Riz Ahmed interview: ‘Encounter’
Riz Ahmed turns in another deeply-felt performance in the new Amazon film “Encounter.” The actor stars as Malik, a veteran who takes his two sons on a road trip while battling an alien threat. Ahmed fully commits himself to transforming into a father from the South, who is also battling his own psychological demons. While the film initially presents itself as a sci-fi drama, it gradually reveals itself to be something far more grounded, and Ahmed was taken by this subversion of expectations. “It feels so urgent,” says Ahmed in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “It’s about the world we’re in right now.” Watch the full interview above.
Much like his previous acclaimed role in “Sound of Metal,” Ahmed plunged deep into his “Encounter” character, getting in shape physically and speaking with special force veterans to get into Malik’s mindset. He had conversations with multiple active servicemen, in the hope of “just understanding what drives them, understanding their story and experiences so I could imagine myself into it.” He would eventually realize he had more in common with these veterans than he expected. “They’re fighting for a sense of belonging and family, and that, I think, everyone can relate to.”
One of Ahmed’s biggest challenges was in playing a father, a role we haven’t seen him in very much. He was especially nervous about working extensively alongside the two young actors who play his sons, hoping he could convincingly pull off the dad role. “I was scared about playing a dad,” he admits. “I was like, ‘Will these guys accept me as a dad? Will they laugh me off the screen going, that’s not how you do it?'” Luckily, the film states that Malik hasn’t seen his kids in years, so Ahmed was able to translate that fear into his character’s own nervousness over how to be a father.
Ahmed is coming off a major career high, earning his first Oscar nomination for “Sound of Metal” earlier this year. With the benefit of distance, the actor is able to look back fondly on receiving that love from his peers for a film he was truly passionate about. “I just found the whole thing to be the most beautiful privilege,” he recalls. “Such a lovely sign from the universe to follow your heart and do things for the right reasons, and never expecting that kind of validation from the creative community.”