Riz Ahmed

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For other people with the same name, see Rizwan Ahmed.
Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed performing at Occupy London NYE Party 2011.jpg
Ahmed performing in 2011.
Born Rizwan Ahmed
(1982-12-01) 1 December 1982 (age 34)
Wembley, London, England
Nationality British
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Occupation Actor
Years active 2006–present
Musical career
Genres Hip hop
Labels Tru Thoughts
Associated acts Plan B, Heems, Swet Shop Boys, Distance

Rizwan "Riz" Ahmed (Urdu: رضوان احمد‎; born 1 December 1982), also known as Riz MC, is a British actor and rapper. He is known for his work in films such as The Road to Guantanamo, Shifty, Four Lions, Trishna, Ill Manors and Nightcrawler.

In 2016, he starred as Nasir Khan in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries The Night Of, appeared in the fifth film in the Bourne series, Jason Bourne, and will appear in the first of the Star Wars anthology films, Rogue One.

Early life[edit]

Ahmed was born in Wembley, London, into a British Pakistani family of Muhajir background. His parents moved to England from Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan during the 1970s.[1] One of his relatives was Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, "the first Indian judge appointed by the British in Uttar Pradesh",[2] who also had interests in Urdu poetry as well as penning some of the very first critical articles on Einstein's theory of relativity,[3][4] and who himself was the descendant of Mulla Mahmud Jaunpuri (d. 1652), one of the most important philosopher-scientists produced in the region during the Mughal Empire.[5]

Ahmed attended Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood through a scholarship programme. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford with a degree in PPE, which he admits to finding a bizarre experience.[6] He later studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[1]

Acting career[edit]

Television and film[edit]

Ahmed's film career began in the Michael Winterbottom film The Road to Guantanamo, in which he played the part of Shafiq Rasul, a member of the Tipton Three. He and another actor involved in the film as well as two of the Tipton Three were detained at Luton Airport upon their return from the Berlin Film Festival where the film won a Silver Bear Award.[7] Across his years as an actor he has also featured in various TV roles. He has played Sohail Waheed in the 2007 Channel 4 drama, Britz. 2008 saw him perform as both Riq in the five-part horror thriller for E4, Dead Set and Manesh Kunzru in ITV1's finance fraud drama Wired. In July 2009 in appeared in Freefall alongside Sarah Harding.[1] He featured in the title role of the 2009 independent film Shifty, directed by Eran Creevy. Ahmed plays a charismatic young drug dealer in the film which sees a life in the day of this character. He was nominated for Best Actor at the 2008 British Independent Film Awards for this role, alongside Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.[8]

Continuing his film career, he featured in the 2009 Sally Potter production of Rage and in 2010, in Chris Morris' satire on terrorism, Four Lions, for which he received his second British Independent Film Award nomination for Best Actor. Ahmed also had a supporting role in Neil Marshall's historical thriller Centurion.

In 2012, he starred as one of the leading roles in the London-based film Ill Manors, directed by Plan B as "Aaron": Ahmed received his third and most recent British Independent Film Award nomination for Best Actor. He assumed the lead role in Mira Nair's adaptation of the best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, alongside Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, and Liev Schreiber.

In 2014, Ahmed appeared in the film Nightcrawler where he played role of Rick, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. Ahmed received acclaim for his portrayal in the film and gained numerous awards nominations during awards season. Starting in 2016, Ahmed began playing the role of Nasir "Naz" Khan in the HBO miniseries The Night Of, and once again received universal praise for his performance. He is slated to appear in Rogue One, the first film in the new Star Wars anthology films.


Ahmed played a role in the Asian Dub Foundation opera Gaddafi and a starring role as psychotic serial-killer-turned-born-again-Christian Lucius in the Lighthouse Theatre's acclaimed production of Stephen Adly Guirgis's Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train (directed by Jack William Clift and Thomas Sweatman) as well as in Shan Khan's Prayer Room.

Music career[edit]

In 2006, Ahmed released a satirical social-commentary rap track entitled "Post 9/11 Blues". The song was initially banned from British airplay because the lyrics were deemed "politically sensitive".[9] Other tracks he has released include "Sour Times" which was accompanied by a video featuring Scroobius Pip, Plan B and Jim Sturgess.

He was selected as a BBC Introducing artist in 2007, playing the Glastonbury Festival and the BBC Electric Proms. He opened the Meltdown Festival with Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008, and was appointed 'Emerging Artist in Residence' at the Southbank Centre in London. He played at the London Camp for Climate Action in August 2009.

Ahmed also co-founded the Hit & Run night in Oxford, which has since moved to Manchester. Hit & Run has gone on to become one of Manchester's leading underground music events.[citation needed]

He released his debut album MICroscope in 2011.

On 1 December 2011, it was announced that Riz MC had signed to Tru Thoughts, an independent label in Brighton.[10]

In February 2015, dubstep artist Distance announced that he had recently finished producing an album with Ahmed called HalfLife.[11]

Ahmed is also half of the hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Himanshu Suri. Their debut release, Swet Shop EP, was released in 2014. The group's debut full-length effort, Cashmere, was released on 14 October 2016.



Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Road to Guantanamo Shafiq
2008 Shifty Shifty Geneva Cinéma Tout Ecran Award for Best Actor
Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor
2008 Baghdad Express Talal Short film
2009 Rage Vijay
2010 Four Lions Omar Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor[12]
2010 Centurion Tarik
2011 Black Gold Ali
2011 Trishna Jay
2012 Ill Manors Aaron Nominated—British Independent Film Award for Best Actor[13]
2013 The Reluctant Fundamentalist Changez
2013 Closed Circuit Nazrul Sharma
2013 Out of Darkness Male Short film
2014 Nightcrawler Rick Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Nominated—Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
2016 Jason Bourne Aaron Kalloor
2016 Una Scott
2016 City of Tiny Lights Tommy Akhtar
2016 Rogue One Bodhi Rook Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Path to 9/11 Yosri 2 episodes
2006 Berry's Way Amir Television film
2007 Britz Sohail Wahid 2 episodes
2008 Wired Manesh Kunzru 3 episodes
2008 Dead Set Riq 5 episodes
2009 Freefall Gary Television film
2011 The Fades Neil Episode #1.1
2016 The Night Of Nasir Khan Main role




  • Microscope (2011)
  • Englistan (2016)
  • Cashmere (with Heems, as Swet Shop Boys) (2016)


  • "The Post 9/11 Blues" (2006)
  • "People Like People" (2007)
  • "Radar" (2008)
  • "Shifty" (with Sway & Plan B) (2009)
  • "Don't Sleep" (2009)
  • "Hundreds and Thousands" (2010)
  • "Get on It" (2010)
  • "All of You" (2011)



  1. ^ a b c "Riz Ahmed: 'You don't need to tell me we live in scary times. I'm Muslim'". The Guardian. 23 July 2016. 
  2. ^ London Meets Lahore India Today, 24 May 2013
  3. ^ Robert S. Anderson, Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India, University of Chicago Press (2010), p. 71
  4. ^ KARACHI: Sir Sulaiman Dawn News, 14 March 2005
  5. ^ Karimullah, A. R. Ghani, Biographical Notes on Eminent Muslim Scientists of South-Asia in the 14th Century Hijra: 1877-1979 A.D, Pakistan Science Foundation and Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1989), p. 5
  6. ^ "Skin Deep meets Riz Ahmed". 
  7. ^ "Guantanamo duo 'held' at airport". BBC News. 21 February 2006. 
  8. ^ "Winners 2008". BIFA. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  9. ^ O'Keefe, Alice (9 April 2006). "Rapper asks BBC to play 9/11 song". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ "Quantic presents The Western Transient A New Constellation | News". Tru Thoughts. 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  11. ^ "Distance: When hype fades, things become a lot clearer". Skiddle.com. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  12. ^ "Awards for 2010 : British Independent Film Award". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  13. ^ "Awards for 2012 : British Independent Film Award". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  14. ^ Blaney, Martin (2011-12-08). "European Film Promotion unveils 2012 Shooting Stars longlist | News | Screen". Screendaily.com. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 

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