Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
My name is Aml Ameen (Aml means ‘hope’ in Arabic). I’m British-born and of Caribbean descent; my dad is from St Vincent and my mum is British born Jamaican. I am an actor and have been working professionally for 20 years from the age of 6. People may know me from ‘Kidulthood’ or ‘The Bill’, which I starred in during 2006, or ‘Harry’s Law’ for the American audiences.
I’m also the artistic director of ASA Drama School, which I founded in 2009, and executive producer of AmeenDream Entertainment, my film and TV production company. So far we’ve produced four short films and are now moving into feature films and online TV. That’s me!
How did you get started in the acting game? What were some of the challenges you faced back then and how have these challenges changed and evolved?
My father, Bilal Ameen, sent me to stage school from the age of 6. After watching ‘Home Alone,’ I went up to him and declared my desire to act in the form of jumping up and down, saying “Dad, I wanna be an actor”. From there I went to Barbara Speake Stage School for 10 years where I studied mostly dance. I performed in West End shows like ‘Oliver’ and ‘Jolson’ and had the honour of performing with the late, great Michael Jackson – an amazing experience that I cherish and gloat about. Haha!
My career then took off, I’d say, when I was 17 in college when I did my first small role in ‘The Bill’. I played a ‘baddy’ and I loved it; it was my first time being received by friends and encouraged as a good actor. I was happy with what I’d done and the reaction was great. From then, many TV opportunities came but the one that would change the course of my career in a significant way was ‘KIDULTHOOD’. We were all actually cast in 2003; I remember going for a huge open audition where I met the infamous Noel Clarke. He was energetic, verbose and such a cool guy. We went through a series of auditions, which eventually landed me the part. But we were then told that the film wasn’t going to happen – a whole year passed and it came back around again and I was the last actor to get a role in the film, which at the time I was daunted by, but it taught me to remain hungry and focused about the work. By the time we came to shoot the film, I knew it all, every scene. I took the responsibility of being the lead in the film seriously, went with a method acting approach at the time, living as close to my character Trife in characteristics as I could. The experience was invaluable.
Then came ‘The Bill’ which propelled me to millions of viewers a week. I had a great time, got to play the action guy, anti hero, rebel and romantic lead all in one. Fantastic time! I worked a lot after ‘The Bill'; ‘Fallout’, ‘Silent Witness’, ‘Gun Rush’, ‘Disconnected’. But the most difficult thing that happens to ALL actors at some point in their career is when the phone stops ringing. When you have to wait for someone else to say ‘yes’ but you’re in a position where it’s your livelihood. You can’t just go and take a crap acting job, but you’re too known to go and work in Tesco! Out of those frustrations were birthed ASA Drama School and AmeemDream Entertainment so that I could have the balance of a business that provides a service to young actors and a production company where I can always satisfy my creative desire to act or write and not wait around for someone else to say yes!
Tell us more about ASA Drama School. How do you source talent and how do you showcase them?
ASA Drama School has been going for two years. Most of the talent comes from the social networks and now from word of mouth; people are getting to hear that we are a multicultural drama school that nurtures the development of actors who are about the craft. We are growing more and more each term and are near 100 students. Many of the students are represented by my agency ABMG Management and have gone on to star in my films. New term begins every 10 weeks. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And what about AmeenDream Entertainment?
AmeenDream Entertainment was set up about a year ago and was really a chance for me to express my creative ideas and the kind of stories I wanted to see. The company has produced three shorts films ‘The Pick Up’, ‘Special Delivery’, and ‘Drinks Drugs and KFC’ which is a short film of a feature that I’ve written and is now in development to get made.
What have been your most favourite or proud achievements?
There have been a few. Careers to me are about longevity and great moments, and a few highlights have been winning Best Actor at the 2007 Screen Nation Awards, my leaving episodes at The Bill -‘Lewis Hardy Epic’, seeing myself on a cinema screen in ‘Kidulthood’ and making that transition to Hollywood (the first dream of mine).
How did you land the Harry’s Law acting job and how have you found working in the States?
I auditioned for a TV show in my mum’s kitchen! The casting directors out there liked me and flew me out the next day. I did what they call a studio test and I passed. Did the network test and that network had other ideas. An executive casting director by the name of Keli Lee, along with my manger, championed me to stay and by the next week I was auditioning for another show and ‘Harry’s Law’. I did three auditions for David E Kelley and then was given what is called a straight offer. Between me landing in the US and getting the part in ‘Harry’s Law ‘was 13 days! I was actually talking to my family on Skype when I got the call. Everyone asks me how I felt and the answer is ‘peaceful’. I love LA; it’s got a great energy and is the major league of the entertainment industry. Also, there is a lot to be said for the constant sunshine!
What is your view on the exodus of UK creative talent to the States? Why did you make the move and what does the UK need to do to retain this talent?
I think to retain talent is a regressive mindset. The reason why we know the Denzel Washingtons and Tom Hanks of the world is because they became global actors/artists. And I think that’s the great thing about the world right now – it’s gotten smaller and keeps getting smaller. I look forward to introducing British youth culture to America through my work and just my presence in the States. What the UK must do is allow ways for new stories to be told, new films and a different kind of presence in film and TV. That’s what I aim to do with AmeenDream; tell the stories that inspired me when growing up like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Back To The Future’ or ‘Teen Wolf’ and add a young black presence in these non-race specific roles where everyone can identify. UK artists must create original pieces of material and hopefully the audiences will respond. But I moved on because any actor in their right mind would branch out if given the chance.
How has technology and the internet had an impact on your work and projects?
A huge impact! Before I had a team and PR, I was very active in promoting even episodes of The Bill on MySpace back in the day. The Internet short circuits things and gives artists direct contact to people. In turn, this gives us more power. But the down side is, in my opinion, it kills the kind of celebrity that I used to be really fascinated with – that magical side. Now the fact that your favourite star is on Twitter and you know about their lives kills all that. I mean, imagine Michael Jackson on Twitter!
What’s next for you in the immediate future? What should we look out for regarding ‘Aml Ameen’ as well as AmeenDream Entertainment and ASA Drama school?
I’m flying back to Los Angeles this week, taking meetings. ‘Red Tails’, the George Lucas film I’m in, comes out the end of this year and I’m looking forward to it. Then hopefully Season Two of ‘Harry’s Law’ and also working more on AmeenDream Entertainment and moving forward with our future projects.
Finally, what does diversity mean to you?
Having your own ideas and throwing them into this huge melting pot we call life. Diversity!
(See below for the trailers of Aml’s other two short films, ‘The Pick Up‘ and ‘Special Delivery’)
A big thank you to Aml for speaking to SceneTV and sharing his experiences and also giving some great advice to aspiring actors and people interested in TV and film.
Look out for more of the SCENE PROFILES series to hear from a variety of people within the television and film industry, find out how the digital space has had an impact on their work and what ‘diversity’ means to them.
For regular news about television, diversity and the evolving online space as well as updates about SceneTV, click here.