Worry about something bigger than yourself: Riz Ahmed


British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed has made his way into the higher echelons of the film industry over the past year, due mainly to his Oscar-nominated performance in the critically-acclaimed film Sound of Metal. Riz’s nomination in the category of best actor was monumental, especially since no other Muslim had ever been nominated for the honour before. With several other hit titles to his name, including Mogul Mowgli, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Rogue One, Riz, in a recent interview with the Guardian, shared that he feels he isn’t going to remain a part of the showbiz big-wigs for a long time, and that his time to make an impact is limited. 

“I never expected I’d be able to have a career,” he revealed, adding, “They haven’t noticed I’ve snuck in. They are going to throw me out any minute. It’s probably that kind of thing.” On how he repeatedly advocates for Muslim inclusion in the film industry during most of his interviews and public appearances, Riz shared, “Nick all the sweets while you can. Trash the place. Tell them whatever you want. Maybe there’s some of that going on.” 

“I’m not trying to attack anyone personally, it’s just about trying to call out a collective blind spot,” said, explaining that while the move may result in drawbacks when it comes to his career, he is willing to take the risk. 

He admitted, “There’s a voice in my head right now that’s just going, ‘Oh my God, come on, get off this stuff, man!’” Elaborating further, he added, “Like 70% of my interviews end up being about politics and representation and all that.”

On how he has no plans to stop advocating for Muslim representation, he shared Covid and the losses that came with it strengthened his resolve. “A lot of us lost a lot of people,” he explained, adding, “You’re just here for two seconds so you’ve got to try and worry about something bigger than yourself because, guess what? None of us are getting out of this alive!”

Reflecting on how his rejection for the lead role in Slumdog Millionaire, which ended up going to Dev Patel, left him feeling dismayed, Riz shared, “When Slumdog Millionaire came up, I’d already been working for a few years… and it was like, ‘There’s never been anything like this! A lead role in a film and it’s for a young brown dude.’ And when I didn’t get it, straight away, I was like, ‘Well, that’s it, it’s done, there’s not going to be another one of those.’”

Referring to the current phase of his career as “the promised land”, Riz elaborated on how it’s a place “where you play a character whose story is not intrinsically linked to his race. There, I am not a terror suspect, nor a victim of forced marriage. There, my name might even be Dave.”

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