Riz Ahmed's First Kiss Was on Stage, and He Didn't Know What He Was Doing
In a new video interview, Riz Ahmed talks about everything from how he became an actor and what it's like to be a minority in Hollywood, to the movies that always make him cry and his traumatizing first memory.
Released on 6/30/2017
First time I left London was at the age of two
to go to Pakistan to be circumcised.
Yeah, it's a whole song and dance about it.
That's my first memory, still traumatized.
I was always kinda like the class clown.
I was always messing around in class,
getting sent out, making jokes and stuff.
That's how I got into the school plays
'cause I used to get into so much trouble in class
that one of the teachers said,
If you wanna muck about, then do it on stage,
and you'll get a round of applause for it.
You do it in my classroom, and you'll get a detention.
So, that's how it kinda started.
My first acting job was The Road to Guantanamo.
It was funny because as I was leaving drama school,
I thought, The world is a scary place right now,
and I've always been interested in the world
and in social issues, and I thought,
How am I gonna engage with that as an actor?
And this job, it just fell out of the sky into my lap.
Wow, there is a part.
There is a way in which I can be a creative person
and make art but still engage with the world around me.
It was a way forwards that I could see for myself.
It's interesting because I do think
sometimes it works in stages
where sometimes you start off
with stereotypical portrayals of minorities.
So, we're always a terrorist or a shopkeeper.
If you're a gay person, you're a flaming queen
or a black person will be a drug dealer,
and then you move on from that
to subject matter that is about some of those issues
but flips them on their head.
My hope is now we've moved on to almost like a stage three
where I can play a character
where it's not directly tied to race
or any of those kind of ethnicity issues at all.
I don't get stopped in the US because I've got a visa,
but I get stopped in the UK before I board the plane.
What's funny is that the neighborhood
that Heathrow Airport is in
is a heavily South Asian neighborhood,
and so the kids working there are often fans of mine.
So, the kids that pull me aside to search me
are also asking me for selfies,
while they're swabbing me for explosives and stuff
or going through my underpants
and quoting my raps back at me,
so quite a surreal experience,
but I guess that speaks to the dichotomy
and the insider/outsider status
that I know I've felt all my life.
What movie doesn't make me cry, man?
I'm an actor.
You know, I'm this far away from crying most of the time.
This interview's been emotional.
E.T. made me cry a lot.
I relate to the alien.
If you're a child of immigrants,
you relate to the alien on E.T.
They're coming to take me.
They say I can't stay here.
They're gonna burst into our homes and take us away.
I was E.T. in that film.
You know, my first kiss was onstage.
I think I was like 12 or something like that,
and it was in the school play.
We did South Pacific.
I was one of the kids or something, and I was like,
I don't know if I'm doing this right.
Lied about it obviously.
I was like, Just follow me,
if you're not sure what you're doing.
I think she knew that I didn't know what I was doing.
We did not have a relationship.
My secret skill
I don't know if I'm humble enough
to keep any skill of mine secret.
If I'm even vaguely skilled at anything,
I will do it in the most public setting possible.
I have no secret skills.
If I was half good at anything, I'd be shouting about it.
It's tragic but true.