Ahead of Yardie’s imminent release in the cinema, we were blessed with the opportunity to chop it up with one of the stars of the film Aml Ameen. Most fans will recognise him from the cult classic Kidulthood where he played Trevor; Aml has been busy since then bringing to life a range of different characters on the sets of CSI: Miami, The Maze Runner and Netflix series Sense8. We picked his brains on everything from what he got up to at carnival this year, to what pressures he felt starring in the Idris Elba directorial debut.
What sort of pressures come with starring in Idris Elba’s debut as a director?
Idris and I both felt a responsibility to create a story the resonated true to the audience. There’s a generation of people that lives through this world, and so that was a huge pressure to get in the ball park of something that felt authentic. Idris is a huge inspiration, and someone I respected incredibly, so there was this feeling of wanting to impress him.
Idris said he wanted “to put a different lens on Jamaica and Jamaican culture”, why do you think that is so important?
Yardie, the word has been used for some years as a derogatory term, from what I can gather as insult as if to suggest low class. Some Jamaicans also called them self this, and I remember it being used in the news a lot to describe people living a life of crime.
It presents great opportunity within our film to shed light on all facets of Jamaican culture. The spirituality, the music, the food and the fact that this small island has impacted the world on such a major level, from Bob Marley to Marcus Garvey. As Jamaican influence on the UK is unwavering, it’s the reason for our ebonics, it’s the other parent of grime. The film Yardie is a celebration of all of this.
How did you ensure you conveyed the culture authentically?
I started early. I went to live in Jamaica for 2 months, Idris and I decided on a method approach, which means I’d only interact with everyone as D, in the frame of mind and accent. So I lived as another person during this time, a person and time I miss.
How hands on was the author of the book with the film?
I think Victor (Headley) gave Idris the space he needed. I never spoke to him until after the film was complete.
The novel the film is adapted from was seen as a somewhat of a turning point in British black literature. Do you believe the film could have a similar impact?
My hope is that film connects with a global audience. And there is an appetite to see these characters again.
What challenges did you face whilst filming Yardie and how did you overcome them?
The whole experience was a challenge. I remember seeing Robbie G around during that time, he knew I was gonna start filming soon and I told him I was nervous. All he said to me was “go wrong and strong”, and I took that advice and ran with it.
What did you get up to at carnival last weekend?
We had a Yardie sound system, and an artist called Dreph did a huge painting of me. So I was there with my red stripe, grabbing a pic and a dance.
Yardie releases in cinemas nationwide on the 31st of August, be sure to go out in your droves and support a great piece of Black British cinema.