Plucked from the streets of Blackburn and taught to dance by FKA twigs, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed’s whirlwind journey to the big screen in disturbing thriller Catch Me Daddy would be overwhelming to some. But for the British-Pakistani actress, it’s business as usual.
“I’ve always done things that stand out,” grins the Greater Manchester-born newcomer on a brief stop-off in London. “I like being a minority actress in Britain today. I don’t like following the crowd; I do my own thing.” Her bolshy, vibrant performance gives the movie its gripping intensity, carving out a space for Ahmed as one of the UK’s most promising young acting talents. She plays pink-haired teen Laila, half of a mixed-race couple living in a trailer on the Yorkshire Moors. Away from the judgmental eyes of her family, the pair sweetly spend their days taking bong-hits and sharing milkshakes – until she has to literally run for her life.
The film’s most magnetic moment has Laila getting stoned and spinning around with wild abandon to Patti Smith’s “Land”. Director Daniel Wolfe, seeing that Ahmed’s moves could use a little more fluidity, drafted in his old pal FKA twigs, who he’d directed in The Shoes’ “Time to Dance” video back in 2012. “Patti Smith mentions some dance moves in the song, so me and twigs researched them and used them in our dance as well,” recalls Ahmed of the coaching session. “We were practising for a few days. I’d never danced before so I didn’t know what I was doing. She just said, ‘Be relaxed and loose during the scene.’ If she hadn’t been there, I would have been stuck.”
Despite hooking up with the snake-hipped avant-pop auteur and making her name at the arthouse, Ahmed prefers multiplexes to mumblecore, and dreams of playing Marvel’s Muslim superhero Kamala Khan. “That would be the most amazing thing in the world,” she beams. “It would be so cool to play a superhero. My favourite is Hulk, because he’s green - my favourite colour. I’m fascinated by the fact he can’t be destroyed. You can’t kill him!”
Considering her quick ascent, does she have any advice for fellow first-timers? “You should never be a person you’re not. Always be the person you want to be.”
Hair Philippe Tholimet at Streeters using Bumble and bumble; makeup Rebecca Wordingham at Saint Luke using NARS; photographic assistant Robin Lambert; styling assistant Marta Stella Brienza
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