Riz Ahmed on diversity in Hollywood: ‘I’d rather be broke’ than play a terrorist stereotype [WATCH]

“There were a lot of ‘Terrorist Number-Three’ [roles I was offered], but I made a decision I wasn’t going to do it. I thought, I’d rather be broke,” said Riz Ahmed in a Hollywood Reporter round-table conversation with fellow Emmy contenders Sterling K. Brown, John Lithgow and more. SundanceTV is airing the entire conversation on “Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter” this Sunday at 10:00am. Watch the clip of Ahmed above.

“Sometimes you hopefully move beyond the [stereotype], and it’s still storylines that are tied to that character’s ethnicity, still tied to their sexuality, but they’re kind of working against those stereotypes,” Ahmed explains. “And I was lucky in a way that I came into the game just as we were moving from that stage-one caricature kind of thing into stage two, so a lot of my early work deals with the issues around the war on terror or Islamophobia, but I’m proud to say I think it engages those issues in quite creative ways.”

That’s certainly true of one of Ahmed’s most acclaimed roles this past season. He starred in HBO’s limited series “The Night Of” as Nasir Khan, a murder suspect struggling to survive at Riker’s Island while on trial. The character’s Muslim heritage influences the story and how Nasir is treated by the justice system, but there are also more facets to the character than his race and religion.

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The role has made Ahmed an Emmy contender for Best Movie/Mini Actor. He already earned nominations at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, and the series itself is a strong contender for Best Limited Series. We hosted an in-depth chat with Ahmed last fall about “The Night Of”: watch it below.

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