It’s a bright, sunny Wednesday afternoon when actor Aml Ameen breezes into the studio in South London. Looking casual in jeans, trainers and a T-shirt his attire along with his baby face and boyish grin make him look five years younger than his 23 years – but he is soon transformed into a debonair young man when he slips into a sharp grey D&G suit.
As the shoot slowly begins, his manager Adenike arrives with Aml’s (pronounced ‘AM-EL’) little sister Aretha in tow. His sister is doing work experience with his manager and as she watches him pose for the camera she shouts: ‘Jump! Look young and ambitious then.’ Laughing, he turns to her and playfully tells her to shut up. It is evident that they are close and he admits that his whole family is very tight knit. Throughout the afternoon, he talks about his unit:his brother, a rapper called Mickey Negro who won the freestyle rap battle at the hip hop event Jump Off; his older brother who is a singer; his mum who works as a counsellor and helps him psychologically get into characters when he’s acting and finally his dad who used to perform as a warm up act for Rod Stewart and with whom Aml has set up an entertainment company. ‘Family is everything to me,’ he states. ‘It’s the essence of who I am.’
If it weren’t for his parents seeing his acting potential, he may not be where he is today. ‘I used to watch a lot of old movies and enjoyed performing with my brother. My dad saw a lot of acting potential in me so he signed me up to the Barbara Speake Stage School from the age of 7 to 16.’ It was here where Aml honed is craft, acting, dancing and singing and the prestigious school clearly prepared him well as he has gone on to become a gifted actor who has appeared in West End stage shows like Oliver and Jolson, made his film debut as teenager Trife in the powerful and gritty Brit movie Kidulthood and has continued to shine on the small screen in the long-running ITV police drama series The Bill as PC Lewis Hardy.
Learning his craft
‘I have to commend the team at The Bill about the way they allowed me to have creative control over my character. It was amazing. They allowed me to use my own twang, so instead of saying ‘geezer’ I’d say ‘bruv’ or ‘blood’. I used to be intelligent with the character and that character gave me the confidence and freedom to believe in what I do as an actor.’
Aml is very proud to say that his character, ‘won the heart of a nation’, and allowed young people to see someone that they could easily relate to on television. When he left the series, the programme makers ensured his leaving storyline was one of the most explosive, expensive and talked about in the show’s history. ‘I won an award for the role,’ he says proudly. ‘Best actor at The Screen Nations Award and I was nominated for a BAFTA.’ Unlike some actors, since leaving the show, the Hertfordshire native hasn’t been short of roles, which is a testament to his ability and work ethic. In 2008 he will be seen on our screens in four high- profile TV shows. BBC Three’s teen drama Disconnected, ITV’s Timothy Spall-directed Gun Rush, Channel 4’s Fallout and the latest instalment of the Silent Witness franchise.
Playing the Villain
Although he has enjoyed all of his projects and is pleased that all of his work up until now has made an impact, he is extremely excited about his role in Fallout because for the first time he had to play the villain. Based on a play by Roy Williams and starring fellow Brit actor Lennie James (from the American series Jericho) as a policeman returning to an estate he grew up on to investigate the murder of a black teenager, Aml says, ‘Fallout is loosely based on the murder’s of Damilola Taylor and Stephen Lawrence. It’s really topical and it’s about a group of black boys being murdered by another group of black boys and it basically deals with psychologically what happens to them all when the murder takes place. Their life changes forever.’
A wide grin materializes on his face as he eagerly talks about his role. ‘I play Dwayne, he’s the general. He’s the villain of the piece – which is nice because I’ve never played the villain before. I’ve always had some sense of morality with my character. He tries to keep everyone together and everything on a low. Then a rivalry begins between him and his best friend because his best friend has a girlfriend who Dwayne’s in love with.’
Exploring the dark side
With such an innocent face, it’s hard to see him as a bad character but it’s easy to believe he has never committed a crime. ‘I’ve never been in any trouble. Maybe I might seem like I’m a bit boring to people. The most excitement I’ve had is playing the villain as it let me explore a side of my personality that has previously laid dormant.’ Aml admits that he has been in a fight before. ‘I had scraps when I was at school, but it was a stage school so it was posh boys fighting so it ain’t nothing to write home about,’ he says laughing.
‘I’ve always focused on what I’ve wanted to do. I haven’t time for any drama.’ An ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, the actor’s next move is to go to Hollywood like his acting idol Idris Elba. ‘He’s a real inspiration. His outlook and what he’s managed to achieve reinforces the idea that what I want from my career is more than a possibility. It’s Idris, who is originally from Hackney, East London moved to America and has starred in a number of hit movies and critically acclaimed US series The Wire. ‘He [Idris] said: Jump ship – what are you waiting for? Get over to the States. They’re loving us out there.’
‘I’m friends with a lot of black actors in this country. David Harewood, who I just did a film called Gun Rush with said to me: ‘Aml, you’ve got the chops to do everything, you’ve got the looks; you just need to be brave and go.’ Everyone’s telling me to do it so I’m going to. I have had a fortunate career that I’ve been able to work the best of my peers and Idris Elba is someone for me that has inspired me to achieve even greater things.’ With his diverse showreel, good looks and hard-working attitude, it won’t be long before we loose another talented Brit to the other side of the Atlantic.
Words by Annika Allen | Photographer Azza, www.myspace.com/azzaphotographer
Make-up, Pandemonium Make-up Artistry, www.myspace.com/cr8pandemonium
Hair, Nibras Alwasiti, www.myspace.com/nibras_themakeupartist
Styling, Neesha Sharma, www.myspace.com/luminary_london