Ahmed at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.
1 December 1982
Wembley, London, England
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford
Central School of Speech and Drama
|Genres||Hip hop • Political rap • UK rap|
|Associated acts||Swet Shop Boys • Heems • Plan B • Sway • Distance|
Riz Ahmed (born December 1, 1982), also known as by his stage name, Riz MC, is a British actor, rapper and activist. As an actor, he won an Emmy Award, out of two Emmy nominations, and was also nominated for a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and three British Independent Film Awards. He was initially known for his work in independent films such as The Road to Guantanamo (2006), Shifty (2008), Four Lions (2010), Trishna (2011), Ill Manors (2012), and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013), before his break-out role in Nightcrawler (2014). In 2016, he starred in Una, Jason Bourne, and as Bodhi Rook in the first Star Wars Anthology film, Rogue One. That year, he also starred in the HBO miniseries The Night Of as Nasir Khan; the show and his performance were critically lauded. At the 2017 Emmy Awards, he received two nominations, for his performance in The Night Of and his guest spot in Girls; he won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for The Night Of, becoming the first Asian and first Muslim to win in the category, the first South Asian male to win an acting Emmy, and the first Muslim and first South Asian to win a lead acting Emmy.
As a rapper, he is a member of the Swet Shop Boys, earned critical acclaim with the hip-hop albums Microscope and Cashmere, and earned commercial success featuring in the Billboard 200 chart topping Hamilton Mixtape, with his song "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)" winning an MTV Video Music Award. As an activist, he is known for his political rap music, has been involved in raising awareness and funds for Rohingya and Syrian refugee children, and has advocated representation at the House of Commons. In 2017, he was included on the front cover of the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
Rizwan Ahmed was born in Wembley, London, in 1982, to a British Pakistani family. His parents are of Muhajir background; his grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan during the 1947 partition of India. His parents moved to England from Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, during the 1970s. He is a descendant of Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, the first Indian to become the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh during the colonial era. He also composed Urdu poetry, penned some of the first critical articles on Einstein's theory of relativity, and was related to Mulla Mahmud Jaunpuri (d. 1652), one of the most important philosopher–scientists produced in the region during the Mughal Empire.
He attended Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, through a scholarship programme. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University, with a degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), which he has said he found to be a bizarre experience. He later studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
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.
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 were detained at Luton Airport upon their return from the Berlin Film Festival where the film won a Silver Bear Award. In 2007, he portrayed Sohail Waheed in the Channel 4 drama, Britz. Ahmed then portrayed Riq in the five-part horror thriller Dead Set for E4 and Manesh Kunzru in ITV1's Wired in 2008. In July 2009 he appeared in Freefall alongside Sarah Harding. 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.
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 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.
Ahmed directed and wrote a 2014 short film, Daytimer. It won the Best Live Action Short award at Nashville Film Festival, and was nominated for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
In 2014, Ahmed appeared in Dan Gilroy's directorial debut 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.
In 2016, Ahmed played the role of Nasir "Naz" Khan in the HBO miniseries The Night Of, and once again received universal praise for his performance, earning him Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. He also appeared in the final season of Girls, earning him another Emmy nomination.
At the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, Ahmed won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance in The Night Of, winning over Robert De Niro, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Geoffrey Rush and co-star John Turturro. This made Ahmed the first Asian and first Muslim to win in the category, the first South Asian male to win an acting Emmy, and the first Muslim and first South Asian to win a lead acting Emmy; the only previous South Asian to win an acting Emmy was British Asian actress Archie Panjabi for a supporting role in 2010, the only other Muslim to win an acting Emmy was Dave Chappelle for a guest role in 2017, and the only other Emmy-winning actors with Asian heritage were Lebanese American actors Danny Thomas and Tony Shalhoub in the comedy category.
Inspired by jungle and hip hop music, his music career began in his mid-teens, appearing on pirate radio and in freestyle rap battles. While at university, Ahmed 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. At Oxford, he was also part of a 12-person jazz-house/electronica band called Confidential Collective.
After graduating, he competed in and won many rap battle competitions. He competed as Riz MC on JumpOff TV's "Spin the Mic" freestyle rap battle contest in 2006. He beat contestants Stig and Skilla Mic, before a controversial loss to contest winner Whatshisface; according to JumpOff TV, Riz was at a disadvantage due to racial double-standards from the crowd.
In 2006, Ahmed recorded a satirical social-commentary rap track entitled "Post 9/11 Blues", which was leaked by friends and first gained popularity through the internet. The song was initially banned from British airplay because the lyrics were deemed "politically sensitive", including satirical references to 9/11, terrorism, the post-9/11 climate, Iraq War, death of Jean Charles de Menezes, MI6, and Belmarsh prison. The resulting press coverage, however, prompted some independent radio stations to play the track. He soon founded his own independent record label, Battered Records, officially releasing "Post 9/11 Blues" for the CD and MP3 formats in August 2006. He went on to win Best MC at the 2006 Asian Music Awards. He released his second single in 2007, the garage rap song "People Like People".
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.
In 2011, he released his debut album, Microscope, which was re-released with additional remixes in 2012. On 1 December 2011, it was announced that Riz MC had signed to Tru Thoughts, an independent label in Brighton. From Microscope, he released "Sour Times" which was accompanied by a video featuring Scroobius Pip, Plan B, Tom Hardy, and Jim Sturgess.
In 2016, he released the nine-track mixtape, Englistan.
Ahmed is half of the hip hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Heems. Their debut release, Swet Shop EP, was released in 2014. The group's debut full-length effort, Cashmere, was released on 14 October 2016, and received critical acclaim.
He was featured in the song "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" in The Hamilton Mixtape, which topped the Billboard 200 chart. This put him in the unique position of sitting at number-one on both the Billboard 200 album chart and the movie box office chart (with Rogue One) at the same time. At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), "Immigrants" won the award for Best Fight Against the System, giving him the rare distinction of winning both the Emmy and VMA awards.
Ahmed is a Muslim. He has spoken candidly about Islamophobia, both in a personal and societal context. As an activist, he has been involved in raising funds for Syrian refugee children and advocating representation at the House of Commons. He has also been involved in raising awareness of the displacement of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, and raising funds for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
|2006||The Road to Guantanamo||Shafiq|
|2008||Baghdad Express||Talal||Short film|
|2012||The Reluctant Fundamentalist||Changez Khan|
|2013||Closed Circuit||Nazrul Sharma|
|2013||Out of Darkness||Male||Short film|
|2014||Daytimer||Director, writer||Short film|
|2016||Jason Bourne||Aaron Kalloor|
|2016||City of Tiny Lights||Tommy Akhtar|
|2016||Rogue One||Bodhi Rook|
|2018||The Sisters Brothers||Morris||Post-production|
|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|
|2011||The Fades||Neil||Episode: "Episode 1" - Unaired Pilot|
|2016||The Night Of||Nasir Khan||Miniseries; 8 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
|2016||The OA||Elias Rahim||4 episodes|
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
- Microscope (2011)
- Englistan (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)
Awards and nominations
- "Riz Ahmed: The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- Vincent, Alice (18 September 2017). "Riz Ahmed makes history as the first Muslim man to win an acting Emmy". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
- Ali, Lorraine (19 September 2017). "Two Muslims walk into the Emmys..." – via LA Times.
- "Riz Ahmed: 'You don't need to tell me we live in scary times. I'm Muslim'". The Guardian. 23 July 2016.
- Ahmed, Riz (23 June 2016). "Grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan in partition, parents came to UK in 70s". Twitter.
- "London meets Lahore". India Today. 1 May 2017.
- Robert S. Anderson, Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India, University of Chicago Press (2010), p. 71
- KARACHI: Sir Sulaiman’s research papers Dawn News, 14 March 2005
- 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
- "Skin Deep meets Riz Ahmed".
- "Riz Ahmed Trivia: 33 interesting facts about the actor! — Useless Daily: The amazing facts, news & trivia free newsletter!". www.uselessdaily.com. Retrieved 2017-04-09.
- "Guantanamo duo 'held' at airport". BBC News. 21 February 2006.
- "Winners 2008". BIFA. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Debesh Bannerjee (December 8, 2009). "'Politeness can kill you in movies'". Screen. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
- Riz Ahmed on IMDb
- Black, Claire (2 November 2014). "Riz Ahmed winning rave reviews for new film role". The Scotsman. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Pond, Steve; Travis, Reilly (December 1, 2014). "Gotham Awards 2014: Complete Winners List". TheWrap. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
- Levine, Nick (20 December 2016). "Riz Ahmed reveals how his 'Rogue One' character changed during shooting". NME. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Birnbaum, Debra (29 August 2016). "Riz Ahmed on the 'Devastating' Finale of HBO's 'The Night Of' (Spoilers)". Variety. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Berg, Madeline. "2017 Emmy Nominations: The Full List".
- Mitovich, Matt Webb (December 12, 2016). "Golden Globes: People v. O.J. Simpson, Night Manager, This Is Us, Westworld, The Crown, black-ish Lead TV Nominees". TVLine. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "SAG winners list: Who won what". CNN. February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Fair, Vanity. "2017 Emmy Nominations Announced: See the Full List".
- "Riz Ahmed becomes first Asian man to win an acting Emmy Award".
- Primeau, Jamie. "Riz Ahmed Is The First Muslim & South-Asian Emmy-Winning Actor Ever".
- "Riz MC on Apple Music". itunes.apple.com.
- "Riz Ahmed: Extraordinary double life of a bright British talent". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-04-09.
- "JumpOff.TV". jumpoff.tv.
- "STM06 - Riz vs Whashisface".
- O'Keefe, Alice (9 April 2006). "Rapper asks BBC to play 9/11 song". The Guardian.
- "Microscope by Riz MC". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- "Quantic presents The Western Transient A New Constellation | News". Tru Thoughts. 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
- "Riz MC - Sour Times". YouTube. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
- Lee, Chris (13 December 2016). "'Rogue One' Is the Cherry on Top of a Wild Year for Riz Ahmed". Complex. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Holub, Christian (7 September 2016). "The Night Of star Riz Ahmed drops a new song with Heems, Zayn Malik". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Sacher, Andrew (5 December 2014). "Swet Shop Boys (Heems + Riz MC) released an EP, playing Baby's w/ Wiki; Ratking playing Brooklyn Night Bazaar". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- Nordine, Michael (9 October 2016). "'The Night Of' Star Riz Ahmed Releases New Album 'Cashmere' With Heems — Listen". IndieWire. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
- "Cashmere by Swet Shop Boys". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
- "Rogue One star Riz Ahmed shares childhood Star Wars drawings: 'Keep your inner child alive'". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
- "MTV VMA 2017: See the Complete Winners List". 28 August 2017.
- Montgomery, Daniel (4 August 2017). "Riz Ahmed may 'Get the Job Done' at both the Emmys and MTV Video Music Awards this year [WATCH]".
- Ahmed, Riz (15 September 2016). "Typecast as a terrorist". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
- Trendell, Andrew (19 June 2017). "Riz Ahmed hits out at portrayal of Muslims and acts of terror in the media". NME. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
- "DEC Emergency Appeal for People Fleeing Myanmar - Riz Ahmed ITV". YouTube. Disasters Emergency Committee. 4 October 2017.
- Nugent, John (19 March 2017). "Three Empire Awards 2017: Rogue One, Tom Hiddleston And Patrick Stewart Win Big". Empire. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- "NICKELODEON ANNOUNCES 2017 KIDS' CHOICE AWARDS NOMINATIONS | Nick Press". NickPress. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
- Schwartz, Ryan (2 March 2017). "2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards Nominations List — 'This Is Us,' 'Stranger Things'". TVLine. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
- Montgomery, Daniel (July 26, 2017). "2017 Gold Derby TV Awards nominations: 'This is Us,' 'Veep,' 'The Leftovers,' 'Stranger Things' among top contenders". GoldDerby. Retrieved July 28, 2017.