Apple TV's new crime drama Bad Monkey - from the creative minds behind Ted Lasso - will see Vince Vaughn, Jodie Turner-Smith and Michelle Monaghan joined by British newcomer Ahmed Elhaj. The 22-year-old graduated from Lamda in 2020 and was recognized on the Warner Brothers scheme, which aimed to highlight talent in their final year of drama school who were hit by the pandemic.
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He has now been cast in his first major role in the series based on the Carl Hiaasen book, and will star as Neville, a Bahamian fisherman, who ends up involved with a former detective (played by Vaughn) drawn into a world of corruption and greed when a tourist discovers a severed arm while out fishing.
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"It's been a rollercoaster," Ahmed tells HELLO! of the casting process. "I was so transfixed by the complexities of the character, and sometimes you don't want to get attached because you audition then don't hear back. But they loved what I had done, and Bill [Lawrence, the producer] was so lovely, and we talked about the character and my thoughts, and it worked."
Not that it isn't also terrifying to now be working with A-list names you've grown up watching.
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"I was told who was also in the show, and to be surrounded by these esteemed actors who I have admired, and to be in the position to feed off their energy and watch their magic live, is so exciting," he adds, admitting he is most excited to learn from them.
"They all have their own uniqueness, and attack acting in different but fantastic ways. I can't wait to just be onset with them and soak up what they are doing, and gain a different understanding of acting. They are going to open up so many ideas to me," he enthuses.
Ahmed, 22, has joined the cast of Bad Monkey
Ahmed was born and raised in West London, the only child of his parents. His mother is Jamaican and Ahmed admits that his biggest concern is accurately paying tribute to the people of the Bahamas, and acknowledging that each island in the Caribbean has its own identity and culture.
"Neville is Caribbean, and specifically from the Bahamas, and the one thing I can say is that a lot of Caribbean people have been presented in the media as being just 'Caribbean', but there are so many islands that have different cultures," Ahmed shares.
"I am half Jamaican but my character is from the Bahamas, so I want to make sure I pay homage to Bahamians, and to make sure we are being very specific, and so I made that very strongly known."
Ahmed previously starred in Grantchester
Is he working on his accent? Ahmed laughs: "It's going well, and I am speaking to someone who is Bahamian on Instagram, and he is helping with the accent. Sometimes I slip into Jamaican and I said: 'You need to call me out on this.' So I am working on this daily."
In the book, Neville is an older gentleman who becomes involved in the investigation when his property is sold out from under him to developers, But there will be no aging CGI involved, as producers have promised they have rewritten the character to fit Ahmed's age, although the storyline will remain the same.
Ahmed - who has also appeared in ITV series Grantchester - will be moving to the US for filming, and shares that he is excited for the "change of pace" in his life and meeting new peers, whom he considers his inspirations.
"Obviously I look up to people like Denzel Washington and Daniel Kaluuya, but mostly it's the actors who are also up and comers, around my age," says Ahmed.
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