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Riz Ahmed: “This is What British Looks Like”


MY FIRST GUEST TONIGHT IS AN
ENGLISH ACTOR AND RAPPER BEST KNOWN FOR HIS ACCLAIMED ROLE AS
NASIR KHAN IN HBO’S “THE NIGHT OF.” PLEASE WELCOME, RIZ AHMED. ♪
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) NICE TO HAVE YOU.>>REALLY GOOD TO BE HERE.>>Stephen: NORMALLY WHEN WE
HAVE SOMEBODY WHO’S A PART OF A REALLY HOT SHOW LIKE YOURS, “THE
NIGHT OF” — WHICH IS AMAZING, IT TOOK OVER THE SLOT FOR “GAME
OF THRONES.”>>IT IS.>>Stephen: BUT SCARIER. WE SHOWED A CLIP. I’M HOOKED ON THE SERIES AND I
HAVEN’T SEEN THE FINALE SO I INSISTED THEY SHOW NO CLIP SO I
WOULDN’T HAVE SPOILERS. SO KEEP IN MIND, I DON’T KNOW
HOW IT ENDS.>>OKAY.>>Stephen: YEAH. O HOW ARE WE GOING TO TALK
ABOUT THE SHOW?>>Stephen: IN CODE. (LAUGHTER)
LET’S TALK AT YOU. I’D RATHER TALK ABOUT YOU FIRST. A YEAR AGO, I DIDN’T KNOW YOUR
NAME. NO OFFENSE. I DIDN’T KNOW WHO RIZ AHMED WAS. BUT NOW THE JAYSEN BOURNE MOVIE,
YOU’RE ON A ROCKET RIDE RIGHT NOW
(APPLAUSE)>>FEELS WEIRD. WE HAVE THE SAME, YOU WAIT AN
HOUR FOR A LONDON BUS AND THEN THREE COME ALONG AT ONCE. FROM THE INSIDE, I HAVE BEEN
WORKING STEADILY ON A BUNCH OF INDIE PROJECTS FOR A LONG TIME. FROM THE INSIDE, THIS DOESN’T
FEEL LIKE IT HAPPENED OVERNIGHT, BUT I CAN UNDERSTAND.>>Stephen: NO, YOU’RE ALWAYS
BEEN THERE TO YOU.>>YEAH, I HAVE BEEN HERE THE
WHOLE TIME, EXACTLY.>>OKAY, SO CAN I TALK ABOUT HOW
THIS PART CAME TO YOU? DID YOU FOE ANYTHING ABOUT THE
PROJECT IF DID YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE CREATORS WHEN YOU GOT
THIS?>>I ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE HONEST. I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THE
PROJECTS. I WAS COMING BACK FROM THE FILM
FESTIVAL AND MY AGENT SAID I’M SENDING YOU A SCRIPT, READ IT ON
THE PLANE, YOU’RE GOING TO AUDITION AS SOON AS YOU LAND. I’M SO BEHIND, I STILL HAVEN’T
SEEN “BREAKING BAD.”>>Stephen: IT’S ALL A VERY
HAPPY ENDING, YEAH. (LAUGHTER)
>>GOOD. AND I KIND OF — THE NAME HBO
MEANT SOMETHING TO ME BUT I KIND OF ASSOCIATE IT MORE WITH
LATE-NIGHT BOXING.>>Stephen: MM-HMM. O I’M, LIKE, YES,
INTERESTING, BRANCHING OUT.>>Stephen: PRIMARILY BOXING
AND A DRAMA OR TWO. (LAUGHTER)
>>YEAH.>>Stephen: UH-HUH. I REMEMBER THE SCRIPT IS SO
GOOD, I THOUGHT, WHOEVER WROTE THIS HAS A GREAT FUTURE AHEAD OF
HIM, AND TURNED OUT TO BE THE GUYS WHO WROTE SCHINDLER’S LIST
AND THE WIRE AND — (LAUGHTER)
>>Stephen: YEAH, THEY’RE GOING TO BE OKAY. YOUR FAMILY IS ORIGINALLY FROM
PAKISTAN, CORRECT?>>YES.>>Stephen: AND YOU ARE BORN
IN ENGLAND?>>YES.>>Stephen: WE HAVE ONE PERSON
FROM EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. (LAUGHTER)
YOU ARE PLAYING SOMEONE WHO IS FROM THE BOROUGHS OF NEW YORK. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
THE AMERICAN-MUSLIM EXPERIENCE AND THE ENGLISH-MUSLIM
EXPERIENCE?>>WHAT’S INTERESTING IS I THINK
THE WORD “ASIAN” MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAT BE IN THE U.K.>>Stephen: ASIAN HERE MEANS
CHINESE, JAPANESE, THAILAND, SOUTHEAST ASIAN.>>IN THE U.K. IT MEANS PEOPLE
LIKE ME. SO IT’S DIFFERENT BEING ASIAN IN
THE U.S. BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULD COME UP TO ME AND TRY TO SPEAK
TO ME IN SPANISH, FIRST OF ALL.>>Stephen: YEAH, YEAH. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN SO MUCH
IF YOU LOOK AT ME IN THE U.K. I WOULD SAY, NO, I’M ASIAN, AND
THEY WOULD LOOK AT ME LIKE I’M CRAZY. SO THERE IS THAT DIFFERENT, I
GUESS. NO, I KIND OF FEEL LIKE, WHEN I
WAS GROWING UP, I FELT LIKE I HAD TO QUALIFY AND SAY I’M
BRITISH-PAKISTANI. BUT I FEEL THIS DAY IN AGE, THIS
IS WHAT BRITISH LOOKS LIKE AND HOPEFULLY THROUGH NASIR KHAN,
PEOPLE WILL SEE THAT’S WHAT AN AMERICAN CAN LOOK LIKE AS WELL. (APPLAUSE)
>>Stephen: DO YOU HAVE ANY ISSUES WHEN YOU TRAVEL HERE IN
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, DONALD TRUMP SAYS NO MUSLIMS. NO MUSLIMS TO THE UNITED STATES. DO YOU HAVE ANY ISSUES?>>HE KIND OF ALWAYS SAYS
FOREIGNERS ARE COMING OVER HERE TAKING JOBS. I KIND OF AGREE. THERE IS A LOT OF BRITISH ACTORS
ON TV RIGHT NOW OVER HERE.>>Stephen: HELLO. ABSOLUTELY. (APPLAUSE)
>>IT’S NOT GOOD.>>Stephen: IT’S NOT RIGHT. THEY’VE GOT TO BUILD A WALL
AROUND THE AUDITION ROOM OR SOMETHING, KEEP THEM AWAY. (LAUGHTER)
BUT, YEAH, I KIND OF DO HAVE TROUBLE. I GET SEARCHED EVERY TIME I FLY
HERE.>>Stephen: A SECONDARY
SEARCH?>>A RANDOM SEARCH.>>Stephen: I THOUGHT IT WAS A
DEEPER SEARCH.>>I GET SEARCHED BY FANS AND
THEY CAN BE REALLY THOROUGH.>>Stephen: ARE YOU FANS
SURPRISED WHEN THEY FIND OUT YOU ARE ENGLISH? BECAUSE I DID NOT KNOW YOU WERE
ENGLISH TILL YOU STARTED TALKING. FLAP FLAP.>>GREAT.>>Stephen: THAT’S ON ME. YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE YOUR
RESEARCH.>>Stephen: IT’S MY FAULT. BUT ARE PEOPLE SURPRISED WHEN
THEY GO, WAIT A SECOND! YOU’RE NOT FROM QUEENS? (LAUGHTER)
>>IT’S KIND OF WEIRD, AS SOON AS I LAND IN THE CITY WE’RE
FILMING, I THINK I’M GOING TO START TALKING IN THE ACCENT OF
THE CHARACTER TO THE FIRST PERSON I MEET ON THE PRODUCTION. SO THEY THINK THAT’S HOW I TALK. SO OUT OF EMBARRASSMENT, I CAN’T
GO BACK ON THAT.>>Stephen: SO YOU GET TANGLED
IN A LIE.>>YES, DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO
THIS LIE AND I JUST SPEAK IN THIS ACCENT THE WHOLE TIME. SOMETIMES PEOPLE MIGHT COME UP
TO ME AND SAY YOU DON’T HAVE AN ACCENT, YOU MUST BE FROM LONDON. AND I SAY, YEAH. BUT WHEN WE WRAP, THEY CAN FEEL
BETRIED. WHEN WE WRAP UP I GO UP AND SAY,
THANKS A LOT, MATE, I APPRECIATE IT. THEY SAY, I DON’T KNOW YOU! WHO ARE YOU? (LAUGHTER)
>>Stephen: THIS YEAR YOU WILL BE IN ROGUE ONE. THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS YOU
CAN’T TELL ME, RIGHT?>>YEAH.>>Stephen: IS THERE ANYTHING
THAT DOESN’T END IN A DANCE NUMBER? ANYTHING YOU CAN TELL US?>>I CAN TELL YOU HOW WE FILMED
IT A LITTLE BIT. IT’S KIND OF DIFFERENT THAN THE
“STAR WARS” MOVIES. IT’S A VERY BOOTS ON THE GROUND
FEEL. OUR DIRECTOR WOULD OFTEN OPERATE
THE CAMERA AND WE WOULD DO THESE REALLY INTENSE SCENES WHERE WE
WOULD DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN WITHOUT STOPPING, JUST
AGAIN AND AGAIN. AND, SO, THE WHOLE FILM HAS A
REALLY INTENSE ENERGY AND, PARTLY, THAT’S BECAUSE OF THAT
PROCESS BECAUSE PARTLY WE NEVER GOT TO BREAK TO GO TO THE TOILET
WITHIN THAT PROCESS AT ALL.>>Stephen: SO IF I SEE A SHOT
OF YOU AND YOU LOOK FURIOUS, YOUR BLADDER IS SO FULL —
>>A LITTLE BIT, YEAH.>>Stephen: YOU GOT RAGE
BLADDER, YEAH. (LAUGHTER)
>>YEAH, BASICALLY.>>Stephen: ONE THING I DID
FIND OUT ABOUT YOU WAS THAT YOU ACTUALLY WERE A RAPPER CALLED
RIZ EMCEE?>>I STILL AM.>>Stephen: OKAY, GOOD. I SUPPOSE ONCE ALWAYS.>>YEAH.>>Stephen: COULD YOU DROP
SOME KNOWLEDGE FOR US RIGHT NOW? (APPLAUSE)
DO YOU NEED ANYTHING?>>NO, I JUST DO IT A CAPPELLA. SO I USED TO DO FREE STYLE RAP
BATTLES. SO IT COULD BE LIKE COPER IN A
BLACKTITE WHAT A SHARP GENT, LOOKS LIKE THE CHAT SHOW VERSION
OF CLARK KENT! (LAUGHTER)
I’M FROM THE U.K. WHERE IT’S NOT JUST “DOWNTON ABBEY” AND THOSE
POSH PEEPS, DON’T BELIEVE THAT LIE LIKE YOU HEARD IT FROM RYAN
LOCHTE. (LAUGHTER)
(APPLAUSE) THANK YOU.>>STEPHEN: “THE NIGHT OF” IS
AVAILABLE ON HBO GO AND HBO NOW. RIZ AHMED, EVERYBODY.

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