I first discovered Riz Ahmed in 2016, along with the rest of the world. I was already hyped for Rogue One, and the day after I found out that Bodhi Rook was an Imperial defector and immediately latched onto him as my favorite, I watched the pilot of The Night Of. His talent blew me away, and I developed an instant crush on him. This was not aided by him being politically vocal, a talented musician (go listen to “Englistan”, “Sunburst”, or “Sour Times”), and super charming in interviews. He never got to be the Internet’s Boyfriend for as long as he deserved, but I love him enough to make up for that.
What I don’t love? How nearly every single one of his films ends with tragedy. He gets shot (Dead Set and Nightcrawler), traumatized (The Night Of and The Reluctant Fundamentalist), blown up (Four Lions and Rogue One), and heaven knows how he’ll inevitably go out in Venom. The film of his that I can watch over and over is Rogue One and that one still leaves me crying into my pillow because Bodhi deserved better. There are a few exceptions—City of Tiny Lights, his guest arcs on The OA and Girls, Jason Bourne—but the options are still too limited for my happy ending loving taste.
Ahmed is a talented dramatic actor, and with each new dramatic role his chances of going EGOT grow. I’m psyched for his take on Hamlet but also am dreading yet another dramatic death scene. Same goes for The Sisters Brothers—no doubt he’ll die there as well. If he manages to avoid getting eaten by Venom I’ll be a happy camper, but that’s a slim chance.
The problem is is that Ahmed has never been given the chance to truly flex his comedic chops. His biggest comedic role is in Four Lions as the leader of a truly inept terror cell. The film is irreverent and Ahmed shines. The film ends tragically, of course, but it proves that Ahmed’s more than gifted at comedy. He also has his own comedic moments in Nightcrawler and Rogue One, and showcases great comedic timing in interviews. Plus, he was the funniest part of his short stint on Girls.
Let’s face it, he needs his own comedic leading role that doesn’t end with a downbeat ending. Preferably a romantic comedy. Because reasons.
To go into those reasons, he’s a talented comedic actor who should be able to flex his muscles in a variety of different films, not just dramatic roles. His turn on Girls showed he can be a romantic lead and a comedic lead, and not just play it serious. His character, Paul-Louis, is a surfer dude who is happy teaching surfing to rich women at a resort. in the Hamptons. He’s chill compared to Lena Dunham’s Hannah and gets to spout off strange life-advice before trying out weird sex positions. It’s not the greatest role he’s ever had, but it did earn him an Emmy nomination and proved he could at least rise above so-so material.
It would also be a nice change to see a South Asian man in a romantic role in a major film, instead of square-jawed, blond-haired, white guys usually named Chris. Think about the last time you saw a Pakistani actor play a romantic lead in an American film. It’s hard to draw up a long list of names, right? Representation matters across the board, and as one of the most recognizable South Asian actors working today, Ahmed has the box office draw and the Emmy-winning power to help enact change, if only casting agents would give him a bigger variety of roles.
And while we’re at it, shake up all his roles as well. Let him play an action hero. Let him be one of the upcoming Bonds. Let him flex his comedy chops and his dramatic chops in the same year. Just because he won an Emmy doesn’t mean his career is over. Continue to cast him in a variety of roles, because he deserves all of them as a talented actor and powerful voice for change.
Oh, and Lin-Manuel Miranda? Maybe put him on the top of the shortlist for actors who could play Hamilton in the inevitable movie adaptation. Because you two are already friends and he’d sweep the awards circuit with that turn. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 20, 2017
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