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Actor and rapper Riz Ahmed spoke out against the limited roles for actors of color in TV and film, saying he would rather be broke than play stereotypical characters.
The British actor of Pakistani descent, known for starring in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and HBO’s “The Night Of”, first got into acting when there was a focus on roles such as terrorists which he chose not to be a part of it.
Ahmed stumbled upon many roles like “terrorist No. 3 stuff” and he just wasn’t interested, he told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent roundtable interview.
“I just made a decision I wasn’t going to do it. I thought, ‘I’d rather be broke.'”
So a lot of his early work deals with real issues such as the war on terror and Islamophobia in creative ways that he hopes would move society forward in depicting Asian characters, instead of “doubling down” on stereotypes.
Ahmed also wants to use his work to fight the status quo through his political roles.
Even with limited roles for Asian and black characters, he does point out that “there are a certain subset of stories that are open for me to tell, and I’m glad to say that subset is kind of expanding”.
This is not the first time Ahmed has spoken out against the lack of representation.
Back in March, he delivered a speech in Parliament for the annual diversity lecture on Channel 4.
According to Metro, he warned about the failures of the TV industry to fight for diversity and driving young people towards extremism.
“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Ahmed said, according to The Guardian. “In the mind of the [Islamic State] recruit, he’s the next James Bond right?“
“Have you seen some of those ISIS propaganda videos, they are cut like action movies,” he added. “Where is the counter-narrative? Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued?”
The actor said taxpayer funds should be tied to representation targets for broadcasters to break the cycle of top roles going mostly to white men.