Co-written by and starring 29-year old Ashley Chin, UK indie flick ‘Victim’ – which sees conflicted criminal Tyson (played by Chin, seen above on far right) trying to break out of a life of crime upon an urban backdrop is set to hit screens this summer on June 22nd.
With a range of buzz worthy and established UK talent like Adam Deacon, ‘Revenge’ star Ashley Madekwe, Shanika Warren-Markland, Jason Maza and Golden Globe winner David Harewood on board the movie is already raising eyebrows and I got the chance to speak to leading man Chin about his road into acting…
Did you feel any pressure as the leading man in ‘Victim’?
You could say that, I had the most screen time in movie ‘Cherry Tree Lane’ and so that was kind of like a leading role but this is the first project of mine where I feel like I am carrying the film. It’s a lot of pressure…
I can imagine it was a dream fulfilled to be a lead in a film…
My dreams are a little more technical than that however in regards to acting yes, definitely.
There’s this growing market for inner city, youth driven films, what do you think ‘Victim’ has that separates it from the rest of them?
For me this movie is more than a movie, it’s more than entertainment. For ‘Victim’ I saw a gap in the industry for films with meaningful content, there are films with humor, entertainment, that are a great Friday night out where you can have a laugh with your friends but I’m all about education and I care about the people that come from where I came from and I feel fortunate to have made it out. When I work with young people and I see how bad the mind frame can be with some of them I feel fortunate – I care about them and I know why their mind frame is like that, I get it. If I write a book will they read it? No, but if I write a film and trigger subtle new thoughts in their heads, maybe they can relate to my character in this film and step out of their world and look at their behavior.
Do you feel that some of the films that are part of this explosion are doing a disservice to the people they are trying to represent?
That’s the cry I heard. I lived that life and so that’s the difference – I know the realism of that world and I spotted that gap of meaningful content. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with those other films, I loved ‘Anuvahood’ I was in it – I loved it – sometimes you need to chill let the kids watch and laugh and then sometimes you need something that can educate. I don’t think I went far enough with this film in that respect, but for my first film it’s just a taster. That’s why the film is called ‘Victim’ because we are all victims of something even the criminals are victims.
They need people who are actually living this life, who know it inside out to be writing the scripts because what they are doing is trying to tell a story that they don’t know and with some shows and movies they are struggling to do it well.
Do you prefer screenwriting to being in front of the camera?
I love screenwriting and the reason that I prefer it is that when I’m acting I feel like I am conveying someone else’s message and I may not even agree with the message. If it’s a good script then that’s my joy and I love doing it but a lot of the time you don’t get to sink your teeth into something really great and gripping. So at the moment I am enjoying writing because I get to convey the message, I’m getting to write it down and watch it come to life and if I make the right films they could be show it in schools, there could be a social worker working with a mad youth in ten years time who says ‘did you see that film? You will learn something from it’ that’s the role I am trying to play. But I can’t pretend I don’t love acting.
What was it like working with Adam Deacon, Jason Maza, Shanika Warren-Markland, David Harewood and the rest of the cast on set?
They’re all lovely to be honest, it feels like a family – you’re working with your friends. Find a job you love and it you’ll never work a day in your life – it felt like we weren’t even working. They couldn’t even pay us to be there, we’d just be there anyway – it feels like that. The mentally of Adam and Shanika in particular is like, work or no work we are friends, these are beautiful people and we are all kinda on the same journey in regards to this industry.
David Harewood is an amazing guy, he is so chilled and you can tell he was doing it purely for the love of it. I remember him being really encouraging and praising Michael Maris and me for writing the script and that made me proud seeing an older so happy for us.
Now that Adam Deacon has his BAFTA award, is the atmosphere within the urban acting community more competitive in any way? Can it really be that friendly all the time? Everyone wants their BAFTA right?
To be honest I am more aware of different sets of actors, you have that bunch that grew up wanting to be actors – that went to drama school, that graduated from RADA and it’s a battle to get work and so I understand the rivalry between them and people like Michael Maris, Adam Deacon and me who come from the streets and anything we get is bonus – we didn’t expect nothing from life and we’re just happy for each other when we get a part. I think it’s that rawness of where we come from, we’re still competitive. A lot of the time I will see Arnold Oceng go for the same role as me and I will say ‘Boy, I’m gonna have to do one over you’ and he will be like ‘There’s that Chin dude again’ it’s a battle, but it’s a friendly battle.
Talk a bit about your own personal road into acting…
I left school with one GCSE at 15 years old and that was an A in Drama. Then I heard about a film called ‘Storm Damage’ and that Lennie James wrote it and Adrian Lester was in it. Ashley Walters was also in it and it was both of our breaks – we were teenagers – Ashley Madekwe who is in ‘Victim’ also appeared. We were all in the same year and had just come out of secondary school and the casting was open and so anyone could audition for this film. A thousand people were auditioning and I was coming straight from my estate. My mum heard it on Choice FM and said ‘your going! This has to work out for you because nothing else will because all you got was an A in Drama’ so I went and I was shy at first and before I knew it I was in the final eight and then got the call…
Who are your favourite actors, what are some of your favourite films?
I just love Denzel Washington, it’s a bit typical but it’s typical for a reason because you watch the man work and he does less, less is more with him and he doesn’t over act it’s not show acting – it’s emotional. I love those actors who don’t do much. I like how Denzel works. There are some British actors that I love like Tom Hardy and Idris Elba.
Working on ‘Victim’ with Ashley Madekwe…I think that she is a real actress, I think that girl is going to be huge, she is doing ‘Revenge’ in the US at the moment but she is one actor I have worked along side and thought ‘what your doing is some sick talent’ she is big. I like a lot of the actors in The Wire like Wood Harris and his Avon Barsdale character.
So what do you see in your future, what’s coming up for you?
Next year I would like to release another film that I’ve based on my life story because I think it would educate people and a crazy way and I also want to release a book. I want to do it as a trio; a book, a film and a poetry CD. I also want to settle down and get married – that’s my dream – like walking through an airport with your family and going to new countries to live. I want to be in Australia for a bit and Jamaica for a bit. More films, more traveling and settling down – I want to work on love, family and my health the things that only God can bless you with.