Film: YARDIE - Interview with Actor, Aml Ameen

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Idris Elba’s directorial debut, Yardie, an adaption of the 1992 novel of the same name, spans from 1970s Kingston and 1980s Hackney following D, a young Jamaican who finds himself on a mission for retribution in London’s criminal underworld.

We spoke with Actor, Aml Ameen on his lead role, his first time at Sundance, and the message he hopes resonates with the audience.

Tell us a little about your character, D?

D is a young man who grew up in the ghettos of Jamaica, and he witnesses his brother, a peacemaker trying to unify two communities at war, get shot in front of him. After his brother’s death, D is raised and eventually begins working for a Don. An event leads him to London where he goes looking for his brother’s killer. He also rekindles a romance with Yvonne, a young woman he has a child with who moved to London for a better life.

How did you prepare for this role? What inspirations did you draw from?

Leading up to the film, I went to Jamaica, I’m part Jamaican and have family there, so I had a chance to connect with them and get assimilated into the culture. D is also a DJ, so I had the opportunity to go to Bob Marley’s old studio. With the love story, myself and Shantol Jackson (who plays Yvonne) talked via email and building a whole world outside of the script, so that we would have some basis of truth when it came to the character.

I stayed in the accent through the whole process. I didn’t break character; I took the character home with me. I spent two months in the mind of another person. D became a stream of my consciousness. It was fascinating to harbor two people in my head and me taking a backseat to the other personality, living in that space and in that imaginary world of the character’s circumstances. I’ve never done that before as an Actor. It shifts your mind. On the day that we wrapped, I had this weird sense of sadness that came over me.

This film is Idris Elba’s directorial debut, how was it working with Mr. Elba?

It was wonderful. [Idris] is someone I’ve looked up to for a very long time. He was the first Black British actor to hit it big internationally, so he has been a staple in our community for a long time. This project was a collaborative effort from the beginning, and I was able to gain a wealth of his filmmaking knowledge. He knows a lot about camera work and what he wanted in the scenes.

 Courtesy of Studio Canal

Courtesy of Studio Canal

What messages do you hope your audience gains from Yardie?

I want the audience to get a sense of the humanization of Jamaican culture. While filming, we spoke a lot about movies such as Goodfellas and The Godfather. We have always loved these films and what we love about their Italian-American experience is that they were able to humanize them and give them a sense of family. Although D is a “gangster,” he has gone through a traumatic experience that leads him to these circumstances, and he is a someone who is in love and loves his child.

The film premiered at Sundance this weekend.How was your Sundance experience?

It was my first time, and it was great. My boys flew in from LA. We are big fans of television show Entourage, so we have always wanted to have that moment like “The Sundance Kids” episode. Also, for the film to get such a warm reception from our people who respect and love what we have done. It felt amazing.

What’s next for Aml?

I start work on my writing/directorial debut in May. It is a romantic comedy I wrote called “A Night Worth Living.” QC Entertainment (the producers of Get Out), offered to finance and produce it with me. I have casted my the two leads, Jaz Sinclair (When the Bough Breaks) and Skylan Brooks (The Getdown) and we are going through the process to find the right people. I have wanted to make this movie for about ten years so for it happen now is a real blessing.

Watch trailer for Yardie here:

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