Cage Rage sensation Jason Barrett is no stranger to challenges on or off stage. This unique soul tells Flavour why we should tune into The Brothers, on MTV Base.
How did you get involved with The Brothers?
Before Harvey came onboard, Richard Blackwood played the role of Michael and Richard and I are good friends. Nolan Weekes, who was playing Kenny, had just left and Richard mentioned Angie was looking for a replacement and he thought it would be right up my street. I literally phoned Angie there and then and she asked me if I was good looking [laughs]. I was taken aback, I was like ‘Yeah, I’m alright’. She then told me to email her and it went on from there.
What attracted you to The Brothers?
The fact that Chucky and Richard were friends of mine; working with friends is always a good look and I’ve grown up watching Angie, on Blouse and Skirt and The Real McCoy, and admiring her. When she sent me the script I absolutely loved it; there were reflections of my real life in all three characters. I remember asking Angie if she wrote the script because for a woman to write men so well; it was quite surprising. Those were the dynamics that made me feel like I wanted to get involved.
What was life like for you growing up? Did you always want to be an actor?
My life has taken so many different turns. I was born in South London in Greenwich, I’m a proper South London boy. When I was younger I did want to go into acting but I ended up doing religions studies; as I came from a strict church background and studied Theology and World Religion at university. I was ordained in 1998, I then got involved in Thai boxing and lived in Thailand for a while.
Did you enjoy your experience in Thailand?
Thailand is a home away from home, the people are so welcoming and spiritual. I literally lived in the gym, slept there and ate there. Fighting in the Western world is quite a glamorous thing, if you think of Mike Tyson or Prince Naseem; whereas in Thailand they fight out of necessity; there’s a real tragedy attached to it. The really brilliant Thai boxers couldn’t understand why the Westerners did it; it was quite an interesting contrast.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career paths so far?
It’s hard to say. I’m a high achiever so I purposely put myself in the arena where I’m going to be challenged. I think the only way you’re going to get the greatest potential out of an individual is by putting them under pressure. That’s how you build muscles; you put them under pressure, they rip, break down and rebuild stronger. With fighting it’s the ultimate challenge to go in there mano a mano. I think it’s important for us to continue to challenge ourselves, so I’m sure there’s a lot to come.
What about any struggles you have faced in your acting career?
The hardest thing about acting is it’s very cliquey; it’s even hard to get an agent. I was fortunate enough that I was in The Brothers so people came to see it and approached me because they could see what I could do. Life I’ve found is not about what you know but who you know; because had I not known Richard I would not have known Angie.
What has been a highlight in your career?
I don’t think I’ve hit it yet. I’ve had some great moments and I love being on stage. It’s an interesting thing that I was more nervous going out to perform at Hackney Empire, Lewisham and The Drum in Birmingham than I’ve been to fight in front of 10,000 people at Wembley Arena. So getting through those things and getting to the end and doing the bow have all been great moments; but I think there are higher heights and deeper depths yet to come.
How did you get over your fear?
I’ve gone through years of mental conditioning to fight and I just transferred that. When you’re standing off stage waiting to start you’re nervous, but once you get on stage it’s game on.
In the UK there doesn’t seem to be a consistent showcasing of black talent on mainstream TV. How do you think this can be overcome?
We’ve got to be out there with the flyers in our hands, outside night clubs, in the barber shops and hairdressers and we’ve got to be on the radio. That’s the only way we’re going to get the support. We are in a beautiful position at the moment because there are so many new mediums; like MySpace, Facebook, email, texting and Pinging. Then we have the old school industry, like newspapers and flyers. Regardless of anything we’re going to have to work twice as hard and we can’t just think because we know about it everyone else knows about it.
Being a preacher and a cage fighter you must have had your critics. How have you managed to maintain two very different career paths?
Inside and outside of the church the critics were there; it was an external version of what was happening internally anyway because being a Christian is an everyday battle. What people fail to understand about cage fighting is that it is a sport and it is controlled aggression. I don’t hate my opponent and I have no more respect for anyone outside the cage, than I do for the other gladiators that come into the arena. It’s very rare that there is any bad blood, it does happen sometimes because people are people, but that also happens in the workplace.
Are you a preacher at the moment?
No not at the moment. But I definitely want to go back into the church; I believe that will be my final destination.
Who inspires you and why?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the Bible. Aside from Jesus, King David is probably my biggest inspiration. There is also Samson, Moses and Elijah. But I’ve also read extensively on the lives of people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Einstein, Obama and Sir Issac Newton. I’ve studied these guys because these guys have what I call greatness and if you want to emulate than then you need to look at the people that have had it. But there also areas where they have failed at times and it’s important to see how they came back from this.
Why should people tune in to The Brothers when it hits MTV Base next month?
Firstly, it’s entertaining and we like to be entertained. Secondly it has a really good script, for example the story with Richard and the mother of his children is something that we experience a lot in our community; as is the mixed relationship that happens between my character and Sally. When we look at what Angie has done The Brothers broke all box office records at Hackney Empire. It went back three times and it still sold out; people kept coming back and it’s still being talked about. The numbers don’t lie so take a risk, you will enjoy it.
What are your career plans after the Brothers?
I’ve written a film called A Heart Divided, which I’m also producing at the moment through my production company Triple Threat Media.
What advice do you have for our readers?
The key word is discipline. The Bible says ‘Without vision, the people will perish’, have a vision of where you want to go and make it physical. Put up a vision board with pictures, statements and phrases of where you want to be and when you’re dreaming, dream big. Years ago I met an amazing ex- fighter Trevor Ambrose, a former world champion, and he said to me when you’re dreaming reach for the stars and if you only make it to the treetops at least you left the ground. That’s how we need to be thinking.
What is your motto for success?
Have a vision
Words by Rachelle Hull, photography by Terri Lee Shield