist at the Market Theatre for three months last year and now to shoot for The Long Walk to Freedom. They give me space to also do the things they know I need to do,” admits Bartlett.

In the meantime, the veteran actor can revel in the fresh challenges awaiting his power-hungry, cautiously vengeful character.

Tonight also got Suffocate’s (Mduduzi Mabaso) side of things. And he is most wary about what’s going on.

Starting the Kilowatt club and cleaning up his act was a big deal for the ex-con. Now he is a respected businessman and his romantic feelings have been brought to the fore – especially with Puleng in the picture.

On the conspicuous rise in his character’s stature, he says: “I’m quite happy because it is about time people see the other side of Suffocate. Not just the township and tsotsi background. Now he can be more of a BEE partner. And I think the writers have done a wonderful thing by getting these two heavyweights together.”

Suffocate gets to share more than business with David when he jumps into bed with Nikki.

“Fans will see Suffocate crying for love. We see him in pain and a softer side surfacing. But Nikki is just a taste… and (a) passing (one). He loves Puleng. He knows it won’t be a smooth road. But he also acknowledges that when the obstacles along the way have moved, it will be easier.”

Since David is known as a shrewd, intimidating and powerful man, why did Suffocate agree on partnering with him?

“He has always seen David on the red carpet at the MIAs. And he has heard about him being the big boss at 9-9FM. At the back of his mind, he has known that he needs to be observant.”

Given his history and knack for sniffing out dodgy activity, Suffocate has decided to conduct an investigation of David.

The question that remains is: Will he help or turn on David? Now that would be too riveting to miss!

• Keep watching Rhythm City on e.tv at 6.30pm from Monday to Friday.