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Read This: Riz Ahmed on being profiled on-screen and off

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Riz Ahmed is having a huge year. His HBO miniseries, The Night Of, was a sensation. He appeared in the new Bourne movie. And this fall will see the release of his Star Wars movie, Rogue One. But those personal successes aren’t the focus of his striking essay published in The Guardian, excerpted from the collection The Good Immigrant. Ahmed, who is British of Pakistani descent, compares being stereotyped in the entertainment industry to similar situations in the world at large. He writes:

You see, the pitfalls of the audition room and the airport interrogation room are the same. They are places where the threat of rejection is real. They are also places where you are reduced to your marketability or threat-level, where the length of your facial hair can be a deal-breaker, where you are seen, and hence see yourself, in reductive labels – never as “just a bloke called Dave”. The post 9/11 Necklace tightens around your neck.

Ahmed describes facing demeaning experiences while traveling in both Britain and America, and explains how those impacted his ability to get work. The psychological consequences made it so he felt like he “couldn’t see [him]self as ‘just a bloke.’” He also explained, “Twice when applying for a US work visa I was subjected to a Section 221G – a lengthy background check against a global database of terrorists – which almost lost me the jobs.”

It’s a vital essay and well worth your time.

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