Thursday, February 14, 2013

John Bateman's dark Cardinal in 'Duchess of Malfi'

EAST CAMPUS — Notably amongst all the characters featured in Valencia’s production of “The Duchess of Malfi” is a diabolically twisted man of God named simply “the Cardinal,” played by Valencia alumni John Bateman.

“I have worked with John for years, and in all that time he never approaches a role the same way,” said John DiDonna, the play’s director. “It is wonderful to watch the succession of choices he makes - never the obvious ones - to bring a character to life.”

Choices made by Bateman’s character are far from the righteous beliefs his name and title would imply. He is a corrupt leader of the Roman Catholic church, just below the Pope in power and influence, and plots to spy against his sister the Duchess.

All this happens while he is having an ongoing affair with his married mistress Julia (Danielle Miller), who he verbally and physically abuses.

“I’ve been trying to grow a little bit more as an actor and use some of the things that I’ve learned in college,” said Bateman. “I know John [DiDonna] so I’ve worked with him before, we spent a lot of time on the table work and family dynamic, and digging into specific moments and its details, you know, the devil’s in the details.”

Figuring out the details of this devil named the Cardinal has been its own unique challenge for Bateman. Some of his inspiration was from recently watching the BBC drama “Sherlock,” so there is a fair amount of the conniving villain Moriarty in his character.

“I originally saw him as a sociopath just trying to understand others emotions and didn't get it,” said Bateman, describing the Cardinal. “I like how the one person who is a priest realizes that ‘no we’re already in hell so there is no point in any of us being nice to each other.’

“Basically, they are all barbarians.”

Bateman has been acting for around 15 years and since his sophomore year of high school, and after graduating from Valencia he went on to earn his degree in English literature and theatre performance from the University of Central Florida.

In total he has performed in well over 20 productions, including performances at the Mad Cow Theatre and other venues around Orlando. “The Duchess of Malfi” is Bateman’s sixth performance with Valencia, a location and group of actors he has grown quite fond of over the years.

Bateman is also a playwright and recently worked with others for four months on the back lot at Universal Studios on a television show called “Game On!” set to premiere in Euro Disney on Feb. 22.

He admits to being the lone artist of his family, but at the same time they are wholeheartedly in support of his career goals. They might not understand all the choices he makes, but they always come out to show support and see him perform live.

Fellow “Duchess” actor, David Payton, who portrays Daniel de Bosola, was asked about performing along side of Bateman.

“He’s a very unique guy, this is my first time working with him,” said Payton. “I think he has a bright future ahead of him and I’ve learned a lot from him while doing this show. For all the intense scenes we do together, I just feed off his energy and I love that.”

By James Tutten  

(Published: Feb. 20, 2013 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 7.)

(All photos by James Tutten)


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