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When Riz Ahmed visited The Late Show on Monday night, Stephen Colbert couldn’t ask him about the finale of his critically acclaimed miniseries, The Night Of. Though it aired the night prior, Colbert had yet to watch it.
“I insisted they wouldn’t show a clip,” the CBS talk show host told the British actor about the HBO drama that wrapped on Sunday night. “Keep in mind: I don’t know how it ends.”
Colbert did, however, ask Ahmed how he landed the role, which began as a project by James Gandolfini, who remains credited as an executive producer, and was written by Steve Zaillian and Richard Price.
“I knew nothing about the project,” admitted Ahmed, who said he had only associated HBO with late-night boxing. “I thought they were branching out.”
He said his agent called him before a flight, telling him to read the script on the plane because he had an audition when he landed. “I thought, ‘Whoever wrote this has a great future ahead of them.’ It turned out to be the guys who wrote Schindler’s List and The Wire.”
The late-night host then asked the actor about his experience being Pakistani in America compared with the U.K.
“When I was growing up I felt like I had to qualify it and say I’m British-Pakistani,” he said. “But now I kind of feel like, in this day in age, this is what British looks like. It looks like me, it looks like Idris Elba, and hopefully through Nasir Khan, people will see that that’s what an American can look like as well.”
When talk turned to Donald Trump, Ahmed agreed that there are a lot of foreigners taking U.S. jobs — namely, British actors on TV: “They’ve got to build a wall around the audition room or something, keep them away.”
Colbert admitted that he didn’t know Ahmed was English until he started talking, even though the actor is enjoying a breakout year, starring on the big screen in Jason Bourne and in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The host pressed Ahmed on any Rogue One details.
“It’s different to the other Star Wars movies,” he said of the filming style. “It feels very immersive and is a boots-on-the-ground feel. We’d do these intense scenes and we’d do it again and again without stopping.”
He continued, “The whole film has a really intense energy, partly because of that process but partly because we never got a break to go to the toilet.”
The actor is also a rapper, performing as Riz MC, and has an album coming out with his group, Swet Shop Boys.
When Colbert asked him to “drop some knowledge,” he freestyle rapped:
“Colbert in a black tie, what a sharp gent / Looks like the the chat show version of Clark Kent.”
“I’m from the UK where it’s not just Downton Abbey and those posh peeps / Don’t believe that lie like you heard it form Ryan Lochte.”
He then continued to rap backstage. Watch the clip below.
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