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Aml Ameen: The London boy's amazing journey


AML AMEEN’S journey to stardom began on the mean streets of inner city London, as a deprived 15-year-old battling the social constructs that lured him on to the wrong side of the law.

Since this role as misguided youth Trife in the British hit film Kidulthood, the talented actor has been a cop, a lawyer, a White House butler during America’s turbulent civil rights movement, and last week he landed on British screens again.

This time he is a team leader of a group of teen revolutionaries who have been deposited in a giant, sinister labyrinth and forced to fight for their survival, in the Hollywood box office hit The Maze Runner.

The film, which is the talk of the town, catapulted to the number one position when it was released in the United States last month - demanding praise from critics for the cast’s performances, intriguing premise, visuals and dark tone.

Now, poised on the dizzying height of his success, the talented actor reflects on the sometimes rocky path that led him to fame.

“It has been a long hard slog,” Ameen confesses. “I left the UK four years ago now and I have had to keep on rising to the challenges to get to this moment.”

The 29-year-old reminisces on how he grew with The Voice. From a conversation about aspirations during his Kidulthood years with fledgling reporter, now online editor Dionne Grant, to this interview about a lead role in a Hollywood hit.

“The Voice has been generous to me throughout the years,” he tells me.

“What it does well is it celebrates black talent. It has kept track of me and covered my career from Kidulthood and The Bill. It has been instrumental in making people aware of my journey.”

Turning the conversation to his new film, he shares the excitement of being on the Louisiana set in a forest with poisonous snakes and spiders, and reveals that he had to bulk up for his role.

“The Maze Runner is a great ride. A return to the great classics like The Goonies, with characters that you can relate to whatever walk of life you come from,” he explains.

He adds: “It is a creation story about forgetting who you are and then coming into this existence and trying to figure things out. And along with me you have other great British talent like Thomas Brodie-Sangster from Game of Thrones, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario from Skins.”

Even as Ameen celebrates this success, he has already moved on to the next big thing – a lead role in a TV series from the makers of The Matrix.

Sense8, a Netflix original by the Wachowski siblings, will see Ameen in another fantasy role with the power to enter other people’s minds and experiences.

Talking about the series, which is due to be released next March, he says: “I play a Kenyan man who is a Matutu bus driver and whose mother is dying of Aids. It is a very special and fascinating character.”

Looking ahead, the actor says he intends to “push the boundaries and reach certain personal goals.

“Then for me it is about becoming a filmmaker so I can get to be at the helm of storytelling. I want to make films that can truly have an impact and are useful for the world to see, because film is a great educator.”

Director of hit internet film Drink Drugs and KFC, Ameen will be directing his brother, rapper Mikel Ameen’s next music video.

The star, who has fronted a number of give-back projects, including an acting school and acting master classes, says he hopes to inspire a new generation of talent.

“For me, it is about looking at the generation behind me and saying, ‘I am making it or making a way for myself, here is the blueprint of how I did it. Your journey will be very different, but if you ever want to pursue this path, here is a blueprint that can help you.’”

He added: “It’s not just about acting and training up the next generation of actors, because there are so many variations of things to do in life that are equally important and more important than my job. But for me it is about inspiring young people to go after the things they want in life.”

Ameen, who is now in a serious relationship, says he is looking forward to a happy private life. He credits his family and the “principles they gave me” for his ability to remain grounded.

He says: “Just because you are in the public eye, it doesn’t mean you are not the same as the human beings next door to you. I think when you lose sight of that is when you try to play up to an image and forget that you go to the bathroom just like everybody else and will come to a similar end.”

The north Londoner, who is in town for his film’s release, says he is happy to be in the capital. “Having family and supporters and the familiarity of home is good.”

For more information, follow @AmlAmeen on Twitter

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