Amma Asante MBE has come a long way since playing Cheryl Webb in Grange Hill between 1986-7. Now hugely successful in the world of film; Amma was recently awarded the MBE for services to film. She was recently the subject of an edition of The South Bank Show with Melvyn Bragg; broadcast last month on Sky Arts. Here are 10 things we learnt about the amazing Amma after watching.
- Amma grew up in Streatham, one of only two black families on her street. “It took me a while to realise how rough it was, I didn’t know any other form of life. To have graffiti on the wall, matches through the letterbox was just life at the time.”
- Her parents were raised in the colony of the Gold Coast, which then became Ghana, before moving to London. Her father was an accountant, whilst her mother ran an African Deli in Shepherd’s Bush.
- Sensing his daughter’s creativity, her father sent her to the Barabra Speake stage school. “To be a black child, sent to stage school, to explore who you are, was quite a rare thing.”
- Amma appeared in the music video for Culture Club’s ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya’. It was her first job; for which she was paid £30.
- “I remember being told I’d got the job on Grange Hill, and being so happy; so glad that I was working! Because that’s all we ever wanted; to be working!” Amma told headteacher, Barbara Speake when she went back to visit the stage school as part of the programme.
- Her mother encouraged her to have a back-up job in-case acting didn’t work out. This lead to Amma learning to type, which eventually lead to her writing scripts. Initially she wrote scripts under her mother’s name as she believed she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a writer, as she was also still working as an actress. However, when her script was accepted, a producer wanted to meet the writer and Amma’s identity was revealed; it made no difference!
- Her first script to be made for television was the BBC series ‘Brothers And Sisters’ which made Amma Asante the first black woman to write and produce her own television series.
- In order to secure funding for her first film, A Way Of Life, Amma reluctantly took on the role of director. “I found it like coming home. The few hours leading up to that 7 o’clock was absolutely terrifying, but the moment I called ‘Action!’ and this weird magic started to unfold in-front of me and the camera, I suddenly got it. I understood that this was where I was meant to be.”
- Oprah Winfrey helped promote Amma’s second film ‘Belle’ in the United States. “I remember getting the call saying Oprah wants to have you at lunch. Not only this but she’s going to get Entertainment Tonight to come an shoot it and she’s asked them to screen it in segments over four nights so that you get the utmost promotion for your movie. And that’s what happened; and it made a huge difference.”
- Of her current film (Where Hands Touch) Amma says ; “It explores all facets of who I am, and what I want to say. I feel like my strength is through film-making, and that’s why I make films………to try to move society on in different directions.”
AMMA ASSANTE : SOUTH BANK SHOW was broadcast on Sky Arts on 19th July 2017.