Thu | May 23, 2019

Yardie’s Aml Ameen excited for Gargamel’s return

Published:Thursday | March 14, 2019 | 12:09 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Aml Ameen (left) taking directions from Idris Elba during the filming of ‘Yardie’.
Aml Ameen (left) taking directions from Idris Elba during the filming of ‘Yardie’.

British actor Aml Ameen is on his way to Jamaica, with more than one reason to celebrate. First, he is one of many diaspora derivatives on their way to the island to attend the most highly anticipated live-music event of the year. Second, on Wednesday, local cinemas began showing Idris Elba’s directorial debut, Yardie, in which Ameen stars as the lead character, Dennis ‘D’ Campbell.

The undoubtedly well-connected thespian admitted that it was a struggle to secure his ticket for this Saturday’s concert. “I can’t wait! These are the hottest tickets in the world right now. It was hard to get them! Especially if you want one of those special ones, you know?” Ameen told The Gleaner. In the midst of the excitement for the concert, the actor hopes that part of his visit will be spent in a movie theatre. “I’m excited for the Jamaican cast and crew, a conglomerate of talent who worked on Yardie,” he continued.

Though he was born and raised in the United Kingdom, Ameen’s connection with the island is a strong one. His mother is Jamaican, and his father, who is from St Vincent, played in a reggae band. Ameen identifies with and embraces his Caribbean heritage as much as possible, and while filming Yardie in Jamaica, he inserted himself into the heartbeat of the capital, experiencing everyday life by staying at his aunt’s house. His cultural embrace included him spending time in the company of prominent, pioneering music figures like Bunny Brown and the legendary ‘Riddim Twins’, Sly and Robbie. “I even met some of the Marleys! I went up to Dub Club, I got to meet Miss Jamaica, Sanneta Myrie, and I was embraced by everyone,” he shared.

London, affectionately referred to by some, including Ameen, as ‘Little Jamaica’, the actor’s physical home. His home and environs are peppered with Jamaican and other West Indian migrants and their descendants. So the Jamaican vernacular is one he has always been exposed to. “How we speak, our Ebonics, are basically a ­combination of British and Jamaican slang. The slang is a big part of the culture with my family and other communities,” he said. Ameen had to flex his Jamaican slang skills as the star of Yardie – a film adapted from Jamaica-born writer Victor Headley’s novel of the same name. He noted that during prior visits to the island, he would spend time in Clarendon and Manchester, so he had an ear for the accent. During his three months on the island ­filming Yardie, he adopted the accent completely. He even maintained the accent when they returned to London to complete production. “I never came out of it,” he confessed. “Shantol and the No-Maddz, everyone that was around the movie was very helpful.” He reported that after seeing the film, his mother, especially, reported that he did his ancestral family proud. Ameen revealed, “They came from other works with a preconceived notion of how the accent would sound. But she said I did them proud.”

Yardie follows the protagonist, Dennis ‘D’ Campbell, who travels from 1970s Kingston, Jamaica, to 1980s Hackney, London, on a mission given to him by his nefarious employer. Beyond the tropes of gangsters, drugs, and retribution, Yardie also offers a historical look at Jamaican styles, sounds, and landscape. The film’s plot is part of a larger story explored in the book, leaving some questions unanswered – and the potential of a sequel lingering.

Ameen is well-known for other major roles. including Alby in The Maze Runner, alongside Teen Wolf ’s Dylan O’Brien, Capheus in Netflix’s Sense8 (season one), and PC Lewis Harry in ITV’s The Bill.