Mum always kept her eye on me and never let me get involved in any of that stuff
If you haven’t watched Top Boy before, now’s the time to start. Starring fab (and rather hunky) ex-So Solid Crew member Ashley Walters, 31, as gang leader Dushane, it’s the gritty and violent tale of drug dealers on a fictional London estate.
This series we see Dushane at the top of the pile, but once now he’s made it to the top everyone wants to knock him off his perch. There’s also a new sexy female lawyer in town, someone Dushane has his eye on.
Here in this honest and surprising chat, he tells us about what’s in store for Dushane in series two, as well as what it’s like to come from an estate background and how having a strong mum helped to save him from a life of crime.
Dushane’s top of the tree now… is it a case that the hunter has become the hunted?
Being top boy is a position that’s always trying to be filled… it’s like being Prime Minister! Everyone wants to be at the top of that food chain. No matter how scared people are of you there’s always going to be someone ready to take over that spot, and Dushane is very aware of that. But the way he thinks isn’t through violence or anything like that, he’s more methodical about it. It’s like playing a game of chess.
He also takes a liking to his lawyer (played by Lorraine Burroughs). Is love on the cards?
I think it’ll slightly soften Dushane. I think everyone thinks that he’s got a good heart anyway, but at the same time this series you’ll see another side to him. And it’s more than that – she’s very mature and next to her he realises how immature he can be. She tells him she’s not impressed by what he does and tells him she knows people who make a lot more money than him, so that makes him think he wants to be one of those people and opens up his mind.
You grew up in London, did you know any people who lived a life of crime when you were growing up?
Loads. I’ve come across it for most of my life, I’m not going to lie. I’ve been around quite a bit of it, so as far as research goes the only real thing I had to do was closely observe. I have a lot of friends who are still in that life. No matter how much I try to get them out of the lifestyle or tell them not to be involved, they do what they do. But as far as Dushane is concerned, he’s not one of those people who shouts a lot and shoots people – he’s loyal and loves his family. He has all these qualities that do exist in people who are involved in crime. They go home to their families or their mums and dads at the end of the day; they’ve just got the other part of their lives, too.
What made you turn away from that lifestyle?
For me it was having a very involved mother. A very. Very strong mum. She always kept her eye on me and never let me get involved in any of that stuff. As much as I wanted to hang out with friends, there was always someone on my back pushing me in the right direction. They always told me what the right thing to do was, and what was the wrong thing to do. I always had extra responsibility because I had kids – you can’t be there for your kids in a prison cell.
Although you started out as an actor, you’ve worked so hard to change from a musician back to an actor. Do people still think of you as Ashley Walters the musician?
I think people predominately think of me as Ashley Walters the actor now, although Asher D exists for a lot of people of my age who remember So Solid. I still do a weekly show when I can on Flex FM, where I play a lot of old-school garage stuff. People of my age only tend to listen to that!
You’re dad to two sons, Shayon and Paniro, and a daughter, China. How has a dad changed you?
I’m not sure it’s changed me, but it’s given me something more to live for. I love what I do but I tend to concentrate on my family and make sure they’re ok. Whenever I have to make a decision on what to work on next I always think about what’s best for my family. I just hope I’ll always take care of the paycheck but keep my integrity. Whenever I come back form an intense shoot they always ground me – I’m not Ashley or whoever, I’m dad!
Top Boy: Tuesday 20 August, 9pm, Channel 4