Losing Control With Riz Ahmed
HERE IS A PARTIAL INVENTORY of Riz Ahmed’s projects from his breakthrough year 2016:
– Two TV shows, “The Night Of” and “The OA”;
– Four feature films, including the blockbusters “Star Wars: Rogue One” and “Jason Bourne”;
– An essay contributed to the bestseller “The Good Immigrant”;
– And two great musical moments, a guest appearance on the mixtape “Hamilton” and the album “Cashmere”, which Ahmed and the rapper Heems released as part of their hip-hop duo Swet Shop Boys.
It was a lot, for better and for worse. In December of that year, Ahmed took to Instagram for a celebratory flashback that sounded more than a little exhausted. “A year ago, for various reasons, I wasn’t sure whether I could continue doing this,” he wrote. “I came to realize in some really difficult moments that we are out of control in this life. And it brought me down, but when I saw no other way forward I had to accept this helplessness. “
Via Zoom four years later, I read the caption to Ahmed, who blinked twice. “When did I write that?” he said. “I have no memory of that. Wow. Wow. I had a bit of burnout. “
Ahmed has always strived to stack his plates high. “Like Ruben, I rely heavily on being obsessively busy,” he said. A successful acting career basically requires a wandering lifestyle, and that came naturally with Ahmed, who grew up in Wembley, London with a father who worked for the Pakistani merchant navy: “He’s been away from home a lot, so maybe me.” We have internalized the idea that you, as a worker, should leave the house and cover as much ground as possible in the world. “
Or maybe, thought Ahmed, an immigrant child will always have an innate sense of wanderlust. “There’s a constant narrative that home is elsewhere. Home is the next place you get,” he said. “But if home is always the next place, then you build a tent on quicksand. Work itself is perhaps the place to live. “
So he lived there, worked steadily and then hard, becoming the first Muslim and the first South Asian man to win an Acting Emmy for his transformative role as the accused murderer on “The Night Of”. But around this time, after being pulled in so many different directions, Ahmed began to lose his center. Worse still, the creative spirit that animated him felt less like a wild creature than more like a circus animal.