Rogue One's Riz Ahmed on Why People Need To Look Beyond Labels


Fans of HBO’s whodunit The Night Of may recall the exact moment when Naz, the mild-­mannered murder suspect, adopted a smoldering stare and—schwing!—became last summer’s most cerebral sex symbol. Let me repeat: Actor Riz Ahmed made a possible murderer seem sexy. Here, the Brit, who plays bad boy cargo pilot Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, gives us a peek inside his beautiful mind.

Glamour: You must know everyone is going crazy over your eyes.

Riz Ahmed: I think real eye contact and concentration is powerful in this day and age because everyone is usually staring at their phones.

Glamour: Tell us about Bodhi Rook.

RA: He’s not a war-hardened soldier like the others, but he’s not exactly at peace with the intense rebel heist situation either.

Glamour: You’re part of political rap group Swet Shop Boys. What’s your mission?

RA: Our whole philosophy is to transcend the boundaries that people hem us into, such as Indian or Pakistani or ­British or Ameri­can. The reality is most people are mongrels, a mishmash of different labels and identities and experiences. We’re here to celebrate the mongrels. And hopefully stretch culture a little to make room for all of us.

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Riz Ahmed

Glamour: You’ve written extensively about the injustices you endure as a British-Asian man at home and at airports post 9/11. What do you hope people will learn from your experiences?

RA: I guess I just want to try and authentically be myself as much as possible. When I was younger, I tried to be who I thought people wanted me to be. I was caught between very different social environments: from a working class, box-burning household to a posh, predominantly white private school that I won a scholarship to attend to the British-Asian street sub-culture that I would go and hang out in when I was skipping class. I’m currently writing and directing a TV show about three generations of a British-Pakastani family from the ‘80s to present day and how as a modernized group you’re forced to build your house on quicksand. You start off being seen as black, then you become Pakistani, then you become Muslim post 9/11.

Glamour: What came first: rap or acting?

RA: It’s funny, they’ve always been kind of parallel. My first track “Post 9/11 Blues” came out roughly around the same time as my first film, Road to Guantanamo. It must be the restless person and the control freak in me that needs to supplement the depth of acting with something that’s faster and more frenzied and that I can control, like music.

Glamour: Do you ever sleep?

RA: I’m trying to get better at down time. If you have any ideas, let me know!

Related: Riz Ahmed’s Rogue One Co-Star Felicity Jones on Why Her Star Wars Character Won’t Be Sexualized

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