In this powerful op-ed for The Guardian, break-out actor Riz Ahmed (HBO’s “Night Of,” and the upcoming “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) talks about his life and struggles as a Muslim young man, and how the art of acting is not always just on screen… “[In life] I have had to play different characters, negotiating the cultural expectations of a Pakistani family, Brit-Asian rudeboy culture, and a scholarship to private school.”
He continues in the piece, “[As a minority] you are intermittently handed a necklace of labels to hang around your neck, neither of your choosing nor making, both constricting and decorative. Portrayals of ethnic minorities worked in stages, I realised, so I’d have to strap in for a long ride.
Stage one is the two-dimensional stereotype – the minicab driver/terrorist/cornershop owner. It tightens the necklace.
Stage two is the subversive portrayal, taking place on “ethnic” terrain but aiming to challenge existing stereotypes. It loosens the necklace.
And stage three is the Promised Land, where you play a character whose story is not intrinsically linked to his race. There, I am not a terror suspect, nor a victim of forced marriage. There, my name might even be Dave. In this place, there is no necklace.”