Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed

Ahmed's parents emigrated from Pakistan to Britain in the 1970s, and gave Riz (short for Rizwan) and his brother and sister a well-to-do upbringing. After attending the Merchant Taylor's School on a scholarship, Ahmed followed his interest in politics and economics to Christ Church, Oxford, where he threw philosophy into the mix. His lifelong love of and rap battling and jungle music (a uniquely British genre of electronic music that preceded drum and bass) converged in the form of Riz MC, under which he released the 2006 rap parody "Post 9/11 Blues." That same year he signed onto Michael Winterbottom's "The Road to Guantanamo" as one of the Tipton Three, a trio of Britons illegally detained in the Cuban prison for over two years. After taking a detour into the zombie apocalypse in the darkly clever mini-series "Dead Set" (E4, 2008), Ahmed gave a desperate portrayal of the eponymous crack cocaine dealer in "Shifty," for which he was later nominated for a British Independent Film Award. Two years later Ahmed landed one of his most recognized roles to date in "Four Lions," a black comedy centered on the clumsy antics of would-be terrorist Omar (Ahmed) and his gang of dim-witted friends. At the same time he was garnering acclaim for his deeply-felt performance as Omar, Ahmed was busy designing an immersive, surveillance-themed website tied to the release of MICroscope, and signing papers to join the Brighton-based record label Tru Thoughts. The following year he reunited with "Guantanamo" director Michael Winterbottom in "Trishna," where he dove into the complicated role of Jay, whose increasingly vicious behavior cements the film's tragic ending. In 2012 the shape-shifting actor traded the lush landscapes of "Trishna" for the gritty council estate of "Ill Manors" and the plush Wall St. offices of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist."