Feature: Riz Ahmed for Fast Company
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Feb 19, 2022
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Riz Ahmed is running late. The London-based actor is in New York in mid-September for meetings, interviews, photo shoots, and fittings. He got stuck in traffic, and then he realized he forgot the key to his Airbnb. “This is what really productive people do,” he jokes as he settles behind a table for our chat via Zoom, about an hour after the appointed time. “That’s actually one of the secrets I want to share with your readers.”

Whatever system Ahmed has or doesn’t have in place, it’s working. Since his Oscar-nominated performance as a drummer who loses his hearing in the 2020 film Sound of Metal, Ahmed’s agenda has been packed with a dizzying array of projects. He released an album, The Long Goodbye, on his own imprint, Mongrel Records. He cowrote, produced, and starred in Mogul Mowgli, a film about a British Pakistani rapper who grapples with identity issues while confronting a debilitating illness. He’s tackling the role of Hamlet in a film adaptation written by an Oxford classmate. On December 3, he stars in the film Encounter as a Marine saving his family from an apparent alien threat. (It comes out on Prime Video December 10.)

He has also emerged as Hollywood’s busiest and most visible Muslim actor, and one of a small number of Muslim performers tapped to play characters whose ethnicity and faith aren’t even remarked on. He knows that he’s in a rare position within the entertainment business, and any business, for that matter, and he’s taking the responsibility seriously. Over the past year, Ahmed has become the industry’s leading advocate for expanding Muslim representation in media, both on and off the screen.

It is a daunting task. Twenty years after the September 11 attacks, bias and discrimination against Muslims persists. In the months following former president Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from predominantly Muslim countries, nearly half of Muslims in the U.S. surveyed by the Pew Research Center said they’d experienced discrimination because of their religion. Pew research also shows that Americans consistently give negative “ratings” to Muslims (and atheists) when polled about their sentiments on faith. [More at Source]