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Haysbert: 24 role may have opened way
for real life African American US President

Today he is 'Snake Doctor' Jonas Blane, the fearless leader of The Unit, a US special forces team that combs the planet to take down terrorists.

But Dennis Haysbert will probably always be remembered in the ground-breaking television role of David Palmer, the African American Senator who in the CBS hit 24 took on the much coveted title of President of the United States.

In 80 episodes of the series headlined by Kiefer Sutherland, Haysbert appeared on the screens in millions of American homes as an occupant of the Oval Office who is so strongly governed by integrity that he divorced his wife of 29 years when he discovered her unscrupulous activities to ensure his presidency.

The actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the part, is aware his portrayal of the character may have had an impact beyond the tube.

"As David Palmer I put it in the American psyche that it's possible that a Black president is viable," he says.

And with an African American Senator in the person of Barack Obama throwing his hat in the ring for the top job in 2008, what does Haysbert think about Life imitating Art?

"I'd like to think that somehow playing David Palmer opened a crack in the door for him," Haysbert says, "But he's going to sink or swim on his own merits."

Haysbert asserts, however, he personally is not concerned about the genetic heritage of his political leader.

"Anybody that has the thoughts and the feelings and the expertise as David Palmer, whether Black, White, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic American or whatever, if he has those values that David Palmer exhibited, I'd vote for him," he says.

While Palmer was a fictional character, Haysbert has also played a real life president who is much admired for his integrity. Portraying South Africa's Nelson Mandela in Goodbye Bafana was the toughest challenge of his career, Haysbert says.

"He's still alive [and] playing someone as powerful, as wonderful, as lovable as this man [and] capturing his essence was a difficult proposition for me. But once I got into it I just trusted my instincts and my research and tried to do the best I could."

Haysbert was born in North California to a sheriff and his homemaker wife. A promising footballer in high school who gave up athletics scholarships to pursue acting, Haysbert started out in bit parts in shows as varied as The White Shadow, Lou Grant, Laverne & Shirley, The Incredible Hulk and Quincy M.E.. He got his big break when he starred in Major League, a low budget 1989 baseball comedy that also included the then unknown Wesley Snipes.

The versatile Haysbert says he would love to appear in a romantic comedy, a mystery or a si-fi drama.

He says a dream role for him would include a super hero, "anything that speaks to the world and says we are all in this relative madness together and if we don't come together we are going to obliterate ourselves."

A Monaco Revue "Up Close And Real Interview"; filmed at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.

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Comments to date: 1. Page 1 of 1.

Renata Santos,  Brasil

Posted at 7:31am on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

"Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain't nothing like the real thing

I got your picture hanging on my wall
But it can't seem to come to me
When I call your name
I realized it's just a picture in a frame

I play my games of fantasy
I pretend I don't see reality
I need the shel... read more »


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