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UK born Vincentian actor wants to give back to homeland

UK born Vincentian actor wants to give back to homeland

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by Natricia Duncan Fri Aug 16, 2013

I had had a number long-distance conversations with Hollywood star Aml Ameen, but as I sat across from him in the busy Starbucks cafe in Oxford Circus, preparing to go into a BBC London interview, I got a real sense of the man who is determined to connect to his Vincentian roots.{{more}}

Earlier this month Aml, with his father, Vincentian Bilal Jack-Ameen, stood on the red carpet alongside fellow actors Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey for the premier of big screen historical drama, “The Butler,” in which he plays the main character Cecil. But despite his great successes, the 28 year old is humble, grounded and focused on how he could be could be an ambassador for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Though he was born in the UK, Ameen has been to St Vincent on a number of occasions – including on one of his father’s youth exchange programmes, which introduced British young people to the culture and way of life on the island.

He said: “What I am today, my values, my attitudes, my worldview and my talent, is a product of my heritage. And my father has always instilled in me the importance of remembering that journey, that experience that gave birth to us…. For me, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a big part of my story.”

Ameen started his acting career at the tender age of six when, after watching the movie “Home Alone”, he decided he wanted to be an actor.

His father, originally from Mesopotamia, enrolled him in the Barbara Speake Stage School in London.

“My parents…my family are my biggest inspiration. I owe them my career, because they invested in me, and not everyone is willing to invest in their children’s s dreams. ”

He first became a household name in the UK when he shot to fame in 2006 with his leading roles in the British Film “Kidulthood” and UK drama series, “The Bill”.

Since then his acting career has been on an upward trajectory. In addition to landing key roles in US series such as “Harry’s Law” and “CSI Miami”, his success in film has been growing. He has secured parts in “Red Tails”, “The Butler”, and the lead in the sci-fi wonder, “Maze Runner” – due for release in 2014.

Born and bred in North London, he has been finding ways to give back to young people in the city through mentoring programmes. He also started drama schools in the UK and LA where he lives; and now he wants to find out how he could contribute to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The actor is already working with this father on a Heritage Youth Exchange project, which they hope will raise the profile of the island; and he plans to be part of a big homecoming event in St Vincent next year.

During his visit to London, Ameen met with the St Vincent and the Grenadines High Commissioner Cenio E. Lewis and Minister Counsellor Doris Charles to establish a link with the Commission and to explore a set of proposals. But he wants to begin by inspiring other young people with the story of his success.

“My father started out as a boy from small village in a small Island. But he had dreams which he refused to give up on and he gave me that spirit of perseverance, to pursue my goals relentlessly.

“Today, I am achieving my goals and I believe you can too, regardless of your circumstances or background. I believe St Vincent and Grenadines is a very special place. I know there is a lot of talent on the island.”

Ameen stressed the importance of realising that success is purchased with hard work, commitment and determination.

“I have been disappointed so many times in my career that disappointment has become a friend to me.

“You have to have the resilience to keep going, and the strength to do that comes from a very quiet, core belief in yourself.”

Fellow actor and playwright, Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, described Aml as one of the leaders of his generation.

He said: “His mind is so honest, his focus on his art is so undeniable and he has a huge heart, a huge spirit and an intellect that allows him to understand the need for us, who have broken through to whatever degree, to reach back and nurture and break the stereotype that once somebody becomes successful they close the door behind them. And he does it for no other reason than he believes that it is the right thing to do.”

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