Skip to main content

Riz Ahmed Becomes First South Asian Man to Win an Acting Emmy In An Evening of History-Making Awesomeness

In trying to get some quick posts up last night for Emmy coverage (and, to be honest, placing a little more focus on the ladies, because that is sometimes how I roll), I somehow missed yet another history-making moment at last night’s awards ceremony. Riz Ahmed became the first South Asian man to win an Emmy Award in an acting category.

Recommended Videos

Ahmed, who is British-Pakistani, won Outstanding Lead Actor in a TV Movie/Limited series for his work on HBO’s The Night Of, becoming the first South Asian man to win an acting Emmy, and only the second South Asian ever to win one after Archie Panjabi won her Emmy for her work on The Good Wife in 2010.

The Night Of tells the story of Nazir Khan, a Pakistani-American college student living New York who uses his father’s cab one night to go to a party. He picks up a young woman named Andrea, and after a night of sex and drugs with her, wakes and finds her stabbed to death. He is eventually charged with her murder. Themes of the injustice within the justice system abound.

So, when Ahmed made his acceptance speech, he spoke to what he hopes the series will accomplish saying, “It’s always strange reaping the rewards of a story that’s based on real world suffering. But if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something.”

He also mentioned two organizations that he apparently developed relationships with during the making of The Night Of that you might want to check out, because they do amazing work. The Innocence Project, a non-profit that works to overturn wrongful convictions, and South Asian Youth Action, a Queens, New York-based youth development organization (Nazir lived in Queens) for students in elementary school through college.

Obviously, he was not the only South Asian Muslim who took to the Emmy stage: Aziz Ansari won the Outstanding Writing Emmy for comedy alongside Lena Waithe, and Kumail Nanjiani was on stage as a presenter. As The Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah put it:

It is indeed. Congratulations Bodhi Rook!

(via The Washington Post, image: HBO)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]


Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue: