Riz Ahmed calls for better representation of Muslim characters on screen


Riz Ahmed has called for more and better representation of Muslim characters on screen in a candid new interview with British GQ.

The actor, 38, – who was born in London to a British-Pakistani family – told how the lack of diversity is a ‘blind spot all over our culture’.

Riz added that poor representation ‘costs lives’ and that our society should ’empower people to tell their own stories’.   

Star: Riz Ahmed has called for more and better representation of Muslim characters on screen in a candid new interview with British GQ

Star: Riz Ahmed has called for more and better representation of Muslim characters on screen in a candid new interview with British GQ

He told the publication: ‘It’s not surprising, but it is shocking. It’s a blind spot that’s all over our culture. 

‘And it costs lives. Countries get invaded, hate crimes go up, laws get passed. So off the back of that we’re thinking, ‘What do we need to shift?’ And, actually, it’s about empowering people to tell their own story.’

Riz’s next film role is in Mogul Mowgli which sees him play a British-Pakistani rapper diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease.    

Calling for change: The actor, 38, - who was born in London to a British-Pakistani family - told how the lack of diversity is a 'blind spot in our culture'

Calling for change: The actor, 38, – who was born in London to a British-Pakistani family – told how the lack of diversity is a ‘blind spot in our culture’

On his new movie he said: ‘It’s basically a pandemic movie: a workaholic gets hit with a health crisis; his life is thrown into a lockdown. 

‘He has to sit with himself, reassess what really matters. I always find the making of a film, the telling of a story and the story itself, end up mirroring each other. Always.’

Speaking about the film’s reception in the US compared to the UK, he added: ‘I’m a bit more detached from how it’s being received than I would be with other work. 

‘And there is something quite liberating about that… The irony is that the stuff you make without having one eye on how it’s being received is the stuff that is received best.’    

Having his say: Riz added that poor representation 'costs lives' and that our society should 'empower people to tell their own stories'

Having his say: Riz added that poor representation ‘costs lives’ and that our society should ’empower people to tell their own stories’

During the interview with GQ Riz also spoke about what he learned from starring in Sound of Metal, in which he played the character of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer whose life is turned upside down when he begins to lose his hearing.

He said: ‘I’m that guy, man. I’m go, go, go, go, go, control, micromanage, obsessive. This film taught me what it taught Ruben. 

‘It taught me to let go – get the f**k out the way, tap into something bigger than yourself. It was bruising and it was draining and it was liberating and it was elevating.’ 

Expanding on developing a connection with the character he said: ‘It was amazing spending time in a deaf community, learning sign language, hanging out with people in that music scene. 

Drama: Riz's next film role is in Mogul Mowgli which sees him play a British-Pakistani rapper diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease (pictured in the movie)

Drama: Riz’s next film role is in Mogul Mowgli which sees him play a British-Pakistani rapper diagnosed with a degenerative autoimmune disease (pictured in the movie) 

‘Frankly, so many people in that scene are carrying trauma and turning it into something cathartic – almost everyone I met. 

‘It is music as therapy, music for healing. It might not sound like healing music to everybody, but that’s what it is. So I left with a respect for that whole genre and that whole world.’

It comes after last month Riz admitted he went to ‘an intense place’ after losing 22lbs for his role in the film Mogul Mowgli.

He told IndieWire he struggled with the gruelling demands of the role, saying: ‘I lost [about 22 pounds] in three weeks. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.’ 

‘I had a professional dietician working with me, but it was really grueling and took me emotionally to an intense place, which probably informed the movie. That was a big part of it, being in a place of weakness and fatigue and insatiable hunger.’

Riz also cited Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, 32, to put his weight loss in context, insisted he needed to ‘be in his body’ to really personify the role.

‘Dan Kaluuya said something I liked: ”If you’re in your head, you’re dead.” I think that’s true. Acting has to be in your body. Anything that brings you into your body centers you, and you can perform in that place,’ Riz said.

Riz and Mogul Mowgli director Bassam Tariq, 34, wrote the Mogul Mowgli screenplay and it was filmed in 2019 in London. 

Reflection: During the interview with GQ Riz also spoke about what he learned from starring in Sound of Metal, in which he played the character of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer whose life is turned upside down when he begins to lose his hearing (pictured in the film)

Reflection: During the interview with GQ Riz also spoke about what he learned from starring in Sound of Metal, in which he played the character of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer whose life is turned upside down when he begins to lose his hearing (pictured in the film) 

See the full feature in the GQ Heroes issue available on digital download and on newsstands Friday 5th November. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.