“Keep Dreaming”: Riz Ahmed Shares Star Wars Drawings He Made as a 7-Year-Old
As I was walking off Jimmy Fallon’s tafter doing a little freestyle rap, he leaned in and said “dude, you’re in the #1 album & #1 film in the country!” I fell silent, nodded and grinned like he had mistaken me for someone else, but it was too awkward to correct him…a few days later I was told The Good Immigrant was voted the UK’s book of the year, I got these award nominations for The Night Of, and Swet Shop Boys made a load of ‘best of the year’ lists. None of this felt real. Now I’m back home I just saw these pictures I drew at age 7 of Darth Vader & Luke, after watching Empire Strikes Back. I was reimagining these characters ‘when they got old’, reshaping their world, and nothing about that seemed weird. But somehow in the years between then and when i myself ‘got old’, the constant message that someone like me couldn’t ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold. I had no road map or template to follow in trying to prove those messages wrong. I started believing them. Only a year ago, for various reasons, I wasn’t sure I could carry on doing this. I had a realisation through some really tough moments that we have no control in this life. And it got me down, but then, seeing no other way forwards, I had to embrace this helplessness, and through it, rediscover a sense of childishness, and of play. Finally, at that point I stopped doing and making things to prove myself to others, and started doing things for my younger self. The work I have been a part of for the last 11years in film and music, including this year from Englistan, The Night Of, Swet Shop Boys, The Good Immigrant, Star Wars, Bourne, to the OA – I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants. I cannot be more grateful to those who have allowed me to be a part of their vision and those who were kind enough to watch, listen, read, and notice. It’s been a crazy ride and I hope I can continue to justify your support. I’m incredibly grateful for this moment in time. Walking off Jimmy’s chat show that night, I felt about as cool as I did in this photo age 7. But the best part of it wasn’t feeling cool, it was feeling like a kid. Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.
Riz Ahmed shined as pilot Bodhi Rook in Rogue One, and an Instagram he posted today is an amazing testament to what Star Wars symbolizes to him.
The actor began by recounting what an incredible year he’s had with his essay in The Good Immigrant, nominations for his role in The Night Of, and Swet Shop Boys. “None of this felt real,” Ahmed writes, “Now I’m back home I just saw these pictures I drew at age 7 of Darth Vader & Luke.” The actor discusses how since he drew these images, “the constant message that someone like me couldn’t ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold. I had no road map or template to follow in trying to prove those messages wrong. I started believing them.”
Ahmed then refers to “some really tough moments” he faced a year ago, and how rediscovering “a sense of childishness, and of play” helped him stop working towards proving himself. He expresses gratitude, celebration, and the finals words, “Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.”
When reading this post, I thought about how comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani recently tweeted about how Rogue One was an emotional watch for him, as he “thought of kids watching this movie & seeing ppl that look like them kicking ass.” Ahmed has always been very outspoken about representation, you can read his powerful essay for The Good Immigrant here , where he discusses typecasting at auditions and airports as an actor of color. It’s incredible that now there are other 7-year-olds likely drawing version of him for their own collections, preparing to kick ass themselves.
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