Ashley Walters Learns You Cannot Be a Role Model in a Jail Cell

The British actor's career soared after he spent time in prison. He says he won't be going back.

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Ashley Walters is being hailed as a black role model and a rising star of the British film industry. At 27, he is an actor and musician, and he has appeared in critically acclaimed British films and starred alongside 50 Cent in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ as a gangster friend who gets shot in a club. As a stage actor, he has had lead roles in plays by award-winning playwrights like Tarell Alvin McCraney. He is currently working on a hip-hop collaboration with Idris Elba, another black British actor and star of David Simon’s The Wire, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls and the soon-to-be-released Takers, which stars Matt Dillon, Chris Brown and Zoe Saldana.

However, the story could be very different. Walters first made a name as Asher D in the musical outfit So Solid Crew, one of the United Kingdom’s biggest garage acts and Britain’s response to American hip-hop. The group was also famous for the controversies that surrounded it, including murder charges against one group member which were later dropped.

Walters also found himself on the wrong side of the law in 2001 when he was caught with a firearm, a weapon he says he took around for protection. He served seven months in jail, a period he describes as hell. “I definitely learned a big lesson,” he says. “I learned you can be on top and have everything taken away from you. During my time inside, I spent time realizing what my priorities were and that was being a father and a role model for my children. You cannot be a role model in jail.”

In addition to his acting and music career, Walters is a father of three, and is CEO of AD82, an independent record label and production company. He has starred in stage productions and  in over 10 films including Life and Lyrics, a critically acclaimed British film.

Walters has numerous television roles under his belt, including Hustle, a television series about a group of con artists. It was a role that saw him replace Adrian Lester, another black British actor, who starred alongside John Travolta as Henry Burton, a political campaign manager in the film, Primary Colors. He also appeared in the critically acclaimed television production of Small Island, by Andrea Levy, a film which chronicles a Jamaican immigrant’s journey from Jamaica to Britain during and after World War II. In 2004, he won the Best Newcomer Award at the British Independent Film Awards for his role in the film, Bullet Boy.