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Real Life Stories
By: Jimmy Swagger
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From Asher To Ashley. Ashley Walters has got the terminology cleaning up good, refined to a fine art, and to say that we are very proud of him and how far he has come would be an understatement.

After two failed attempts to meet up with the man known to most as Asher D the rapper and Ashley Walters the actor, I’ve made the long journey from East to South London to meet with him. Originally we were going to sit on the fringe of a Man Law violation by having this interview over a meal, at a Chinese restaurant - as Chinese food is cool for conversation and by no means romantic. But we decided against that and went for a couple of drinks like true men should do.
When I finally arrived in Catford, I found Ashley on his own sat outside the Chinese restaurant on the phone with a couple of gushing teenage girls pointing at him and tripping over themselves. After speaking on the phone several times to arrange this interview we both greeted each other with an “embrace” (Men don’t embrace).
 
 
Ashley nice to finally meet you.
Apologies about having to cancel yesterday, but I had to pick the kids up from school and I’d got my days mixed.
 
It’s cool it’s a good reason and to be honest I prefer to meet on your home grounds. I can see that you’re a bit of a local celebrity around here. I’ve been with you 5 minutes and I’ve already seen the locals showing you a lot of love.
People around here aren’t really into the hype as there are quite a lot of wealthy people around here, a lot of black business people - so it’s easy for me to manoeuvre and go about my day.
 
Is this where you grew up?
Nah - I grew up in Peckham on an estate. I still go there now and I get a lot of love, I can still walk around up there and have no issues.
 
How do you feel about the fact that there are still places you can go to and people don’t know your face, considering all of the work that you’ve done?
To be honest with you, I want to be able to go every where and be known. I want to be a household name in the black houses, the white houses, the Asian houses - there are still people out there who don’t know my work because they haven’t seen “Sugarhouse” or “BulletBoy”, so I want to change that.
 
I remember when you were in Grange Hill and now you’ve gone on to do big movies in the US. But from what I can gather from talking to you on the phone, and meeting with you today is you manage to remain humble.
(Ashley laughs at my Grange Hill comment with that laugh of a grown man remembering that school play that his mum won’t stop showing people) I’ve been blessed enough to work with some very talented people. I’m a guy that wears my heart on my sleeve. So I’m not into all that being stuck up. Like when I met 50 [that’s 50 Cent to you and I] he’s a humble guy also, even though he may come and show off to you that he just went out and bought another Lamborghini, he’s still just a guy. It was my first time in America and I went out and bought a Jacobs watch and went to show it off to him and he kind of looked at it like that ain’t no big thing. But he’s cool. But that’s just an example of how everything is relative and that’s part of the reason I remain humble.
 
Alright whilst we’re talking about the flossing, I remember when you guys [“So Solid”] were pushing the TT’s and you were the first people I saw with the convertible Lexus Soarer. But now your life appears to have changed to that of a family man.
Yeah - all of that was fun and we did all that. The change has been difficult I’m all about my family, don’t get me wrong sometimes I will jump in the car with Kano and we’ll go out partying and be gone for a couple of days. But my family is the most important thing to me - I’ve been with my wife for 13 years. Now there’s going to be a few girl’s who are going to read that and be like hold on..., but I’ve done my wrongs and my family comes first.
 
So how long have you been married?
We’re not actually married but she’s been there from the beginning. We met literally about 6 to 7 months before the whole So Solid thing even kicked off, and I can honestly say that I trust her more than any woman and I couldn’t trust another woman like her. We’ve gone from living in a flat in Brixton with no furniture, putting food on the balcony because we didn’t have a fridge and putting together a little change for a single cigarette - and then it was like overnight we went from that to being good for money and she stood by me.
 
So how many kids have you got?
I’ve got 4 kids only one of them is outside of this situation and she’s 10 months old.
 
Ok …so how is your wife dealing with that, and you having to deal with the issues of not being able to bring the youngest around the rest of your family?
My wife made the decision to stick with me on this one, and forgave my indiscretion.With the mother of my daughter, we aren’t seeing eye to eye as obviously this wasn’t the situation she wanted, but I’m always honest and at the end of the day any girl that meets me knows that I’m a married man. Right now - I’m just trying to show her that I’m a good dad to all of my kids and that I don’t want my daughter to miss out on that. She knows that - so I’m just waiting for her to come around to the idea.
 
So before you became Asher D did you have a normal job?
I worked in retail bruv, (That’s brother to us) I was working in WHSmith in Sloane Square. I left that job because at the time I’d done a short movie, and for like 3 days straight I had business men in suits stopping me and saying [adopts an upper class tone] “Hold on didn’t I see you on the tele last night”. From that I just thought to myself I’m meant to be somebody, I’m meant to be doing this acting thing. So that day I started an argument with my manager, I purposely went into work wearing the wrong uniform and he told to me to go home and change it. I explained to him that if I went home I wasn’t coming back and he would never see me again.
 
So what were you doing for money in between that time before the fame popped?
I was doing what I can only call “road activities” and I don’t even want to glorify it because I want the kids to know that, life is not the be all and end all for them. People can change - you can walk away from these things. I understand that not everyone has the same opportunities that I have, but you can take them skills and turn them towards legal money.
 
So many kids go to prison and think of it like a holiday camp. When you did your time was it easy for you, especially go to prison as a celebrity.
When I went into Feltham they brought me in late at night because they didn’t want anyone to see me. They even put me on the vulnerable wing, which is for the rapists and child molesters. Now one of the inmates somehow managed to see me and told everyone. I’m sat in my cell on the bed and the place is going wild with people shouting things like “you’re gonna get it”, “you’re dead”, “wait till the morning” and I’m just there thinking to myself that this is going to be interesting in the morning.
 
How long were you inside for?
Seven months - seven of the longest months of my life. There wasn’t a day that I was in there that I can say that I was enjoying myself. It was only on the last 2 days of being there that I took it in for what it was. I knew that I never wanted to go back. But you’ve got some kids who go into these places and try to reinvent themselves. They can be the local nerd and go in there and play the part of the biggest gangster, but then come back out and realise they are still a little fish in a very big pond.
 
So back to the music do you still see the members of So Solid?
To be real with you, from day one I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with So Solid. I was always the outsider as I was from Peckham and they were all from the same sides. I knew Mega through road activities, when the whole Delight FM thing jumped off - that’s when I got on board. I was always different from them as I always saw myself as a thespian, I wasn’t a rapper. I had started my art, I attended Sylvia Young I’ve done all the ballet and tap dance, whereas they came from the roads.
 
This is something people have been saying to me all week, that you’re not no bad boy and how you come from a good home.
Yeah my mum has worked for Lambeth council for years and is currently being head hunted by the home office. She was very much about studying your books, so I wasn’t allowed to be out getting up to no good.
 
I was running late today and when I called you said that it was cool as you were talking to your mum on the phone having a catch-up. Does your mum play a big part in your life?
With the whole So Solid thing my mum always used to say to me that they weren’t my friends. It wasn’t until I came out of prison that I saw what she meant as a lot of my affairs weren’t in order, and certain things of mine had been taken. The thing is I’m the kind of person if you ask me for it; I’d probably give it to you.
 
So is that why you distanced yourself from them?
Kind of. When I came out [of prison] I realised I was surrounded by things that weren’t positive. I wanted to properly pursue my acting and nobody is going to want to hire you for a film with the kind of negative things that I had around me. Then as a father, I had to realise that I couldn’t be walking around with shank or a shooter (Shank or a shooter...That means a knife or a gun). Like, my Dad was in and out of prison for 17 years of my life.
 
Do your boys want to be like Daddy, are they your typical spoilt celebrity kids?
Nah - my kids live a very normal life, I try to keep them grounded. Even with the things they have, I let them know not to go to school talking about what they have, as some things they have other kids don’t. My 7 year old boy is into making animation movies with Lego and he puts the films up on Youtube and he’s very talented. I didn’t push him into it he found out how to do it through internet tutorials. He does all the voiceovers and lays in sound effects.
 
I see by your tweets that you’re making some kind of moves to get back on the music.
What I’m actually doing is, I’ve got a record label and I’m working on an artist called Realist or Realz. I’m basically working with him in the studio and showing him all aspects of the business. What I’ve done with him is that rather than just signing him to a contract he actually gets a percentage of the business. He’s got a track called “Fly Boy” that we’re recording the video for this weekend. He’s a good kid and he’s gone through some things this year - he’s lost quite a few friends to knife and gun crime.
 
At this point a man walks over and speaks to Ashley and states that he knew his father and how much he loves him.
[Ashley shows me a tattoo on his arm that says “Street fighter”] My dad was known as Street Fighter so I get a lot of love around here because of him. Before he passed from cancer I took him out to the states with me to show him what I was doing. My dad was a reggae singer but he never recorded. Before he passed we had a sit down and a chat, and he told me that I’ve got a brother somewhere in the states who would most probably be in his mid 30’s. Now as I got my talent from my Dad I have to wonder who my brother is, he could be somebody in the music industry for all I know as he took his mothers surname. For all I know he could be someone big.
 
Earlier you referred to yourself as a thespian, where are you looking to take that.
I want to be in control! I just finished writing a script with Noel Clarke. I’m trying to get in contact with Simon Cowell, who I’ve tried to reach out to on Twitter but I’m not sure I’ve got his real account. I want to start doing more diverse roles as I’ve played variations of myself. Most times when I’m acting I’m only giving 50% effort, so when I’m actually ready and give it 100% I’ll be unstoppable. Like right now people always say to me that they saw me in something or the other and they thought I was amazing.
 
Do you go in for the method acting where you have to live the role?
Not really as like I said more times I’m playing someone that I can relate to or have already been in my life. When I did “Small Island” I was worried about not getting the Jamaican accent right. Then for my role as a Crackhead in “Sugar house” I actually went and lived in a crackhouse for 3 months with crack addicts and heroin addicts to really understand them. I was even supporting their habit whilst I was there. That was my favourite role that I’ve played because I didn’t know anything about being a crackhead - the closest I’ve been was when I was a bit of an alcoholic.
 
So what’s next on the cards?
I’ve just finished recording for Channel 4, the show is their step back into controversial cutting edge TV. Over the last couple of years they’ve kind of got caught up in the whole reality TV thing. The show we’ve shot is like a UK version of “The Wire” but much more intricate. The other day I did an interview on set and I was asked “what’s the message in this”, and I had to tell them that there isn’t a message, that it’s more of an expose of what is really going on in the streets. The two main characters played by Kano and I start of dealing crack on like a real low level. Now, my character has observed the tiers of the system and aspires to be that guy on top but he thinks that he can get there without having to be the bad guy, but by giving back to the community. Whilst Kano’s character is more interested in the violence. The story follows their paths and the conflict between them - It shows how ruthless the drug industry is on the streets and how kids as young as 7 are being used to push these things and just how high up in society the control of illegal drugs goes.
 
 
 
 
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