This holiday season brings with it the release of ‘Boxing Day.’
Helmed by creative force Aml Ameen, the fun-filled Rom-Com relays a cross-cultural narrative that bridges the UK and US in a way that has not been seen on the big screen before.
Ahead of the Warner Bros‘ film’s unwrapping on Decmeber 3, That Grape Juice caught up with Aml who opened up in earnest about what viewers can expect from ‘Boxing Day.’
Check out the chat after the jump…
That Grape Juice: We absolutely love the trailer! In many ways, the film feels like the first of its kind. Did you actively set out to fill a void with this movie?
Aml Ameen: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. You did. That’s what I did. I wanted to make a film that felt authentically British, from a different POV. And so, I started out by addressing the authentic part and so I decided to use like aspects of my lived experience as a British person, as a black British person, as an actor, as a filmmaker, someone that lives in different parts of the world. And started out with my family and then kind of wanted to make this mixed genre of the Rom-Com film that people have watched and experienced, mixed with this little action-adventure that is also a multi-generational love story. The British part of it was really important and then just having that classic fish out of water concept; an American girl comes to England and is seeing Black British, Jamaican, African culture and going, ‘what is this?’ So, conjuring up something different is definitely something I’ve tried to do for sure.
That Grape Juice: What went into mapping out the cast? Did you have people in mind?
Aml: Yeah, well, I was always fascinated with who would be my Julia Roberts in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and Julia Roberts in ‘Notting Hill.’ Like, how am I going to find that magic in this kind of new cast and so, because I love those films. There’s a certain magic that Julia had, and I was looking for aspects of that in the actresses. And so you know, we went through a lot of great African American actresses and it was very important to me that it’d be an African American actress, because just by nature of them experiencing British culture like that first the first time…it’s authentic because they’re having an authentic experience. And then landed very quick on Aja Naomi King because she’s just such a powerful actor.
She’s a real powerhouse actor who’s dynamic and has an acting career that is magic. And so, when I met her, I was just like, ‘yep, that is definitely [the pick for] me.’ She has all those aspects that I’m looking for in a film like this. With Leigh-Anne Pinnock, it was interesting. My writing partner, Bruce Purnell introduced me to the idea of her. He sent me her like months back when I was looking for Georgia. I didn’t even know who Leigh-Anne Pinnock was at that point – which was quite stunning to everyone as she’s one of the most known performers in our country.
That Grape Juice: Right, right, right.
Aml: Bruce was like “Yo, man, I think you need to take this seriously, bro.” Our casting director Isabella, who did a great job, went and asked Leigh-Anne if she was interested in acting and Leigh-Anne put an audition on tape and she sang. She was wonderful.
That said, what actually sold me was one of Leigh-Anne’s interviews. She was doing an interview with someone…she had a dog on her lap. Little Mix fans will know which one I mean. And she was just talking, and she had so much humanity, so much grace, so much honesty. And I thought: ‘that’s the girl I grew up with. That’s Georgia.’ That’s who the basis of the character was, that type of person and she just becomes one of the most famous people in the country. I know that person. And so, when I met Leigh-Anne for the first time, and I was auditioning her again, she just had that. And I decided to put her into the space and create an environment where she would be able to rely on the fact that to act is not to act, but it is to be, and to be, it starts with being honest with self and looking at self. And she does that already. And so, she entrusted me to get her to that place. And she worked damnedest to get to that place. And she arrived then, she arrived. I am happy that she did a beautiful, beautiful job.
That Grape Juice: You’ve had such a long and diverse career; how would you describe this chapter – specifically ’Boxing Day’?
Aml: You got the questions today, man [Laughs]. I have had such a long and diverse career. This particular chapter, I would call Studio113, which is my production company. And I would call it that because I’m leaning towards all the experiences I’ve had as an actor, but also all the stories that are trapped inside me as a person, as a creative and imaginative person that I must tell. Going into directing wasn’t really a “going into” thing for me, it’s something I’ve always been doing it. And it’s just that I’m getting the opportunity to express on a larger platform and the people that really believe in what’s possible for me as a director, but also what’s possible for this film since it’s an extension of who I am. And I’ve always been writing and directing. I think this will also be a chapter in my career where people come to know me better as a person because as a director, it’s a little bit more [about] exposing your thoughts and your opinions and how you see the world. And, for me, as an actor, I’m very decisive on the work I take, because in some way, it’s got to reflect either some of my personal politics, or it’s got to reflect a part or a character that I want to really explore. And so that’s how I would describe this chapter as like, the writer, director, filmmaker, really being able to come to the forefront, if this is one movie, but we’re already on to the next and we’re already into the next other creative work with my company. I will describe this chapter as the Montell Jordan song. This Is How We Do It.
That Grape Juice: What do you want viewers to take away when seeing ‘Boxing Day’?
Aml: I would love for them to take custodian of the film and it’d be a film that they would turn to every year and it’s a film that they feel proud of, especially Black British people, we’ve been yearning for something other than the one genre that we’re really good at, which is the Street genre that we’ve done brilliantly. If you go to all the blogs and all other things, people have been asking “When are we doing this? When are we going to change things up?” And you know, I made this film for you guys. I really did. I made it for that call to action of, can we see something more than just this. And so, I hope that it’s taken into the heart of the audience. For the wider audience, this is a universal film about family and love and generation love and triumphs and tribulations and a little bit of heartbreak and at the end of the day, family. And that time of year where we all get a little bit quieter, reflect, and kind of embrace each other. That’s kind of what I’d like to take away from the film.