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Riz Ahmed’s busy year looks set to get busier.
The British actor, currently appearing in both Jason Bourne and HBO’s The Night Of, is soon set to feel the Force, appearing as Bodhi Rook in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While Ahmed admits Rogue One will be seen by more people than “anything else” he’s done, the multitalented individual is keeping busy outside the Star Wars universe. He recently released a new mixtape under his rap moniker Riz MC and, this fall, will launch the first album from his music duo Swet Shop Boys.
And with Rogue One reshoots now having wrapped and his duties promoting Jason Bourne drawing to a close (somewhat successfully, given the opening box-office figures), Ahmed is turning to a new passion project: a British TV series he’s writing.
“It’s set around three generations of British-Pakistani family in the U.K., starting in the 1980s and ending up about now,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter, pointing to Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States as an inspiration. “It”s like a revisionist’s retelling of recent British history, but also the story of a family and their relationships. To me, it’s a very British story.”
Ahmed says he’s already written the pilot episode and hopes to direct as “much as possible” of the project, following on from his directorial debut, the short film Daytimer, which was well-received when it premiered last year at Sundance.
“I really enjoyed the process with [Daytimer] and writing and directing is definitely something I’m interested in learning more about,” he says. “To be honest, one of the best educations you can have is seeing someone like (Bourne director) Paul [Greengrass] and (The Night Of director) Steve [Zaillian], seeing how these guys work up close.”
With the U.K. currently experiencing a somewhat unsettling post-Brexit climate where topics regarding race and identity have taken center stage, Ahmed’s TV series seems almost perfectly timed. But he says he’d been working on the project long before June’s European Referendum.
“It is becoming more and more timely, because of the conversations we’re all having about multiculturalism and immigration and what it means, but it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about for a really long time,” says Ahmed. “It seems to be a weird pattern that I have … everything that I’ve been cooking up for the last year or so is suddenly happen now.”
Ahmed says that that he grew up watching films by Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, directors he says put “essentially minority communities” at the center of the American story.
“And I think it’s kind of overdue that we do something like that in the U.K. And we do it in a way that puts the story center stage, without it being niche of marginalized,” he says.
Despite writing and directing duties, Ahmed is giving himself at least a little bit of breathing space on his series.
“I don’t intend to act in it,” he says. “Something I’ve learned is that to make something better, sometimes it’s good to let other people in.”
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