By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act April 23, 2012 at 9:00AM
At age 26, Rising British star Aml Ameen has his own London-based production company, AmeenDream Entertainment, with five short films helmed by the young actor and filmmaker under its umbrella. Ameen, who learned his acting craft at the Barbara Speake stage school, has been making strides in the U.S. for the past two years. He is best known stateside for his role in Harry's Law as Malcolm Davis, a troubled young man who becomes the firm's assistant paralegal with the help of Harry (Kathy Bates character). Ameen was brought back for season two of the NBC crime drama series.
In the U.K. however, Ameen's resume goes back to 2004, when he debuted in the BBC 2 drama Bella and the Boys. He is best known across the pond for his roles as Trife in the controversial drama Kindulthood about inner west London troubled teens, penned by Noel Clarke, and in the ITV series The Bill as Lewis Hardy, a police officer who grew up in the streets. In 2008, he played the lead role of a college student facing street gang trouble in the BBC 3 drama Dis/connected. That same year, he received critical accolades for his role as Dwayne in Channel 4's series Fallout (Gugu Mbatha-Raw co-stars), which London Lite paper described as his most memorable.
Ameen will be seen next in the upcoming British romantic comedy The Naked Poet, which we profiled on S&A a few days ago. The film is requesting signature support for theatrical release in the U.K.; for trailer and details, click on that post HERE. He also has an upcoming role in the Olatunde Osunsanmi-directed thriller Evidence, which is currently in post-production.
Ameen has been proactive about sharing his knowledge and helping develop future artists. In 2008, he founded the drama school A.S.A. (Actors Student Alliance), which discovers and educates talent in London. In our interview below, the charismatic and versatile actor talked about producing his own work, making the transition to the U.S. and the work opportunities for actors of color in the UK versus the states.
Below the interview, watch Ameen's impressive 7-minute showreel video.
Harry’s Law was the first American project you got involved in. How did you make that transition into an American show?
AA: I traveled out here [L.A.] for one week back in 2009. My manager contacted me when the 2010 pilot season came along. I put myself on tape for this show, and the next day I was flying out to L.A. Unfortunately, I didn't get it. My manager pursued me to stay, and two weeks later, I was called by David Kelley for Harry's Law and did the tests. I got here January 27th, 2010 and by February 13th, I had gotten the role at Harry's Law.
S&A: What’s the perception in the U.K. of working Black actors in the U.S.? Is the grass greener on the other side?
AA: A lot of British actors will look at America as such a land of opportunity. In England, there's such a small pool of working actors of color. There's such a small amount of work that is actually produced in the first place. In England, there's a lot of people producing their own work and becoming producers and filmmakers, so they're not constantly waiting around. It can be very scarce for work, so it's important to create the work.
In the U.S., there are around 300 shows in different networks, so there's a lot of work here. They think America is like a major league in entertainment. For me personally being here for the past year-and-a-half, I know some of the arguments and discrepancies African American actors have with the opportunities here. Being British first, to me there's much more opportunity, because where I come from there's even less. So, I think it's about being optimistic about our chances and what can actually happen.
S&A: How did you get involved in Jason Barrett’s “The Naked Poet”?
AA: I executive produced with James Barrett actually. He's a good friend of mine. It's a great script about this poet who's a bit of a lothario, and he's going through a redemption with the women that he's fallen in love with. I play the role of this guy Ryan; he's a really good man, and he's in love with the girl that's in love with Jason's character. So, there's this love triangle thing going on. Ryan represents a good-hearted man who wants to have a family, but this woman is attracted to this very destructive guy. Jason [Barrett] completely financed the film himself, and that's commendable.
S&A: Talk About your directorial debut in the short film Drink, Drugs and KFC?
AA: It's a short based on a feature film that I want to produce. It's about this young man Mason, who's a bit of a romantic, and he's in love with the most popular girl in high school, Montana. So he infiltrates the popular crew to get to her and tell her he's in love with her. It's a real coming of age story.
S&A: Would you like to keep working on TV, film and/or both?
AA: I want to go wherever there's great work. I'm a huge fan of film primarily. But, you can get a great TV show and get attached to it. Making a great film is forever though; so I always want to be part of film. It's my first love.
S&A: You have your production company in the UK is that correct?
AA: I have my own production company called AmeenDream Entertainment. I went back to London and did a bunch of short films, so there are five films under Ameen Entertainment. We're looking at feature films to direct.
America has established itself with a lot more rules than London. Here [London], you can pick up a camera, and if you have the right connections, you can make a film that does well. Independent film is such a huge deal in the UK. There aren't many big budget studio movies that get greenlit at all. The indie film industy is a great opportunity that I'm trying to seize. In the U.S., you have so many rules that protect actors, so it's a little more difficult to get what you need out here [U.S.] from my observation so far.
S&A: As a Black actor, how hard is it for you to find work? Are you auditioning?
AA: I have a great manager so that's important. They tell me if you have an opportunity, do it once and do it well. When I got here, I met many people and I prepared; so even if I don't get the job, my reputation stands up, and I've been able to do that. It is difficult getting through the door, but I've been fortunate that it hasn't been the biggest problem for me.
S&A: What's next for you?
AA: I just finished Harry's Law season 2, which is really cool. I come back for the end of the series; we also got season 3. I'm going back to London to oversee my next short film 12 [12 The Damaged Race], which is making its run at festivals. 12 is a social based commentary thriller about the 2012 London riots.