This year, Ahmed Elhaj joined the cast of Grantchester in Series 6 as Henry Jones, which started airing in September and he also appeared in the new series of Silent Witness playing the role of Simi Jacobs. Recently, Ahmed has been working on the upcoming series Dangerous Liaisons, filming as Prevan de Valmont, with the release date not yet announced. Ahmed attended LAMDA, graduating during the pandemic last year, and he was also named as one of Warner Bros TV Casting Actors in Training of 2020. We spoke to Ahmed about filming for the upcoming release of Dangerous Liaisons, playing Henry Jones in Grantchester and training at LAMDA.
How was the experience recently working on location for Dangerous Liaisons as Prevan de Valmont?
Working on location for Dangerous Liaisons was amazing because I got to work with so many seasoned actors who are extremely experienced and being able to learn from their years of experience really allowed me to see how I can elevate my own game. I mean, everyone that was involved was so experienced and so talented and just being around those people really allowed me to sponge on their talent and creativeness and kind of inspired me to do my own thing and create my own unique taste for what I like. Plus, being on such beautiful and big locations that resemble the world so specifically enabled me to enter a type of feeling of the character that I haven’t experienced before which was interesting because now that I have experienced it, that is something I will always strive to do with all my work. It’s quite liberating really.
What are you looking forward to for the release of the series?
The main thing I’m looking forward to is how everything is pieced together in the world. We did a lot of work where everyone was in separate groups and you didn’t really see the other work that other actors were doing unless you were the two leads. So there’s a lot of actors I didn’t get to act opposite who had their own storylines so I’m really intrigued to see how all of that comes together and really create this beautiful interesting and intriguing world.
You joined the cast of Grantchester for the latest series, can you tell us about your character Henry Jones?
Henry Jones is a vibrant, energetic character who is just a bundle of joy but underneath all the warm energy and charm is a need to please and fit in. Being the time that Grantchester is set in, being black and being the new curate in such a closed and intimate town mixed with his personality really created this character who had no ill intentions but found himself misunderstood for what he really was.
What was Grantchester like to film and how was it getting into character?
Filming Grantchester was so exciting, Being surrounded by such a lovely and helpful cast really allowed me to settle and be relaxed while working. As it was one of my first characters who was a season regular, there’s a lot more to do in terms of arc through the episodes and relationships I had with specific people and carrying on the development of the relationship from the scene I had with certain characters before. Getting into character was different each day. Sometimes it would come very easily to me and the vibrant bunny rabbit energy would just be there and other days I had to find a different way to connect to it. I feel I always had the foundations of Henry but sometimes different scenes needed different versions of him so it was trying to navigate which version was needed for which scene.
Do you have any favourite memories from playing Henry?
My favourite moments were definitely all my scenes I had with Mrs. Chapman, who is played by Tess (Peake-Jones). Our characters are so opposing so when we were doing the scene we were literally in direct conflict with each other all the time but then at the end of the scene, as people, we were so alike. So it was quite funny to be at odds with each other all the time with someone who was actually quite close to who I am.
In September, you appeared in Silent Witness as Simi Jacobs, how was this?
Playing Simi was an exciting experience for me as it was my first ever time being on a professional set. Everything was so new and, to be honest, daunting because I didn’t know 100% all the things I was doing and had to learn a lot on the job as well as manage the stress of it being my first job. So it was exhilarating for both the character and actor but, again, I had such a nurturing group of actors around me who helped me and allowed me to find my feet. Which gave me the confidence for the next job!
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at LAMDA and how was your time there?
One of my good friends was at LAMDA while I was at sixth form looking to go into acting and he was definitely a mentor to me and showed me all the specifics and helped me really build my foundations towards acting. So, from that, I knew that LAMDA was such a good place because all the information he was giving me was from there. When I then went to go and see a show, I really saw nuances in every actor’s performance and how lived in people were in their character and to have that kind of skill at such an early stage of your career, I thought I had to see how they’re training them because it seems to be working!
My time at LAMDA was amazing. Being quite new to acting, it showed me so many different routes in how to solve problems of the character and also how we can layer a performance with specific detail. Showing me how acting is a combination of detailed work that involves the body and voice. Being around other creatives also inspired me to encourage myself to do better work. Seeing your classmates shine in performances really allowed you to appreciate their work but also be honest with yourself in terms of what you’re lacking and what you need to work on. It was an incredible environment to be in for three years!
What are some of the shows you performed in whilst training and can you tell us about some of the characters you played?
Two of my favourite shows I performed at LAMDA was A Raisin in the Sun and Nine Night. They were my favourite plays because it was my first time being in a black play that dealt with issues that I could closely relate to, as a lot of the plays were amazing that we did, but didn’t feel anything was especially close to home. With these plays it came so naturally and I had such a deeper understanding of what was going on, which opened my eyes to a new type of understanding, which I now strive towards in all the work I do.
Had you always wanted to be an actor and how did you start?
I have always been quite an expressive and energetic person from when I was young. Which lended itself to my creativity of when I’m telling stories or playing in the playground which had me bouncing off the walls and being absolutely engrossed in fighting a dragon, which a lot of the other children found weird but my drama teacher thought was amazing. She always suggested to my parents that I was extremely creative and they should think about putting me into acting classes. Once I did that, I found it was the only thing I really enjoyed at school. Always waiting for that class in the week because during that class I didn’t feel constricted behind a desk. I felt I could do or be anything I wanted without judgement and it was something I thrived in. That was where my drive for becoming an actor was born.
How did it feel being named as one of the Warner Bros TV Casting Actors in Training of 2020?
Being named one of the Warner Brothers Top 10 was definitely a big achievement in my life, it set me up in so many ways and gave my career the boost that was required after COVID. Having meetings with Warner Brothers TV and other networks in America really opened my eyes to the unlimited opportunities that were available to me and allowed me to expand my mind and what I wanted for myself completely. I always thought the American route was something that would come later in my career but it happened so early and just showed that anything was possible and allowed me to really reach for what I wanted, and the only person that could stop me from getting what I want was me.
Do you have any favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I think my TV show choice changes from time to time, sometimes I like something quite relaxing like Rick and Morty or sometimes it can just switch and I want to watch something really intense, like what I’m watching at the moment which is Angela Black. That’s what I’ve really been interested in and I kind of binge-watch everything all in one. I hate waiting and I’m one of the most impatient people so, when I watch something, I’m fully invested and I watch all of it straight away.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Away from my career, I love doing kickboxing, I’m such a fan of MMA and contact sports, to be honest. I used to play a lot of rugby but now I just do something that I can kind of pick up so kickboxing and Brazilian jujitsu has been my go-to. I’ve also been really interested in rockclimbing which, at first, I thought wasn’t going to be super amazing because I thought how interesting could it be to climb a wall, but after my first session I got completely hooked and I’ve done it every week since.
I’m also such a heavy gamer, I love gaming and I probably do it way too much!
Also, I love exploring, London is definitely the best place for that. I love going on walks and just walking to different shops or different areas and seeing what interests me and just finding new places, which I guess is really helpful when I’m abroad because it can take you to places that you never would’ve found unless you were a local.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career and do you have any upcoming plans you can tell us about?
I hope in 2022 I can find things that bring more happiness to my life. I found that when I’m fully invested in my life, my career also starts to go really well, so just expanding as a person. Career-wise I’m hoping for things that really challenge me that take me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn in abundance new things about how to live in front of the camera.
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