Los Angeles: British Pakistan actor Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim actor as well as the man of Asian descent to win an Emmy award at the TV’s biggest night on Sunday and spoke about the “systematic issue of inclusion”.
The actor took home the trophy of at the 69th Emmy Awards for the outstanding lead actor in a limited series for “The Night Of”, in which he plays, Nasir Khan, the son of a Pakistani cab driver from Queens who becomes a murder suspect.
Ahmed is the second Asian actor ever to receive the honour, following “The Good Wife” star Archie Panjabi, who won the supporting actress award in a drama series in 2010.
In his speech, he talked about the importance of the Innocence Project and the New York-based South Asian Youth Action organisation.
“I want to say it is 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 societies, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something.
“I don’t know if any one person’s win changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion. In this industry, that’s something that happens slowly over time,” he said in his powerful speech on stage.
Ahmed, 34, praised Ed Skrein’s decision to step away from the part of an Asian character in “Hellboy” reboot to give chance to a more deserving actor.
Ahmed said it was important to represent cultural authenticity in roles and Skrein’s example will lead to more awareness around the conversation.
Born in London to a British Pakistani family, Ahmed was initially known for his work in independent films, such as “The Road to Guantanamo”, “Shifty”, “Four Lions”, “Trishna” and Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” before his breakout role in “Nightcrawler” in 2014, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.