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.
The films of Amma Asante, can be purchased by clicking the links below.
‘Where Hands Touch’ is due to be released in cinemas in 2017-18
Mark Baxter played Duane Orpington between 1980-1984. Duane was the first of a new group of pupils, aimed at replacing the original ‘first years’ of Tucker Jenkins and Trisha Yates, as they moved up the school. Duane tried hard to stay on the right side of his violent father, getting into numerous scrapes alongside Pogo Patterson, and finally bringing down Gripper Stebson. Mark was one of the few constants in an ever-changing cast list for his ‘year-group’ until he himself disappeared from Grange Hill during the 1984 series.
Grange Hill Gold is delighted to be able to publish an exclusive interview with Mark in which he talks about his time at Grange Hill and why he’s sometimes known as ‘the forgotten man’ of Grange Hill. Check out our exclusive interview here and view some of Duane/Mark’s classic moments here.
Fans of Grange Hill’s Ziggy and Robbie (aka George Wilson and John Alford) get the chance to meet them at a Grange Hill Reunion in Wellingborough in November. As well as an 80s night theme and a Qand A with George and John, there will be photo and autograph opportunities. Tickets are available here with full details on the flier below. Anyone who attended a similar event in Great Yarmouth in 2016, knows just what an entertaining partnership George and John are; guaranteeing a great night. See George Wilson talking about the event here.
Former Grange Hill star, Amma Asante has been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for services to film, as part of the Birthday Honours 2017. Amma, who played Cheryl Webb for two series in 1986-7, received the MBE.
Since leaving Grange Hill, Amma has gone on to become one of the UK’s most successful directors, with her film credits including Belle, and her latest A United Kingdom.
Amma Asante was also the subject of an edition of The South Bank Show, broadcast on Sky Arts on Wednesday July 19th 2017, in which she discussed her career to date, from Grange Hill to MBE!
Joining Grange Hill in Series 3 as a new first year lead, Mark Baxter played Duane Orpington for four series until he suddenly disappeared off screen. A prolific child actor, becoming the new ‘Tucker Jenkins In Training’ was one of Mark’s highest profile roles.
Grange Hill Gold are delighted to announce that Mark has completed an exclusive interview for us. Find out the real stories behind Mark’s time playing Duane, including his disappointment at not being able to finish Duane’s Grange Hill journey properly and much, much more. This exclusive interview goes on-line next week.
Click Here to see some of Duane Orpington’s greatest moments. (Video courtesy of BBC / Grange Hill Events)
Last month we were fortunate enough to be able to interview Ricky Simmonds who played the legendary Ant Jones between 1986-7. The character’s constant clashes with Mr Bronson and his romance with Georgina kept viewers glued to Grange Hill. In our exclusive, feature length interview, Ricky reveals which part he originally auditioned for, which co-star he was best-man for, his thoughts on the Just Say No record and the truth behind his infamous hairstyle! He also talks about how he moved from acting into music, and how he even tempted Mr Bronson to make a record with him!
This is Ricky’s first interview about Grange Hill for many years, and we were delighted to be able to finally secure an interview with him. Huge thanks to Ricky for taking time to talk to us, and for being reminiscing with us about his great times at Grange Hill.
Read our brand new interview here.
As part of our new content for 2017, Grange Hill Gold visitors can look forward to a brand new and exclusive interview with Ricky Simmonds who played Ant Jones between 1986-1987. Ricky talks about his Grange Hill memories, including revealing the part he originally auditioned for, and tells us about his career in the music business. He also talks about his role in the CFF movie Pop Pirates and the legendary Ant Jones hair!
Keep visiting Grange Hill Gold to read this interview as soon as it goes on-line in the next few weeks.