After Jason Bourne and a gripping turn in The Night Of, Riz Ahmed is taking his career stellar - to a galaxy far, far away…
Jenny Proudfoot meets Star Wars’ latest lovable rogue, Riz Ahmed.
Tell us about the new Star Wars.
‘I play Bodhi Rook, an Imperial cargo pilot from the planet Jedha, occupied by the Empire. He’s someone who’s trying to earn a living, minding his own business, but his circumstances force difficult choices upon him. He’s not an assassin, or a rebel soldier, or an Imperial spy. More of a long-distance lorry driver, really!’
Were you a Star Wars fan growing up?
‘I wasn’t a devoted lifelong one, but the original films had a big impact on me. I remember running around the house with my brother acting out fake sci-fi films.’
What gets you excited about a role?
‘It starts with the script and director – that’s the backbone. If the words aren’t on the page, or if you don’t believe in the director’s vision, then it’s going to be a bumpy ride.’
Let’s talk about The Night Of. Do you have a personal opinion on whether Naz did it?
‘It’s funny that people ask me that. I kind of feel like it’s really clear, but maybe I’m missing something. It’s interesting when you leave a story slightly open, though. It shows that there’s no such thing as a neutral starting point – everyone brings baggage to the table.’
You recently wrote about being typecast…
‘The response was pretty crazy to be honest. I really didn’t expect it to be read widely, if at all. I think it’s important that we get a diverse range of races, stories and faces out there. Storytelling is the art of how we as a society decide what matters to us.’
How much have you seen the industry change in that respect since you started acting?
‘There have been some strides forward, but the overall picture is one that leaves a lot to be desired. The financial crash saw people doubling down on tried-and-tested formulas with lots of UK period dramas that only tell part of the British story. I think we can do better.’
Riz Ahmed stars in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is in cinemas from 15 December