Riz Ahmed Talks His ‘Rogue One’ Character, Says ‘Star Wars’ Is ‘Leading the Way’ for Hollywood Diversity
Riz Ahmed, whose breakout role was in this year’s HBO drama The Night Of, stars in December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The new movie has the most diverse cast of any Star Wars film to date, also starring Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, and Sharon Duncan-Brewster, to name just a few. Ahmed spoke about this diversity in a recent interview, and also provided some insight into his cargo pilot-turned-rebel character Bodhi.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about The Night Of and Rogue One, Ahmed talked a bit about how he approached his character for the new Star Wars movie and gave him a pretty fantastic background story.
Bodhi is someone who's been running away his whole life. His planet gets occupied, so he goes, ‘How do I get out of here?’ And the way was by becoming a long-distance cargo pilot. But, of course, that comes with guilt. If you look down and you’re wearing the same Imperial uniform with the same insignia that the people occupying your planet are wearing, it’s guilt and a lot of running away. I had the idea that this character is jittery. He’s jumpy. There’s a restlessness to him. This comes from the trauma and guilt.
THR then asked him how he felt about the fact that this is the most diverse cast of any Star Wars movie ever, to which he replied that he feels extremely positive.
I feel like Star Wars is leading the way. I like to think we are all heading in this direction. Some people are kicking and screaming or dragging their feet. Some people are sprinting. It’s really a credit to [Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy and the team there that they want to embrace the future and the reality of a global film market. It feels contemporary, it feels global. Culture is a space for us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, so why don’t we just have as many different kinds of shoes as possible?
It’s a credit to the casting and directorial forces behind Rogue One that the movie is as diverse and inclusive as it is — a far cry from the original trilogy in which shots of female X-wing pilots were cut from Return of the Jedi. Right now, both Rogue One and the new episodic Star Wars trilogy have female protagonists, and all feature non-white actors as prominent, primary characters. Anything is possible in science fiction, even representing the kind of inclusiveness that’s right here in the real world. If we can’t have diversity in a galaxy far, far away, then where can we have it?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16.