Riz Ahmed: Too broke to fly to audition, now an Oscar nominee.

Generation PZ
3 min readMar 31, 2021


From Emmy to Oscar — Riz Ahmed has earned them all.

Written by: Halima K

Riz Ahmed, also known as Riz MC, is an English actor, rapper, musician, and activist. Clearly, a man of many talents, who was born on the 1st of December 1982, to a British Pakistani family. His ethnic background contributes to his popularity amongst Asian ethnic minorities as they are able to identify with him and feel connected to him through familiarity in origin.

He is mostly known for his role in the comedy/drama ‘Four Lions’ and for the character of Bodhi Rook in the ‘Star Wars’ anthology film Rogue One. Alongside these, he has starred in several hit movies and gathered up quite a large fan base.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Moreover, as you’re probably already aware, with great acting comes great rewards. Riz Ahmed has already been awarded a ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ and ‘London Film Critics’ Circle Award’ and has been nominated for numerous others. More recently, he has become the first British Muslim actor nominated for an Oscar for his amazing performance in Amazon’s ‘Sound of Metal’, in an interview with Deadline he responded to this saying,

“If there’s a way in which people can find themselves at this moment and can feel inspired and connected on a deeper level, I’m all for it, whether they see me as the first British Pakistani, or the first guy from Wembley, you know, there are so many ways to view it. But as long as it feels like an opportunity for more people than ever before to really connect and feel included at this moment, that’s a blessing.”

Whereas Riz Ahmed, celebrated the interconnected feeling this nomination brings to many, some have stated that his decision to not outrightly give his Muslim title any importance has taken away from that. On the other hand, I don’t believe Ahmed intended to downplay being a Muslim and instead just wants to be appreciated for being a great actor. After all, his activism for the Muslim community is enough evidence to suggest that religion plays a significant factor in his life.

What activism has he done?

Ahmed has already spoken candidly about negative stereotyping of Muslims, in both a personal and societal context in order to raise awareness that something needs to change. In response to this in 2018, Dr. Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry, two friends in the UK, were inspired by Ahmed to think of the ‘Riz Test’ which aims to identify the nature of Muslim representation in film and TV. The ‘Riz Test’ has five parts which, according to the creators, serve to highlight and combat the stereotypes of Muslims found in characters in films and on TV. Ahmed acknowledged the test in 2018, expressing his surprise at the test being named after him and writing on Twitter that he was “glad to see this” and that he thought it was “much needed.”

Ahmed has also been involved in raising funds for Syrian refugee children and advocating representation at the House of Common, as well as bringing awareness to the displacement of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and raising funds for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Considering all this, would you still think Riz Ahmed doesn’t place significance on being a Muslim?

What was life like before the fame?

In an interview with Mirror Online, Riz Ahmed opens up on how he almost gave up on acting just before his breakthrough film Nightcrawler which came out in 2014. He said,

“They asked me to fly to L.A. I was like, ‘I can’t fly to L.A. I’m broke’. But I had to fly to L.A. — and just bet on myself. I spent that whole flight just running lines.”

From being broke to now being nominated for an Oscar, the growth is clear as daylight, hopefully, Ahmed will serve as an inspiration to those struggling to achieve their dreams and provide a reminder to all to never give up and always take a chance on yourself. If you don’t, who will?

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